Body and Mind: Foods for a Healthier Brain

Body and Mind: Foods for a Healthier Brain
Posted on April 21, 2017: Health & Nutrition

A healthy weight management diet can go hand in hand with improving memory and focus, and digestion has a direct relationship with the brain.

When you change eating habits as part of a weight management effort, you'll quickly find that plates are filled with more fruits and vegetables as part of a healthier overall diet. By incorporating certain foods you're now eating, you can meet your daily dieting goals while building a foundation to help maintain a healthy brain throughout your life.

What Exactly is a Healthy Brain?

If you're like most people, you are under an almost non-stop barrage of physical and mental stress. Stress causes the release of cytokines, which causes an inflammatory response from your immune system. Under normal circumstances, this is good, but high levels of this inflammatory response on a regular basis may lead to anxiety, heart issues and many other chronic diseases.

The brain is highly affected by what we eat. The digestive system helps keep the body's inflammation response under control. Some hormones from the gut make their way to the brain and influence cognitive ability, memory, focus, and our ability to process information, like knowing when we're full. A healthy system keeps inflammation under control, keeps the brain firing on all cylinders, and provides the vitamins & minerals needed to protect our brains as they age.

Best Foods To Help Brain Health

There are a wide variety of veggies that help with brain function, so it's important to keep your diet rich in greens. Berries are also an excellent source of antioxidants. It's also important to get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.

Here are some of the top foods for your mind and body:

Avocados: Though high in fat, it's the "good" type, and it helps keep blood sugar levels steady. In addition, it contains vitamin K and folate, which help memory and concentration.

Celery: In addition to having a barely measurable amount of calories, celery is rich in luteolin. It is a plant compound that is thought to lower the rates of memory loss and degeneration related to age.

Dark Chocolate(!): Yes, you read that right. High quality dark chocolate (made with at least 70% cocoa, not just your everyday candy snacks) is rich in fiber, Iron and Magnesium. It's also surprisingly high in antioxidants. Altogether, this benefits blood flow to the brain, improving overall function, and provides short-term focus from the caffeine and theobromine.

Salmon: This deepwater fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered essential for brain function. It's ideal to choose wild salmon, as it is a "cleaner" variety of the fish.

Walnuts: More known for their benefits to overall heart health, walnuts may also improve memory. They contain plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and also contain vitamin E, which protects the brain from free radicals.

Beets: This superfood is one of the most nutritious plants there is. Beets help rid your blood of toxins and boost blood flow to the brain. They also play a role in reducing overall inflammation and are high in antioxidants.

Blueberries: There are plenty of studies touting the brain benefits of blueberries (aka 'brainberries'). It has been shown to possibly help many age-related conditions, like dementia. It has also shown positive effects for immediate brain function, such as improving learning capacity and motor skills. It's one of the highest antioxidant-rich foods around from vitamin C, vitamin K and fiber, plus has high gallic acid, which protects brain degeneration.

Most Green, Leafy Vegetables: From spinach to kale and even romaine lettuce, research suggests that these vitamin A and K-loaded foods can help with mental function. When a large study evaluated diets and mental function, adults who ate a serving of lefty greens each day showed slower mental degeneration than those who did not.

Brewed Tea: The moderate amount of caffeine and antioxidants (especially catechines) can help enhance memory and focus. It's important that the tea is freshly brewed to get the benefits, although tea bag brewing does count.

High Protein Foods: Amino acids are essential in production of seratonin and dopamine, which are a key element of overall happiness and well-being. Amino acids also play a key role in ensuring neurotransmitters function properly, keeping the signals between the brain and body running smoothly. Eggs, beef poultry and pork are good sources of protein, as well as tofu, soy and nuts for vegans. You can also try protein-enhanced foods, like bars, shakes or snacks to get the essential boost you need with more convenience.

Incorporating one or several of these brain-boosting foods will help not only keep your body in tip-top shape, but your mind, as well.

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