What Does This All Have To Do With Food?
Our gut helps keep our body’s immune responses and inflammation under control.
Additionally, gut hormones that enter the brain or are produced in the brain influence cognitive ability, like understanding and processing new information, staying focused on the task at hand and recognizing when we’re full.
So when we focus on giving our bodies whole, nutritious foods benefiting both the gut and the brain, we’re actually benefiting our minds and bodies while keeping them both in tip-top shape.
Of course, some foods are better for your brain than others.
I’ve rounded up 16 brain foods you should be eating to feed both your mind and body.
With a mix of fruits, veggies, oils and even chocolate (yes, chocolate!), there’s something to please everyone!
Studies show that blueberries boost “concentration and memory” for up to five hours because “the antioxidants in blueberries stimulate the flow of blood and oxygen to [your] brain – and keep the mind fresh”.
Blueberries also contain a “cocktail of anti-oxidants including anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, resveratrol and tannins”.
They have been shown to boost focus, and even protect against cancer, heart disease, and dimensia.
2. Green tea
Green tea helps you focus for two reasons: one, it contains caffeine, and two, it contains l’theanine.
There is no doubt that caffeine helps you focus and improves your alertness. Good.
That’s covered. Well, what the hell is l’theanine? It’s an ingredient that’s been shown to “increase alpha-wave activity”, which increases tranquility and releases caffeine more slowly, instead of all at once, which can lead to you crashing.
The two ingredients also combine to “produce a better ability to focus attention, with improvement of both speed and accuracy”.
If you’re able to handle the caffeine content, introducing green tea into your diet is pretty much a no-brainer.
There is good evidence to suggest that lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes, could help protect against the kind of free radical damage to cells which occurs in the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s.
Flavour cooked tomatoes and enjoy with a little olive oil to optimise absorption and efficacy.
According to WebMD, “every organ in the body depends on blood flow, especially the heart and brain”, and avocados “[enhance] blood flow, offering a simple, tasty way to fire up brain cells”.
Avocados are also “loaded with fiber (11 to 17 grams per avocado), which helps keep hunger pangs at bay”.
5. Bee Pollen
The wide range of nutrients found in bee pollen makes it a great natural energizer.
Pollens are about 40% protein and are rich in folic acid, free amino acids, and lots of B-complex, which can help keep you going all day by enhancing the brain’s stamina and fighting off fatigue.
Add a teaspoon of bee pollen to a smoothie or shake for a boost of energy when you need it for those early morning meetings or that extra push in the early afternoon.
6. Leafy green vegetables
Leafy green vegetables are full of antioxidants and carotenoids, which boost your brain power, and help protect your brain.
(A good, general tip: the greener a leaf vegetable is, the better.) Leafy green vegetables are also full of B-vitamins, which are “proven to help your memory, focus, and overall brain health and power”.
They also contain folic acid, which improves your mental clarity.
Beetroots contain high concentrations of nitrates, which are converted into nitrites by bacteria in the mouth.
These nitrites help open blood vessels in the body, increasing blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which helps boost its function.
In one study, MRI scans showed that after eating a high nitrate diet, some older adults had increased blood flow to the frontal lobe.
Which is the area most commonly associated with dementia and other cognitive conditions.
8. Fatty fish
Fatty/oily fish contains omega-3 fatty acids which “aid memory, mental performance and behavioral function”. People who are deficient in omega-3’s are more likely to have “poor memory, mood swings, depression and fatigue”.
Fish has also been proven to improve your concentration and mood. The main sources of fatty fish are “salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kipper”.
9. Bone Broth
Simply put, bone broth is homemade stock made from animal bones such as turkey or venison. When you ingest bone broth, it feeds the body with collagen, which is the building block of cells, bones, ligaments, and the brain.
A Harvard study showed that people with auto-immune disorders experiences a relief of symptoms when drinking bone broth, some achieving complete remission.
The glycine found in this broth has also been shown to help improve both sleep and memory.
If you want to improve your focus, you need to drink enough water.
Water “gives the brain the electrical energy for all brain functions, including thought and memory processes”, and it has been proven to help you “think faster, be more focused, and experience greater clarity and creativity”.
Every single function of your body depends on water, so it is critically important that you get enough of it.
11. Pumpkin seeds
Richer in zinc than many other seeds, pumpkin seeds supply this valuable mineral which is vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills.
These little seeds are also full of stress-busting magnesium, B vitamins and tryptophan, the precursor to the good mood chemical serotonin.
12. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate (darkchocolate, not the sugary, milky kind) can help you focus for a number of reasons.
First, it contains a small amount of caffeine, which has been proven to heighten mental alertness.
Dark chocolate contains magnesium, which helps you de-stress, and it also stimulates the release of endorphins and serotonin, which make you feel good and heighten your mood.
This doesn’t mean you should eat a huge brick of chocolate every day, like the delicious-looking one on the right, but it does mean that dark chocolate in smaller doses can significantly boost your focus.
13. Coconut oil
Our bodies are well-oiled machines, with our brains made up of 60% fat. Low levels of fats in food can contribute to depression, Alzheimer’s, and dementia.
It acts as an anti-inflammatory and has been linked in helping prevent the onset of these brain disorders.
14. Flax seeds
Like a few of the foods listed already, flax seeds are high in magnesium, B-vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber, all of which aid with mental clarity, weight loss, and ultimately, focus.
Flax is no doubt a super food. Just make sure you grind them after you buy them (so your body can digest them).
Unlike the other items on this list, flaxseeds can’t be eaten alone, but they’re great sprinkled on cereal, yogurt, oatmeal, salad, and more.
These are great for your body in the long-term. “Nuts and seeds are good sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, which is associated with less cognitive decline as you age”, and you just need an ounce of them a day to get this benefit.
They’re also rich with essential oils and amino acids that aid your focus.
16. Eat oily fish
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) cannot be made by the body which means they must be obtained through diet.
These fats are important for healthy brain function, the heart, joints and our general wellbeing. What makes oily fish so good is that they contain the active form of these fats, EPA and DHA, in a ready-made form, which enables the body to use it easily.
The main sources of oily fish include salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kippers.
Low DHA levels have been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss whilst having sufficient levels of both EPA and DHA is thought to help us manage stress and helps make the good mood brain chemical, serotonin.
Consider a supplement if you’re vegetarian.
Those following a vegan diet may wish to supplement daily with a plant-based omega-3 supplement, and as a vegan don’t forget to add seeds like linseed and chia to your diet.