Updated: Dec 4, 2019
When eating for brain health, we want to look for foods that are anti-inflammatory and rich in polyphenol compounds as well as healthy fats.
Blueberries are perhaps one of the best sources of antioxidants which means they are anti-inflammatory and can protect our brains from neurotoxins. They increase blood flow to the brain (through nitric oxide production) and have proven to help prevent cognitive decline and improve memory. Blueberries also improve insulin sensitivity and are low GI foods, which can help stabilize blood sugar levels
Coffee has been well studied for its neurotropic (brain enhancing) benefits. Coffee has demonstrated ability to decease depression, memory loss and improves cognition. Coffee is also high in antioxidants and the caffeine in coffee increases performance. But remember, you don’t want to over-do it on the coffee, too much can be distracting and over stimulating which can negatively affect performance and sleep (which we will learn is vital for cognition). If you want to learn more about coffee and its impact on cognition verses other caffeinated beverages, send me a message- I wrote an entire critical appraisal on the literature supporting this! But have no fear coffee haters, green tea is also high in polyphenols and contains caffeine, research has validated green tea as another cognitive-enhancing beverage.
High omega 3 fatty acid fish like sardines, mackerel, and salmon are some of the best brain foods. They are high in long chain fatty acids like EPA, which is anti-inflammatory as well as DHA, which is needed for the development of the human brain. A 2017 study found a positive correlation with increased brain function in those who ate higher amounts of fatty fish like those listed above.
Walnuts are a great food choice as well, they are a great combination of healthy, brain loving fats, and are also the highest in antioxidants out of all the tree nuts!
Avocados are high in monounsaturated fatty acids, improve blood flow to brain and are a great source of polyphenol compounds!
One of my favourite brain foods is dark chocolate (cacao). Cacao is high in polyphenol compounds and increases blood flow to the brain. Cacao may actually encourage neuron growth and adaptability in the brain, according to a 2018 study. Remember that you want high quality, low sugar varieties of chocolate- aim for 70% dark chocolate for the brain boosting benefits!
That's a quick summary of some of the top foods you should be adding into your high-cognitive-performance diet. Stay tuned for the next segment on the importance of sleep!
Yours in health,