The brain is still considered to be the most complex organ in the body for the various functions that it carries out. The exact way in which it works to carry out these functions is still not fully understood. However, without the brain working at its peak, we may experience problems with concentration, memory, decision-making, reasoning and sensory perception. It also plays a central role in emotional states, sleep and other life processes.
Keeping the brain healthy depends on largely the same factors as keeping the body healthy. Good nutrition, regular exercise, sufficient sleep and low stress levels are key to overall health of the brain and the rest of the body. However, some foods are particularly useful in improving brain function. In fact these foods are sometimes said to improve your brain power but not beyond its natural capacity.
It is important to identify any brain-related diseases that could cause symptoms like poor memory, impaired concentration, difficulty with decision-making and even confusion. Foods alone may not be sufficient to treat these conditions. With proper medical treatment these symptoms may clear up but this should be determined and overseen by a health care professional.
Read more on brain fog.
NOTE: Strokes are a relatively common condition especially in the elderly. It can affect brain function to a significant degree. Mini-strokes and brain atrophy are sometimes not as obvious and what is thought to be a natural decline in brain functioning with age my actually be due to an undiagnosed disease.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. We hear this over and over but the science behind it backs up the need for breakfast. Research has show that skipping breakfast can affect concentration levels of students. Coffee alone will not do. A nutritious start to the day gives the entire body the boost it needs to contend with a day of physical and mental activity. Opt for high protein, low glycemic index (GI) foods for a sustained boost.
Coffee is rarely associated with health although it is such a popular beverage but in some instances it does have distinct benefits. This caffeine-laden drink is a stimulant and can give you the “wake up call” that your brain needs to function more efficiently. However, the effects are short-lived and it can lead to “downers” if you become dependent on it. It is not surprising that some pills for boosting concentration and keeping you awake have caffeine in it.
It is hard to think of candy as a brain booster especially when we think of the cavities and obesity laden with these sugary treats. In fact candy is not advisable for regular use but a little candy every now and then can help to boost brain functioning. The ‘not so’ secret ingredient is the high quantity of sugar in it. With the brain being one of the most glucose-sensitive tissues, an increase in blood sugar levels can clear up the haze quickly.
Fish is a well known brain food and this is often associated with its omega-3 fatty acid content. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of developing conditions that lead to mental decline, especially as a person grows older. Unfortunately the modern diet is lacking in this power food and experts suggest that eating fish at least three times a week may maximize the benefits. Other seafoods may also have benefits for the brain.
Read more on brain problems in the elderly.
There is growing interest in berries due to its antioxidant value. Blueberries have become the lesser known brain food of late and even a just a handful is packed with more antioxidants than many other fruits. Antioxidants are the substances that neutralize free radicals which damage tissue. In fact studies have shown that blueberries may play a notable role in preventing age-related mental decline and associated conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
Not all fats are bad and avocados are one natural food source that is high in certain good fats. Avocados contain monounsaturated fats like oleic acid which can be beneficial for brain health. However, there are some saturated fats within it as well and avocados like any food should be consumed in moderation. Vitamin E in avocados is also known to be a good antioxidant thereby protecting brain tissue against free radical damage.
Walnuts have long been credited for being a brain food and its crude resemblance to the brain has been touted as proof of this link. However, science has managed to shed light on the benefit of most nuts as a brain power food. It is packed with vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant. Nuts are also laden with protein that provide a sustained energy source and are ideal as a snack or within a meal.
Alongside nuts, seeds are seen as the other healthy snack food. Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and flaxseed are some of the preferred choices. Apart from its vitamin E content, seeds are also rich in zinc and other micronutrients which are equally important for overall health. Seeds are packed with these nutrients and while it is difficult to make a full meal of it, even a small quantity can be beneficial.
Brain Power Supplements
There are a number of supplements on the market that claim to improve brain power. Some have the vitamins and minerals mentioned above while others contain herbs that have been touted for helping improve brain performance. While there is evidence to suggest that micronutrients are beneficial for brain health, the natural source in the form of foods is often a better choice than synthetic variants found in supplements.
Read more on foods to boost concentration.
It is also important to look at the science behind some of the claims associated with the brain-enhancing herbs. The benefits claimed may not always have any verifiable scientific proof to back it up. At times these claims are based on anecdotal evidence or traditional beliefs. Try a dietary change with foods known to have benefits for brain power before opting for supplements. Remember that brain health is a reflection of overall health.