Likely, you’ve heard the claim that eating foods that look like the same parts of the body they’re good for is an easy route to better heath. In the subject of mental health, that food honor goes directly to walnuts, which look amusingly similar to a human brain. Walnuts are indeed a healthy choice, but supporting the brain extends far beyond simply popping a handful of nuts … or a pill: variety and consistency is essential. “Supplements cannot replace a healthy dietary pattern,” reminds Fran Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard T.H. in a recent Time article. “The overall dietary pattern is more important than a single nutrient.” With this in mind (Yay, pun!), here are several superfood ways to get your brain boost on, everyday:
Chia Seeds | The reason why walnuts are so renowned as a brain food is thanks to their rich omega-3 fatty acid content, which is linked to helping enhance memory as well as protection against cognitive decline. While walnuts are good, chia seeds are even better. A much more condensed source of this important nutrient, with 8x the amount of EFA’s found in salmon ounce per ounce, chia seeds make efficient work out of providing us with the fats we need, at a lower calorie cost to boot. Sprinkle chia on a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g. and reap the rewards. Or to mix things up, you can also use another omega powerhouse, too: hemp seeds!
Goji Berries | Considering the number of antioxidants in these remarkable berries, regularly consuming goji’s is, quite literally, a smart habit. Although only a preliminary study, research has indicated that the lycopene in goji berries might be a promising neuro-protective agent against Alzheimer’s. Researchers are currently exploring goji berries as the base of future treatments, but you can enjoy them regularly by the handful, in smoothies, or tossed into your favorite breakfast bowl.
Blueberries | High amounts of flavonoid antioxidants are responsible for blueberry’s brain-enhancing fame, which studies have shown enhances memory as well as learning and general cognitive function. To mix things up further, you can also stock up on flavonols by eating cacao, acai, and maqui.
Pumpkin Seeds | These tasty green seeds are one of nature’s best sources of zinc, a vitamin linked to enhancing memory and thinking skills. Enjoy pumpkin seeds by the handful, or try them mixed into seasonal soups or hearty salads, like my White Bean Pepita Salad.
Cranberries | One of cranberries many unique rewards is a high concentration of ursolic acid, a compound that has shown promise in protecting brain cells from injury and degeneration, and possibly even reversing damage. To get the maximum amount of ursolic acid from these red berries, use them fresh (ideal), or sun-dried without sugar (using fruit juice to sweeten).
I’ll admit, there are many other great superfoods out there that work as a mental boost as well (matcha tea would be another example, and one that I personally use several times a week). What are your favorite ingredients for extra brain power?