10 Foods to Increase your Brain Power

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Most of the times, a smart brain is assumed to be the gift of genes. While a certain genetic component is definitely essential to crack complex equations and theorems, equally important is giving the brain a good nutrition. The Alzheimer's Association refers to a "brain-healthy diet" as one that reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes, encourages good blood flow to the brain and is low in fat and cholesterol. So whether you are preparing for the tough presentation scheduled in the week ahead or simply wish to remain mentally nimble for years to come, here are ten foods to snack on that will boost your brain power.

  1. Blackberries

    It is a sad fact of life that the older you get the harder it is to learn new things. The reason for this is that as humans age, brain cells become inflamed making it harder for them to communicate with one another and hence process new information. To avoid the aging of the brain, one of the best foods you can snack on is blackberry. Almost all berries are loaded with potent antioxidants known as polyphenols that zap inflammation and encourage communication between neurons, improving our ability to soak up new information. apart from this they are also a rich source of another kind of antioxidant known as anthocyanin, , that is especially important in reversing the damages caused by advancing age, whether with regard to skin texture, immunity or brain functioning.  For other sources of anthocyanin, look for brightly colored fruits and vegetables like black currents, eggplant, red, black, and purple grapes, plums, rhubarb, red onion, red apples, red/purple cabbage, and red beets.
     
  2. Salmon

    That fish is a healthier source of protein as compared to red meat has been reiterated by cardiovascular health experts. But nutritionist will also tell you that fish like salmon are one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids. In recent years, a lot of research has been going on in the ways omega-3 fats benefit the functioning of brain and scientists now agree that these fats have a direct positive impact on brain development and mental performance. This is probably because of a biochemical known as DHA, which is found in fish oil and which is beneficial for the development and maintenance of memory performance. Fish also contains iodine, which is known to improve mental clarity. Other fish which are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are halibut, shrimp, snapper and scallop while vegetarians can look for it in foods like flaxseed, walnut, soybean, tofu and winter squash.
     
  3. Coffee

    In response to all those who are trying to get you to kick your java habit, you can now claim to be boosting your brain power. A CNN article1 quotes a recent Finnish study of 1,400 longtime coffee drinkers which revealed that people who sipped between three to five cups of coffee a day in their 40s and 50s reduced their odds of developing Alzheimer's disease by 65 percent compared with those who downed fewer than two cups a day. Researchers believe that coffee's caffeine and ample antioxidants are the keys to its protective affects.
     
  4. Spinach

    While spinach may have contributed to Popeye’s awesome muscular power, in you it could lead to greater mental prowess. This is because spinach like other green leafy vegetables is loaded with nutrients which help in the functioning of brain. One of these is vitamin k, which is known to enhance cognitive function and improve brainpower. Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy and cauliflower as well as other leafy green vegetables like collard and mustard greens, kale and Swiss chard are other foods which offer these benefits.
     
  5. Pumpkin Seeds

    Pumpkin seeds are loaded with the dietary mineral zinc which is vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills. Just a handful a day is all you need to get your recommended daily amount of zinc, so sprinkle some pumpkin seeds over your morning cereal and you are good to go for the rest of the day.
     
  6. Apples

    You may have heard of the childhood saying, An Apple a day keeps the doctor away – now researchers are finding out that the benefit of apples goes far beyond a healthy body and may extend to a sharp mind as well. This is because apples have high levels of a substance known as quercetin, yet another kind of antioxidant which defends your brain cells from free radical attacks which can damage the outer lining of delicate neurons and eventually lead to cognitive decline. However To get the most of this protective nutrient, be sure to eat your apples with their skins on since that's where you'll find most of their quercetin. Other foods that are good sources of quercetin are onions, kale, leeks, cherry tomato, broccoli, blueberries, black currants, elderberries, apricots as well as red, purple, and black grapes.
     
  7. Peas

    Foods like black-eyed peas and green peas contain one of the most important brain foods, folic acid. Research has shown that folic acid helps in lowering the levels of homocysteine in humans, high amounts of which are associated with memory loss and macular degeneration. Thus eating foods rich in folic acid may boost brain power and aid faster information processing. Some of the best foods for folic acid include fortified whole-grain breakfast cereals, lentils, soybeans, spinach, artichokes, broccoli, wheat germ, beets and oranges.
     
  8. Liver

    In order to boost your brain power, it is essential that your diet contains required levels of dietary iron. This is a mineral that is responsible for ensuring that red blood cells carry ample amounts of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Iron deficiency can have a big impact on brain function and impair learning abilities, eventually putting you at an increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. Some very good sources of iron are liver from chicken or beef, clams, white beans, blackstrap molasses and fortified cereals. While those on a balanced diet usually get enough iron from their foods, vegetarians and others on special diets should be careful of including enough iron-rich foods in their meals.
     
  9. Extra-virgin Olive oil

    A Mediterranean diet has been touted in recent times as healthy for the heart but an essential ingredient of this diet, olive oil may in fact help to boost your brain power as well. Scientists have identified ADDLs (or amyloid B-derived diffusible ligands) as Alzheimer's-inducing proteins that are toxic to the brain. In the initial stages of the disease they attach to brain cells rendering them unable to communicate with one another and eventually leading to memory loss.  Extra virgin olive oil may be a potent weapon against ADDLs according to research conducted at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, PA. It's rich in oleocanthal, a compound that disables dangerous ADDLs.
     
  10. Grains

    Carbohydrates have received some bad press in modern times because of their tendency to pile on weight. This has led to many fad diets which entirely eliminate carbs from a meal – a step which can leave you feeling mentally sluggish. This is because brain cells accept glucose as the only food source for energy and they cannot store glucose but rely on the blood to deliver a constant supply. Complex carbohydrates are digested slowly in the stomach and provide a steady glucose supply to the brain cells, allowing the brain to work at a steady pace. Brain friendly complex carbohydrates are low in Glycemic Index (GI) which is why the healthy breakfasts usually contain cereals and wholegrains. Additionally wholegrain foods retain essential nutrients like folic acid, vitamin b12 and vitamin b6 which unlike in refined starch are not stripped away in the refining process. One study2 found that women who increased their folic acid, vitamin b12 and vitamin b6 intake showed an improvement in recalling information compared to women who were not taking a supplement. So while pastries made from refined flour may taste lighter, a cake baked with whole-wheat flour will keep you healthier and more mentally alert.

References:

  1. CNN - 10 foods to help boost your brain power
     
  2. GoodFood - 10 foods to boost your brainpower