1) Eggs: Eggs are one of the richest food sources of choline, an important micronutrient used to create acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in mood and memory regulation. Several studies have found high choline intake to be associated with better memory and mental function.
Eggs are also much safer than obtaining choline from dietary supplements such as Alpha GPC and CDP Choline, which quite a few people can be very sensitive to. I have come across hundreds of people complaining about fatigue and depression after consuming Alpha GPC and CDP choline, even in relatively small quantities, but I have never come across such effects taking place after consuming a lot of eggs!
2) Blueberries: Add 120g-240g of blueberries to your daily diet and your brain will be thanking you! Experiments on rats have clearly demonstrated that consuming blueberries daily for 8-12 weeks results in increased the creation of new neurons in the hippocampus (neurogenesis), a part of the brain strongly linked to memory and emotions. This is mainly due to the anthocyanin and antioxidant content of blueberries, which increases BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor), leading the neurogenesis.
There are even some studies on humans supporting these benefits. Two studies on elderly humans with age-related memory decline found improvements in verbal learning and verbal memory after 12 weeks.
3) Fatty Fish: Fatty fish such as salmon and sardines are extremely rich in omega 3 fatty acids, most notably EPA and DHA. In fact, 60% of your brain is made of DHA! These omega 3 fatty acids form building blocks for your brain and nerve cells.
There is human evidence to support an increase in memory, mainly due to the DHA, but it’s not conclusive. Also, EPA has been linked to depression benefits, but only in majorly depressed individuals.
4) Dark Chocolate (Cacao): Dark chocolate is rich in a group of plant antioxidants called flavonoids. We do not yet know for certain whether dark chocolate is linked to better learning and memory, but this has been suggested by several studies.
What we do know for sure, however, is that dark chocolate and cacao significantly increase cerebral blood flow and cerebral oxygenation.
Some studies have also suggested that dark chocolate has mood benefits, especially relating to the reduction of negative mood states and calmness. However, it’s difficult to know whether this relates to the nutritional content of dark chocolate or it’s amazing taste! (FOR REAL!)
5) Pumpkin Seeds: Pumpkin seeds are a mineral powerhouse. They are rich in zinc, magnesium, iron, and copper. There aren’t really any studies on pumpkin seeds themselves. The benefits here mainly pertain to the essential minerals they contain. Magnesium is essential for the creation of neurotransmitters in your brain. Zinc and copper are essential for nerve signalling. Ensuring
adequate iron intake is also essential to ensure enough oxygen continues to reach your brain, as iron deficiency can cause brain fog and impaired brain function.
6) Almonds: Almonds are rich in monounsaturated fats, which are clearly linked to better cardiovascular health, which in turn is clearly linked to having a better brain. (Hypertension and type 2 Diabetes are strong risk factors for vascular dementia)
Beyond their monounsaturated fat content, Almonds are also one of the richest food sources of vitamin E, which several studies have shown to help slow mental decline by protecting brain cells from free radical damage.
7) Beets: Despite being a nutritious vegetable and a great addition to anyone’s diet, beets are mainly on this list because they contain one of the highest amounts of natural nitrates. Nitrates significantly improve blood flow in the entire body, including blood flow to your brain! This is similar to the main benefit of dark chocolate discussed above. You would also see similar results from consuming leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, arugula, swiss chards, rhubarb (highest), and butterleaf lettuce.
8) Oranges: One medium sized orange is all you need to get your recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect brain cells from the damage that can be caused by free radicals. This is also the mechanism through which vitamin C helps protect against age-related mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
9) Avocados: Similar to almonds, avocados are very high in monounsaturated fats and vitamin E, which are tremendously beneficial for brain health. (see almonds above.)
Additionally, avocados are extremely rich in B vitamins which are essential for the health and proper functioning of the brain and nervous system.
Also, avocados are rich in lutein, a micronutrient known to be important for good eye health. Emerging research suggest that lutein may also have cognitive benefits, but this is still not conclusive and more research is needed.
10) Kale: Think of the benefits discussed above of beets + oranges and you get kale. Kale is packed with vitamin C and nitrates, protecting your brain cells from damage caused by free radicals and increasing cerebral blood flow. Additionally, kale is rich in vitamin K, which research suggests also protects brain cells against some types of oxidative stress and could also attenuate age-related cognitive decline.
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