If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you probably know that what you eat affects your overall health and fitness. But did you know there are certain foods that affect your brain more than others?
You see, our bodies, including our brains, are fighting an almost-constant battle thanks to chronic stress. Whether that stress takes the form of a hefty mortgage, an overbearing boss, or a toxic relationship, stress causes our bodies to fight back through inflammation. In this way, the body treats stress as if it were an infection.
Inflammation is complicated. In some ways, it’s good for us. After all, inflammation protects us from illness and repairs the body when it becomes injured, as in when you cut yourself.
But chronic inflammation is NOT our friend. This type of inflammation has been linked to diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, and dementia.
So, what does food have to do with inflammation and keeping our brains working optimally, no matter our age?
Eat the wrong kinds of food, and you will only add to the inflammation. Eat the right kinds of food and you will fight inflammation. Plus, when you eat clean, whole foods, you also inject your body with important micronutrients and antioxidants that provide energy and protect from other diseases.
Here are 7 foods that will help keep your brain in tip-top shape:
You might consider it a vegetable, but an avocado is actually a fruit, and one of the healthiest ones you can eat. Now, you may be thinking, “But aren’t avocados loaded with fat?” Yes, they are, but it’s the GOOD kind of fat, monosaturated fat.
Did you know your brain is made up of nearly 60% fat? It needs healthy fats to function properly. Monosaturated fat also keeps blood sugar levels steady and hydrates our skin.
But avocados offer more than just good fat, they also boast a high amount of both folate and vitamin k, which prevent blood clots in the brain (protecting against stroke), as well as improve cognitive function.
Beets – you either love them or hate them. Hopefully, you love them because they are one of the most nutritious plants you can eat! Not only do they boast some of the highest concentrates of cancer-protecting antioxidants, they are also great for reducing inflammation.
But perhaps the biggest benefit to your brain are the nitrates within beets. These chemicals increase blood flow to the brain, helping your cognition.
How can you not want to eat a fruit that is such a spectacular blue?! Try and eat blueberries on a daily basis because they offer a tremendous amount of benefits for your whole body, thanks to offering one of the highest amounts of antioxidants of any food known to man.
But blueberries also have something called gallic acid, which is especially good at protecting our brains from degeneration.
4. Dark Chocolate
Chocolate lovers rejoice! Well, to be very clear, dark chocolate lovers rejoice!
You see, not all chocolate is created equal. In fact, milk chocolate offers nothing but fat, sugar and empty calories. Dark chocolate, on the other hand, is chock full of flavanols, which have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Flavanols also do something very special. They help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to your heart and brain. Hello, better memory!
Here’s a good rule of thumb to follow when shopping for chocolate – look for bars that are minimally processed and contain at least 70% cocoa. The darker the bar, the better.
5. Bone Broth
Brain health is directly connected to gut health, and when it comes to healing your gut, there is no more powerful food than bone broth. This is a food our ancestors ate, most likely to use all parts of the animal. They may not have known about collagen reducing intestinal inflammation, our certain amino acids boosting the immune system. They just knew it was delicious and seemed to keep the family strong and healthy to work the fields and build communities.
If you want to heal your body from the inside out, start drinking bone broth.
6. Egg Yolks
For years eggs were vilified. You weren’t supposed to eat many and when you did, you were only supposed to eat the whites. How many poor yolks were tossed into the trashcan while we all ate egg white omelets?
Well, guess what? Egg yolks have been taken off the “don’t eat” list by the ‘medical experts,’ most likely because they finally realized 2 things: 1) eating cholesterol does not raise your cholesterol, except the good kind, and 2) your brain requires cholesterol to function properly.
In fact, 25% of the cholesterol found in your body is located in your brain! Your brain uses this cholesterol for membrane function and as a raw material with which to build things like progesterone, estrogen, cortisol, testosterone and even vitamin D.
In fact, one study showed that in older people, the best memory function was observed in those with the highest levels of cholesterol. Low cholesterol was linked to an increased risk for depression and even death.
So, if you’ve been avoiding eggs in general or tossing that golden center in the trash, stop! And start eating more eggs for your brain’s sake.
If you like salmon, you’re in luck. We saved this colorful fish until last because it is one of the absolute best brain foods out there. Packed with omega-3 fatty acids, this fish will keep your brain working optimally so you can say goodbye to brain fog for good!
A word of warning, only buy Alaskan wild caught salmon, as farm-raised and regular wild-caught salmon can be loaded with mercury and other toxins, something your brain definitely doesn’t need!