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There are several ways food can impact your brain functions, such as memory, concentration, and alertness. This makes eating healthy brain foods essential to improving your concentration and maintaining mental well-being.
The human body is composed of trillions of cells. To keep cells alive as well as generate and maintain their biological order, they require a constant supply of energy. This required energy is derived from the chemical bond energy in food molecules (based on what you consume), which thereby serve as fuel for the body’s cells. During this process, the body break downs the proteins, lipids, and polysaccharides that make up most of the food we eat and reduces them to smaller molecules before our cells can utilize them—either as a source of energy or as building blocks for other molecules. This energy-generating process allows the cells of the human body and brain to remain healthy.
The average human brain contains 100 billion cells, and those cells operate congruently to the aforementioned trillions of cells in the total human body. The cells of the brain thrive on nourishing foods and more so on those that are conducive to further developing the brain and its functions.
Here are 12 healthy brain foods you should eat if you want to improve your concentration.
I’ve proposed drinking more water as a solution to many conditions, and improving cognitive function is a no-brainer (pun intended). According to H.H. Mitchell in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water. Not only should you consider how much water you drink but also the quality of what you’re drinking! I suggest exploring alkalized water or natural spring water for the best results.
2. Salmon or Fatty Fish
Fish is one of the most essential healthy brain foods. They are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help build membranes around the cells of the body, including brain cells. Therefore, they can improve the structure of brain cells called neurons. In a 2017 study, people with high levels of omega-3s had increased blood flow in the brain. Researchers also identified a connection between omega-3 levels and better cognition, mental processing, or thinking abilities.
There are two main components in coffee that help your brain: caffeine and antioxidants. Caffeine can increase alertness, elevate mood, and sharpen concentration. Partially due to the antioxidants contained in Coffee, over the long term, it is also linked to a reduced risk of neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Firstly, I suggest freezing your Blueberries before consuming them. Why? Studies conducted at the South Dakota State University proved that freezing blueberries makes their powerful antioxidants more available to the human body. This is because anthocyanins—the antioxidant compounds that make blueberries blue—are found in the skin of the berry.
Blueberries and other deeply colored berries deliver anthocyanins, a group of plant compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. The antioxidant benefits of Blueberries may delay brain aging and improve memory.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, meaning it can directly enter the brain and benefit brain cells. Research has shown that Turmeric and Curcumin may help improve memory in people with Alzheimer’s. It may also help clear the amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of this disease.
Additionally, turmeric boosts serotonin and dopamine to improve mood. Moreover, you can help develop new brain cells because Curcumin boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a type of growth hormone that helps brain cells grow.
6. Green Tea
Very much akin to coffee, Green Tea boosts brain function in terms of alertness, performance, memory, and focus. Contained in Green Tea is L-theanine, an amino acid that can cross the blood-brain barrier increasing the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA, which helps to reduce anxiety and encourages relaxation.
Another benefit of L-theanine is that it also increases the frequency of alpha waves in the brain, which further helps you relax without making you feel drowsy. Green Tea is also rich in polyphenols and antioxidants that may protect the brain from mental decline and reduce the risk of mental diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Eggs are probably the most common and well-known example of healthy brain foods. Eggs are great for the brain as they are rich in Vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12 and folic acid. Recent research suggests that these vitamins may prevent brain shrinkage and delay cognitive decline.
Oranges are a great source of vitamin C, which is a key factor in preventing age-related mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that helps fight off the free radicals that can damage brain cells.
Brocolli is loaded with plant compounds, including antioxidants, and is extremely high in vitamin K—delivering more than 100% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) in a 1-cup (91-gram) serving. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for forming sphingolipids, a type of fat that is densely packed into brain cells.
Broccoli is also rich in compounds called glucosinolates. When the body breaks these down, they produce isothiocyanates. Isothiocyanates may reduce oxidative stress and lower the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Broccoli also contains vitamin C and flavonoids, and these antioxidants can further boost a person’s overall brain health.
10. Dark Chocolate
Thinking of healthy brain foods, chocolates will probably not come to mind. However, dark chocolates are actually healthy for your brain. Dark chocolates are rich in cocoa, also known as cacao, and cacao contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant.
As I’m sure you have noticed in many of these foods, antioxidants are especially important for brain health. This is because the brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, which contributes to age-related cognitive decline and various brain diseases. Cacao flavonoids overall appear to be good for the brain. Flavonoids may encourage neuron and blood vessel growth in parts of the brain involved in learning and memory. They may also stimulate blood flow in the brain.
11. Walnuts and Nuts
Many nuts are beneficial for the brain. However, walnuts are the top nut for overall brain health. They have a significantly high concentration of DHA, a type of Omega-3 fatty acid. Among other benefits, DHA has been shown to protect brain health in newborn babies. It also improves cognitive performance in adults and helps prevent or ameliorate age-related cognitive decline.
Not only are avocados delicious, but they are also a source of healthful unsaturated fat and as a result, they can help support the brain. Eating monounsaturated fats may help reduce blood pressure, and since high blood pressure is linked with cognitive decline, avocados can be quite beneficial.
More Ways to Improve Concentration
Aside from eating healthy brain foods, there are also other ways to improve your concentration. It requires more than simply consuming the right types of healthy brain foods to improve concentration. The quality of your sleep also plays a big role in the brain’s performance (beyond just concentration), too.
The majority of brain repair is done during sleep states. During sleep, the brain reorganizes and recharges itself and removes toxic waste byproducts that have accumulated throughout the day.
Another excellent way to improve brain function is with regular exercise. Exercise has been demonstrated to improve memory and thinking ability among older adults with mild cognitive impairment or reduced cognitive function. Aerobic exercise has been shown to increase brain volume in most gray matter regions, including those that improve cognitive function and support short-term memory.
Do you like solving puzzles? That’s another excellent way to reinforce the connections between our brain cells, form new ones, and improve short-term memory. As an example, you use your memory in the process of completing a jigsaw puzzle when remembering shapes, sizes, and pieces and visualizing where they fit in to place in the puzzle.
The takeaway here is that there is a multitude of ways to improve brain function, and I suggest exploring all options.
Aim to incorporate some of these ingredients into your dietary habit. There are also supplements that you can consume to support the overall sustainability and development of your brain and its cells.
However, this particular article focused on consumable foods. While reviewing this list of healthy brain foods, I suggest considering an all-encompassing approach to improved cognitive function which included exercise, sleep, hydration, and, of course, diet. Let’s all nourish our brains together!
More Healthy Brain Foods You Should Try
Featured photo credit: andrew welch via unsplash.com