“Brain food” may sound like a figure of speech, but it’s a real thing!
Turns out, the brain’s a bit of an energy glutton. It uses up about 20% of the body’s caloric intake – which is why brain fog (or an intense fugue state) is one of the side effects of hunger.
What you eat (and how much of it) can, and will, yield both short- and long-term effects on your mental state. So in order to optimise brain function, you want to take both quality and quantity into consideration.
Eating crappy food (read: processed junk) can fill you up, but it won’t do much for your brain. Likewise, eating whole foods but in minimal quantities (say, below 1,000 calories) isn’t going to be much help, either.
Our recommendation for the best results?
These are nutrient-dense foodstuffs are easy to find and easy to eat. Many of them have crazy health benefits per serving and, yes; mental boosting just happens to be one of them.
We’re kicking off this list with something fun and unexpected. Come on; who doesn’t love chocolate, right?
Unfortunately, only the dark, bittersweet kind counts. So if you’re a big fan of the milky and the white, you’re a little out of luck. They’re still chocolate, sure, but they’re a little too processed and have a little too many additives to be considered “healthy.”
They’re more sweets than a superfood, really.
Dark chocolate, on the other hand, still retains most of the good stuff found in the cacao bean (from which all chocolate is born). We’re talking flavonoids; a type of antioxidant that’s incredibly powerful against oxidative stress in the brain.
Oxidative stress is the little bugger responsible for age-related cognitive decline (as well as many age-related brain diseases). If you want to combat it, cacao flavonoids are your best bet.
Chocolate also happens to be a legitimate mood booster! Pop a square or two when you’re feeling low. But make sure that the cocoa percentage is 70% or higher. Anything lower has just too much sugar to be really healthy.
Strawberries, blackberries, and mulberries – oh my! These teeny tiny superfoods pack a powerful, brain-stimulating punch thanks to the flavonoid in them.
(Yep! The same antioxidants found in dark chocolate.)
Aside from flavonoids, berries also contain catechin, quercetin, anthocyanin, and caffeic acid – antioxidants that are known for reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.
Further studies also suggest that these compounds can increase brain plasticity (which helps brain cells form new connections to boost learning and memory), delay age-related neurodegenerative diseases, and improve communication between brain cells.
And last – but certainly not the least – on our list is good ol’ fatty fish.
Seriously; who hasn’t heard of omega-3 fatty acids by now?
Even if you aren’t a health nut by any means, the food industry has never been shy about letting us know just how beneficial this compound is.
I mean, to be fair; omega-3 really does have a ton of benefits. Increasing grey matter, for one. Improving blood flow to the brain, for another.
Grey matter contains most of the nerve cells that control memory, emotion, and decision making, so yeah. It’s pretty important. And better blood flow to the brain optimises cognitive abilities – something that’ll definitely come in handy when you’re taking an exam or tackling a particularly tricky project.
Omega-3 fatty acids aren’t just great for mental health, either. Studies have linked high levels of omega-3 fatty acids with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, improved eye health, and reduced risk of metabolic syndrome.
A great way to include this miracle compound in your diet? Eat some fatty fish. Salmon’s a classic, but don’t forget about tuna, herring, and sardines!
Even if you don’t buy the marketing idea of “superfoods,” slightly increasing your omega-3 or flavonoid intake can’t hurt. At the end of the day, your brain is an incredibly important organ. In fact, one could argue it’s the most important. So why not do whatever you can to keep it in peak working condition?