The old adage “you are what you eat” is truer than most people realize. Many of us have varying degrees of awareness as to how certain foods impact our body’s appearance and performance, but have you ever considered how the food on your dinner plate impacts your mental health?
Our brains are incredible machines responsible for calculating our every thought, movement and reaction at blazing fast speeds. With such an important job, it’s no wonder the human brain consumes more than 20 percent of our daily caloric intake.
Researchers have found diets rich in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are essential to brain health. Introduce brain-boosting nutrients into your diet by trying the delicious foods below.
Veggies: You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it again: Eat your veggies. If you need one more reason, consider the fact that cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and dark leafy greens are not only rich in nutrients and a good source of fiber, but also have been shown to protect against disease and may actually improve memory.
Berries: Berries — fresh, frozen or dried—are a source of rich nutrients that boost memory. Enjoy a handful of blackberries, blueberries or cherries as a snack, mixed into cereal or yogurt, or tossed into a salad.
Avocados: This buttery fruit is a fantastic source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids and monosaturated fats. The avocado has also been found to lower cholesterol and increase blood flow to the brain.
Many believe the only way to eat avocados is by whipping up a batch of guacamole, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Mix chopped avocados, diced onions and green bell peppers, juicy grape tomatoes, a few sprigs of cilantro and top with a bit of fresh lime juice for a zesty salad. If you’re in the mood for a smoothie, blend avocadoes, spinach, watercress and a couple drops of honey or agave each morning to boost your brain all day!
Nuts: Instead of snacking on empty calories, keep a handful of crunchy almonds or walnuts on hand. Though tiny, these foods possess a wealth of nutrients designed to keep your brain in tip-top shape, including omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, vitamin B6 and vitamin E, which has been shown to prevent forms of dementia. To protect sensitive jaws and teeth, allow the nuts to soak overnight to soften their tough exteriors.
Fatty Fish: Fatty fish — including salmon, tuna, sardines and herring — are among the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain health. Eat fish grilled, baked or broiled for better health benefits, or combine it with cruciferous veggies for a one-two punch. Try salmon tacos with cabbage slaw or seared tuna on salad greens.
Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is in vogue today, with many sources claiming it boosts heart circulation, regulates blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol, and prevents Alzheimer’s and dementia. But beware when a single food is touted as a cure-all. The jury is still out on its efficacy. Coconut oil is fine to use in small amounts like you would use butter, but both are still saturated fat. Liquid at room temperature, monounsaturated fats like olive oil or canola oil are still the preferred sources of fat.