Improving your quality of life can take many forms, from exercising more to getting enough restorative sleep. These small changes in your routine can have a big impact on your physical and mental health. In addition to adequate sleep and exercise, the food we consume also plays a huge role in our quality of life; they can even positively affect key functions like mood, memory, and focus.
There are a variety of foods that can improve your mood and that are good for your memory and have been shown to improve focus. What are these “brain foods,” and how can you incorporate them into your diet?
Feed Your Mind with Brain Foods
These foods are good for you and your brain, and you can easily incorporate them into your diet:
Blueberries are high in phenols, especially gallic acid, that protect the neurons in your brain from degeneration and damage caused by stress. Blueberries can also help improve digestion and counteract hormone imbalances that cause acne. When your digestive system is running smoothly, and your skin is clear, you are more free to focus on your daily tasks.
Blueberries also have their own pectin and will naturally thicken when cooked. If blueberries lose their freshness, boiling them with a little water will result in a delicious, natural jam.
2. Pumpkin Seeds
A smart snack filled with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, pumpkin seeds can have a positive effect on your brain. The fatty acids are protective and increase overall brain development and functioning. Pumpkin seeds also supply magnesium to your brain, which has a calming effect, and zinc, which boosts your immune system.
You can throw these delicious seeds into a trail mix with raisins and nuts, or add them to steel cut oatmeal with a hint of honey and cinnamon for a hearty, brain-healthy breakfast.
If you remember to eat your broccoli, you will remember other things as well. The choline in broccoli improves memory function, as evidenced by memory studies on people who consume this cruciferous vegetable. It also contains vitamin K that strengthens brain function and folic acid that has been shown to help fight depression.
For people who are not fond of the flavor of broccoli, it can be cut small and tossed raw into salads, chopped fine and added to soups, or boiled and then pureed for a creamy chowder base.
4. Egg Yolks
The contents of egg yolks that support brain health are folate, lutein, choline, vitamin B and zeaxanthin. These nutrients help maintain healthy cell structure in the brain and protect neurons for optimum brain functioning.
The next time you scramble up some eggs for breakfast, be sure to leave the yolks in for your brain’s sake.
5. Green Leafy Vegetables
Vegetables with dark green leaves like spinach and kale are good sources of lutein, folate, vitamin K, beta-carotene. These protect cognitive functioning and slow the aging process, which may include memory loss.
Greens can be cooked or eaten raw in salads. They can also be combined with other fresh vegetables or added to soups for an added burst of flavor and nutrition.
The fatty acids in salmon are heart and brain-healthy. Salmon boosts neuron function in your brain for better focus and more clear thinking. When your neurons are functioning optimally, your mind is sharp.
Salmon is good for people who may not like strong fish but still want the benefits. Its fat content and meaty texture make it easy to bake, broil or grill. It’s easy to add marinades and sauces to it as well, so there are a variety of flavor combinations you can try without breaking down the texture or the nutritional content of the fish.
Improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure both improve brain function and can be achieved by eating avocados. The monounsaturated fatty acids in avocados improve brain muscle strength and protect nerve cells —the real “brains” of the brain. They also help cell membranes remain flexible, allowing them to function optimally.
The mild flavor and creamy texture of avocados is a pleasant addition to dips and spreads. Since it is so easy to puree, it can also be made into a dip on its own with the addition of a little salt and pepper. It can even be substituted for mayonnaise on a sandwich or be cut into chunks and tossed into a salad.
8. Coconut Oil
Supplying fat your brain can use is the function of coconut oil in your diet. Your brain is 60% fat and needs fat to function. In addition, 25% of your body’s cholesterol is found in your brain. Coconut oil supplies a unique type of triglycerides that are good brain food.
Virgin unrefined coconut oil, the healthiest kind to consume, has only a hint of coconut flavor. You can use it for frying or baking, and it also works to drizzle it on salads or add to soups.
Lycopene and beta-carotene content make tomatoes especially good brain food. Their carotenoids protect against inflammation by eliminating free radicals. The natural fat content of your brain makes it a target for free radicals that cause damaging inflammation.
Tomatoes are a versatile food that can be eaten raw, stuffed or baked. They can also easily be cooked in a sauce, and their acidic content acts as a tenderizing marinade for meats.
Walnuts are full of nutrients that protect the neurons in your brain, including vitamin E, melatonin, folate, antioxidants, and omega-3 fats. They can enhance and protect brain functioning and thought processes as you age.
There are a variety of delicious ways to incorporate walnuts into your diet. They make a great snack whether you eat them alone or combined into a trail mix with other foods like raisins and chocolate chips. They can also be added to cookies and brownies or mixed into oatmeal.
Taking Care of Your Mind and Body
Healthy eating is about more than just the physical benefits of nutrition. These healthy foods can help you improve and maintain your mental health, and are some of the best foods for improved memory, mood, and focus.