Your brain is a big deal.
As your body’s control center, it is responsible for keeping your heart beating and your lungs breathing, and allowing you to feel, move, and think.
This is why it is a good idea to keep your brain in peak working order.
The foods you eat play a role in keeping your brain healthy and can improve various mental tasks, like concentration and memory.
This article lists 7 foods that stimulate your brain.
1. Oily fish
When people talk about food for the brain, oily fish are often at the top of the list.
This type of fish includes salmon, trout, and sardines, all of which are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
About 60% of your brain is formed of fat, and half of that fat is of the omega-3 type.
Your brain uses omega-3s to form brain and nerve cells, and these fats are important for learning.
Omega 3s also have a few additional benefits for your brain.
On the one hand, they will hamper age-related mental decline and help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
On the other side, not getting enough omega-3s is linked to learning disabilities, as well as depression.
In general, eating fish appears to have beneficial effects on health.
One study found that people who regularly ate baked or broiled fish had more gray matter in their brains. Gray matter contains most of the nerve cells that control deciding, memory, and emotions.
Overall, oily fish is a great choice for brain health.
If coffee is the highlight of your morning, you will be happy to know that it’s good for you.
Two main components of coffee – antioxidants and caffeine – help your brain.
The caffeine in coffee features a number of positive effects on the brain, including:
- Increased alertness: Caffeine keeps your brain alert by preventing adenosine, a chemical messenger that makes you drowsy.
- Improved mood: Caffeine also can boost a number of your “feel-good” neurotransmitters, like serotonin.
- Increased concentration: One study found that when participants drank coffee in large amounts in the morning or smaller amounts throughout the day, they were more effective at tasks that required concentration.
Long-term coffee drinking is also linked to a reduced risk of neurological diseases, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
This could at least in part be due to the high concentration of antioxidants in coffee.
Blueberries offer many health benefits, some of which are specifically aimed at your brain.
Blueberries and other deeply colored berries produce anthocyanins, a group of plant compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Antioxidants work against both oxidative stress and inflammation, conditions that can contribute to brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases.
It has been discovered that some of the antioxidants in blueberries accumulate in the brain and help improve communication between brain cells.
Animal studies have shown that blueberries help improve memory and may even prevent short-term memory loss.
Try garnishing them on your breakfast cereal or adding them to a smoothie.
Turmeric has generated a lot of buzz lately.
This dark yellow spice is a main ingredient in curry powder and has many benefits for the brain.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, which means it can enter the brain directly and benefit cells there.
It is a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that has been linked to the subsequent brain benefits:
- May Benefit Memory: Curcumin may help enhance memory in people with Alzheimer’s disease. It can also help clear the amyloid plaques which are a hallmark of this disease.
- Relieves Depression: It stimulates serotonin and dopamine, both of which improve mood. One study found that curcumin improved symptoms of depression even as very much like an antidepressant over six weeks.
- Helps in the Growth of New Brain Cells: Curcumin stimulates brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a type of growth hormone that helps brain cells to grow. It may help hamper age-related mental decline, but more research is needed.
To have the benefits of curcumin, try cooking with curry powder, adding turmeric to potato dishes to brown them, or making turmeric tea.
Broccoli is full of strong plant compounds, together with antioxidants.
It is also very high in vitamin K, providing over 100% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDI) in a 1 cup (91 gram) serving.
This fat-soluble vitamin is important for the formation of sphingolipids, a type of fat closely packed in brain cells.
A few studies in older people have linked higher vitamin K intake to better memory.
Beyond vitamin K, broccoli contains a lot of compounds that give it anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which can help protect the brain from damage.
6. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds contain powerful antioxidants that protect the body and brain from damage caused by free radicals.
They are also a great source of magnesium, iron, zinc, and copper.
Each of these nutrients are important for brain health:
- Zinc: This element is crucial for nerve signaling. Zinc deficiency has been linked to many neurological conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and Parkinson’s disease.
- Magnesium: Magnesium is essential for learning and memory. Low levels of magnesium are linked to many neurological diseases, including migraines, depression, and epilepsy.
- Copper: Your brain uses copper to control nerve signals. And when copper levels are out of control, the risk of neurodegenerative disorders, like Alzheimer’s disease, is higher.
- Iron: Iron deficiency is often identified by brain fog and impaired brain function.
Research focuses primarily on these micronutrients, rather than on the pumpkin seeds themselves. However, since pumpkin seeds are high in these micronutrients, you can probably reap the benefits by adding pumpkin seeds to your diet.
7. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate and cocoa powder contain a few brain stimulating compounds, including flavonoids, caffeine, and antioxidants.
Flavonoids are a group of antioxidant plant compounds.
The flavonoids in chocolate collect in areas of the brain that process learning and memory. Researchers claim that these compounds can improve memory and also help slow age-related mental decline.
In fact, several studies confirm this.
In a study of more than 900 people, those who ate chocolate more frequently performed better in a range of mental tasks, including some involving memory, than those who ate it infrequently.
According to research, chocolate is also a legitimate mood booster.
One study found that participants who ate chocolate experienced enhanced positive feelings compared to participants who ate crackers.
However, it’s still not clear if it’s because of the compounds in chocolate, or just because the delicious flavor makes people happy.