As the holidays draws closer, it’s time to sharpen those thinking caps and start preparing those neurons for the upcoming hustle and bustle that inevitably comes with months of November and December. And what better way to begin than with your shopping cart? Here’s a list of 8 brain-boosting foods that can sharpen your mind, boost your mood, prevent memory loss, and lead to an overall healthier brain. From fruits and veggies to grains and nuts, you’ll have a well-stocked kitchen in no time, and perhaps even a better chance at conquering the crowds on Black Friday!
These plump, sweet, and juicy berries are good for more than just staining fingertips in the summertime! The experimental psychologist Barbara Shukitt-Hale explains that, in addition to having powerful anti-inflammatory properties due to their antioxidants, blueberries are “have direct effects on the brain, including plasticity and neuronal communication and neurogenesis; they’re involved in the formation of new neurons. They have far-reaching effects.” Studies also suggest that the regular consumption of blueberries can improve memory, boost concentration, and reduce the risk of developing dementia. In addition to these impressive health benefits, blueberries are rich in dietary fiber, improving digestion, and are a good source of vitamin K.
These crunchy nuts are loaded with vital nutrients, and if you look carefully at a walnut half, it closely resembles the brain–one of the organs that receives outstanding benefits from consuming walnuts. Nature works in mysterious ways! One major health benefit of walnuts is that they contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. They also contain plenty of nutrients, such as polyphenols and vitamin E, that may improve memory and other cognitive functions, as well as reducing inflammation in the brain. Walnuts are a smart choice in more than one way!
For recipe suggestions, try making some sweet Maple Caramelized Walnuts as a tasty snack, or whip up a healthy Apple and Beet Salad with Candied Walnuts and Cashew Cheese.
This creamy green fruit, best known for its starring role in guacamole, is loaded with both flavor and brain-boosting nutrients, making it the ultimate party food in more than one way! Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats, which promotes a healthy blood flow to the brain–and to all other organs. Studies also indicate that these healthy fats can help protect nerve cells called astrocytes in the brain and improve the strength of the signals they send to the muscles. Avocados are also a good source of potassium, which can prevent high blood pressure and thus protects both the heart and the brain!
This green tree-like veggie is loaded with nutrients that benefit the brain–turns out your parents were right when they bribed you into eating it as a child! Broccoli is rich in vitamin K (which improves cognitive abilities) and choline (which improves memory), making it a real superfood. Recent research also indicates that sulforaphane, a compound found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, may help “promote the growth and repair of brain tissue.” In addition to these impressive benefits, broccoli is a good source of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and folate. So fill your plate with stalks and say “tree!”
5. Dark Chocolate
Chocolate lovers rejoice–there is yet another reason to indulge in this tasty delight other than for soul-nourishing purposes! The benefits of dark chocolate come, of course, not from the fat and sugar, but rather from chemicals in the cocoa bean called flavanols, which have antioxidant properties and can improve blood flow to both the heart and the brain. Since dark chocolate has a higher cocoa percentage than milk chocolate, it generally has more antioxidants, fiber, and iron. Studies also indicate that long-term consumption of dark chocolate (in moderate amounts) can boost memory and overall cognitive functioning. Turns out chocolate is not only comfort food, but also brain food!
6. Pumpkin Seeds
These crunchy seeds, popular in the fall but tasty year-round, are packed with several vital nutrients, and taste particularly delicious when roasted and salted–or topped with your favorite sweet-or-salty seasonings. They are one of the best plant-based sources of zinc, a mineral that can increase memory and focus, giving them true brain-boosting powers. Pumpkin seeds are also rich in magnesium, a mineral that can help you sleep better and reduce stress, two benefits that can in turn improve brain health. So get cracking and grab some pumpkin seeds on your next trip to the grocery store!
For recipe suggestions, whip up a batch of spicy Roasted Sriracha Pumpkin Seeds, or make a Baked Sweet Potato With Pesto Pasta, Tomatoes, and Pumpkin Seeds.
These colorful veggies, which come in shades of pink, red, yellow, and white, have a distinctly earthy flavor that some people love and others despise. Despite their polarizing nature, though, beets are extremely nutritious and have numerous health benefits for the brain and other parts of the body. They are rich in dietary nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide in the bloodstream, thus dilating blood vessels and increasing blood flow to the brain and muscles. This results in better physical and mental stamina for all sorts of daily tasks and challenges. Beets are also an excellent source of antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory properties, and have plenty of dietary fiber, which helps maintain a healthy digestive system and reduce the risk of developing colon cancer. Talk about a versatile superfood!
For recipe ideas, try out this Roasted Beets and Kale Salad with Horseradish Crema and Hazelnuts, or make some colorful and antioxidant-packed Turmeric Polenta with Roasted Beets and Greens.
This bright green veggie is typically thought of as a springtime treat, but can be enjoyed year round, and is packed with brain-boosting health benefits. Asparagus is rich in folate, one of the B-vitamins that can prevent cognitive decline and increase memory and focus. One cup of cooked asparagus contains nearly 70% of the RDA of folate, making it an excellent source of this vitamin. It is also a good source of vitamin B12, a particularly important vitamin for vegans to consume, and may even help ward off cognitive decline and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
If you’re looking for more brain food, read up on 10 Foods That May Benefit Your Brain Better Than Antidepressants, or look for answers to this crucial question: Can You Train Your Brain To Crave Healthy Food?
For even more delicious brain-boosting recipes, don’t forget to download the Food Monster App, which is available for Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based recipes, and subscribers gain access to new ones every day. Check it out–you won’t be disappointed!
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