If you tend to lose concentration easily, or you just don’t feel like you’re as sharp as you used to be, your diet may have something to do with it. You’ve likely heard of the phrase “food for thought,” but food for the brain may be even more important. Certain foods may help to fuel your brain and ease brain fog.
Here are just a few of the best foods that could help boost your brain health:
The cocoa plant, from which dark chocolate is made, contains substances known as flavonoids.1These are plant compounds known for their antioxidant properties. Oxidation is an important process that helps your body work as it should. But it can also result in something called oxidative stress. When our bodies metabolize oxygen, this can lead to the creation of too many free radicals, molecules that damage tissues and cells.2 Antioxidants help repair some of the damage that oxidative stress can do.
Flavonoids also appear to play a role in helping to keep memory sharp. And there is evidence that flavonoids help boost brain health in a way that helps slow cognitive decline as you age.3
For example, researchers conducted a study involving more than 900 participants.
According to the results, the participants who ate dark chocolate frequently were more adept at performing mental tasks than those who didn’t eat it as often.
Many of the tasks involved memory.4
Dark chocolate might also help boost your mood, according to another study. Researchers split participants into two groups. One group ate chocolate or crackers while listening to tapes that instructed them to eat the food slowly and purposefully. The other group simply ate the food and then waited for other instructions.
According to the results, both groups who ate the chocolate exhibited improved moods versus the ones who ate crackers. They showed this improvement whether or not they ate in a mindful fashion. What the researchers don’t know, however, is if the results occurred due to the flavonoids in the chocolate, or if it was simply a case of people feeling better after eating something that tasted good.5
If you are ready to get a little adventurous with your diet, you might want to consider spicing up your dishes with turmeric. Turmeric, best known as an ingredient in curry powder, has been shown to be an excellent brain food.
That’s because of a compound in turmeric called curcumin. Research shows curumin has a direct, positive effect on the cells in the brain. Curcumin has been shown to help improve memory in people suffering from severe cognitive conditions.6
Curcumin has also been shown to play a role in helping some people suffering from serious conditions affecting their emotional health. The reason, researchers say, is that curcumin contains dopamine and serotonin, substances that have been shown to boost mood.7
The orange is another great food for the brain, thanks to its ample supply of vitamin C. This critically important vitamin has been shown to help prevent the decline of mental health.8 Eating enough foods with vitamin C may also play a role in protecting your brain from severe illnesses.9
While it’s more accurate to call coffee a “brain liquid” rather than a “brain food,” it’s still important for your brain health. Coffee, of course, contains caffeine, which can help you stay alert. It does this by inhibiting the production of a chemical known as adenosine, a chemical that helps make you sleepy. Caffeine has also been shown to boost production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that has been linked to improved mood.10,11,12
According to one study, coffee also helps improve concentration levels, whether you drink a large cup in the morning, or smaller amounts throughout your day.13
Caffeine is a stimulant, so make sure your doctor says it’s safe for you to increase your intake.
Another of the best foods for brain health, eggs contain a vital nutrient known as choline. Your body needs it to produce acetylcholine, which helps regulate your memory and your mood. But a lot of people find it difficult to get enough choline in their diet. The average man needs about 550 mg per day, while women typically need about 425 mg. You can get 112 mg in just one egg yolk.4
Eggs also contain an ample supply of B vitamins, such as B6 and B12.15 These vitamins have been shown to help slow mental decline in older people.16 Research indicates that if you don’t get enough B vitamins in your diet, you may be at a higher risk of developing emotional issues.17
They don’t call fish “brain food” for nothing. In fact, it’s a fantastic food for the brain. Many types of seafood are packed with omega-3 fatty acids.18 Your brain uses omega-3s in many ways. For example, omega-3s help stimulate the development of nerve and brain cells.19 They also play a role in preserving cognitive function.20
According to one study, the brains of people who eat broiled or baked fish on a regular basis have more grey matter. This is an important reason why fish is a great food for the brain, because grey matter contains nerve cells that help control emotion, memory, and your ability to make decisions.21
Final Thoughts on Food for the Brain
If you’re looking for food for the brain, you have a lot of fantastic choices. But it’s important to note that you should never make substantial changes to your diet without talking to your doctor first. Even though you may be eating a great brain food, it could have other effects on your body that aren’t good for you. Talk to your doctor to stay on the safe side.