By Rennie Aranda, Skinny Gene Registered Dietitian
As fall approaches and summer vacations come to an end, it’s time to get our brains ready to work at optimal levels for work and/or school. What better way to prepare for the months ahead than to stock up on brain food – foods that boost brain function by helping to increase concentration, boost memory, support sensorimotor skill and development, and help us stay calm when stressed. Although it sounds like a tasty appetizer for zombies, brain food affects children and adults alike, whether it’s needed for school or work, brain food can help in keeping your brain focused and nourished throughout the day for optimal performance.
Research reveals that what you eat affects your brainpower – how much information you retain, how well you perform day to day tasks, and how well you remember names and vocabulary. Improved brain function and academic success follows healthy lifestyles. Starting the day off with a power-packed breakfast is a perfect place to start for a productive work or school day. A healthy breakfast helps us to be more alert, become more engaged, stay focused, and solve more complex problems. Not only does healthy eating improve brain function to do well in work or school, but eating those healthy meals and snacks together at the table also contribute to academic success.
Avoid the afternoon slump and power through the day with these brainpower-boosting foods:
– Whole grains. The brain is dependent on glucose (simple sugars) for fuel and relies on a steady stream of energy. The steady supply of glucose provided by whole grains improves alertness, concentration, and memory. Try to include brown rice, whole wheat, barley, oats and other whole grains to obtain the benefits of these healthy brain foods.
– Blueberries/berries. They may be small, but they are packed with powerful antioxidants that protect the brain from neurological damage, which promote strong cognitive function. Add at least cup of berries (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, etc.) a day.
– Wild salmon. Rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are essential for brain function and also contain anti-inflammatory substances.
– Nuts and seeds. This healthy snack is a good source of vitamin E and essential fatty acids that help to enhance brain function. Sunflower seeds in particular contain an important amino acid that helps to keep the brain alert and enhance mood, creating an attitude that is ready for learning.
– Avocados. This fatty fruit is almost as good as blueberries in promoting brain health. They are high in monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy blood flow, leading to a healthy brain. This fruit is also known to lower blood pressure, which also promotes brain health.
– Beans. This powerful brain food also contains omega 3 fatty acids that support brain growth and function. In addition, the complex carbohydrates and protein in beans help keep brain function level throughout the day.
– Vegetables. Vegetables are packed with fuel for healthy brain function and are high in the antioxidant protective vitamins (Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and beta-carotene) that help protect brain cells from damage. Lean towards dark green leafy greens like spinach or collard greens, carrots, kale, broccoli, and brightly colored vegetables like red cabbage, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and tomatoes.
– Water. Cognitive ability depends on proper hydration and even mild dehydration effects brain function. Plenty of water is needed to keep the brain hydrated and helps to regularly keep minds sharp and clear.
Try packing some of these nutrient packed combinations as snacks to help keep you alert and focused throughout the day:
– Whole grain cereal trail mix consisting of your favorite whole grain cereal, dried fruit, and chopped nuts/seeds.
– Peanut butter and toast
– Hummus and your favorite veggies
– Chips and salsa
– Low fat yogurt mixed with your favorite fruits and chopped nuts/seeds.