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Top 9 Brain Superfoods

By Peggy Kotsopoulos, RHN on September 18, 2012

Top 9 Brain Superfoods

Going back to school, performing in your career and just functioning in a modern busy lifestyle requires organization, a good memory, and generally keen brain function. How often have you said to yourself: “If I only remembered that one thing I would have cut my time in half or that presentation would have been 10 times better!”?

We often fall back on caffeinated beverages to help us be more alert while we go about our day, but turning to coffee or energy drinks in hope of finding a memory miracle will always disappoint. So if you’re having trouble with memory or focus after a long, lazy summer — or you want to know how superfoods can support cognitive function — check out our top 9 brain superfoods to learn how you can support optimal brain function with good nutrition.

1. Turmeric

Turmeric is a root veggie most commonly recognized in its powdered form as a bright yellow spice. Curcumin — the active compound in turmeric — shows neuroprotective properties, and is being studied for its ability to help slow down the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia and Alzheimers. Curcumin does this by reducing the number of protein deposits (amyloid plaques) in the brain. This build-up of amyloid plaques is an inevitable, degenerative process that affects all of us as we age, gunking up our brains and decreasing our brain’s memory and learning abilities. Studies suggest that turmeric can reduce the number of these plaques by half.

2. Rosemary

The aromatic compounds in rosemary show neuroprotective effects in the brain, which may play a role in the prevention of neurodegenerative brain disorders. Research suggests these compounds increase blood flow to the brain, having a stimulating effect on the mind. Studies found that just the scent of rosemary improves performance in speed and accuracy tests and improves memory and alertness.

3. Broccoli

Aside from its infinite list of health benefits, the winning combination of Vitamin K and Choline gives broccoli a brain-boosting A+! Choline helps in brain development and may have a role in retrieving stored memories, while vitamin K helps to develop and strengthen cognitive function. Plus, broccoli provides nearly a quarter of your daily folate — another important brain-boosting nutrient.

4. Wild Blueberries

Wild blueberries are rich in a phytochemical antioxidant, anthocyanin, which studies suggest help reverse age-related memory deficits. Anthocyanins are what give berries, fruit and veggies their dark red, purple, or blue color. And their powerful antioxidant action helps protect the brain from oxidative damage (a factor in age-related memory decline). Anthocyanin has anti-inflammatory properties, which may help to reduce inflammation in the brain, boosting cognitive functioning and protecting the brain from short-term memory loss.

5. Sunflower Lecithin

Is extracted from sunflower seeds and rich in phosphatidylcholine, which is a precursor to acetylcholine production. Acetylcholine is the key neurotransmitter that is responsible for memory. Even if you already have a memory stored in your brain cells, but don’t have enough circulating acetylcholine, you won’t be able to recall or ‘pull’ that memory from your files. Try adding sunflower lecithin to homemade pancakes, smoothies or baked goods for memory-boosting brain power.

6. Walnuts

Not only do they look like brains, but these nuts pack a powerful brain-boosting punch. Research suggests that walnuts can boost memory and brain function. Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamin E, walnuts deliver key nutrients that help improve chemical messenger communication in the brain, protect the brain from oxidative damage and improve cognitive functioning, respectively.

7. Quinoa

The brain needs glucose to function optimally. The best way to get that is through complex carbohydrates, such as quinoa. Since quinoa delivers slow releasing carbs, coupled with fiber and protein, it provides stable, energizing fuel for your brain. Plus it’s loaded in B-vitamins which are essential for brain function.

8. Asparagus

This long green veggie is rich in brain-boosting vitamin K, and also provides a hearty dose of folate (vitamin B9) — one cup provides roughly 65% of your recommended daily value. Studies show that folate (folic acid in its supplement form) intake supports better cognitive speed in processing information and improved performance on memory tests.

9. Red Beets

Like blueberries, beets also contain anthocyanins, which help boost cognitive function and prevent memory decline. But beets are also are a great source of nitrates which help increase blood flow to the brain. The more oxygen-rich blood flowing to the brain, the better it is at information processing and cognition.

 

What’s your favorite way to bring more brain superfoods into your day?