Eat ‘Plus’ Foods that Boost your Brain Power
Updated: Mar 22, 2023
The connection between your brain and your gut are in one continuous cycle of supporting each other through something called the Vagus nerve.
Poor diet leads to mental health issues and mental health issues lead to more poor dietary choices. (binge eating junk food) Starting with these brain boosting foods is the beginning of a better and healthier life physically and mentally. These are foods I eat daily either as part of a meal or a snack. If organic is available and affordable then that is even better! Less chemicals and pesticides for your immune system to process.
Many of these foods will also help reduce the inflammation in your body that you do not feel. The kind of oxidative stress that slowly hurts you internally and can cause chronic or auto-immune diseases long term!
Let’s start with my favorite. We are not talking about sugar laden chocolate but good quality dark chocolate. (Trader Joes has great organic chocolate chips with no sugar) Just a little bit each day can have positive impacts. I grab a handful of my favorite nuts with a few dark chocolate chips and that holds me over until dinner in the afternoons.
From a neurological standpoint dark chocolate has iron which makes up the coverings of neurons plus helps control the synthesis of the chemicals and pathways of your mood!
There have been numerous studies that found adults who included dark chocolate in their diet have a 75% less chance of depression symptoms.
Herbs & Spices
Adding all sorts of herbs and spices to your cooking has major positive antioxidant consequences. I try to cook with at least 10 spices per meal. I make salad dressings with at least 12. Cooking Italian food? Add basil, black pepper, onion powder, garlic, oregano, turmeric and so on. Making soup? Put everything you have in there!
Besides the positive nutritional aspects of herbs and spices, it just makes your food more enjoyable, especially if you are eating healthier foods! Spices like turmeric and saffron have been proven in studies to help with mental health disorders like anxiety and depression.
Fermented foods go back centuries as a way of preserving foods. Like that big pickle barrel at the deli growing up. Most likely fermented pickles. Most ferments are made with a base of a vegetable, salty water and spices.
Fermented pickles and sourkrauts found in store refrigerators are two of my favorites. (Organic is even better) Kombucha and yogurts are other well known ferments. Just be sure they are low in sugar for best results. Bad bacteria feed on excess sugar in your body. Either way fermented foods are full of good bacteria which are the knights protecting your stomach and intestines from letting unbroken down foods and bad actors into your bloodstream. A strong, good bacteria filled intestine helps brain function once again because of its connection via the Vagus nerve. If your gut is happy, your brain is happy!
Besides my absolute love for avocados in any form they are high in magnesium which is a deficiency found in many due to your depletion in metabolizing sugar. Your body pulls out 50 molecules of magnesium to metabolize (or process) 1 molecule of sugar. Magnesium is important in brain function and many studies have proven its positive results in the recovery of depression patients. Many patients have recovered from major depression just by taking magnesium supplements or eating diets high in this mineral! From a migraine standpoint, many sufferers are also found to be deficient in magnesium!
Leafy greens can be a lot more palatable than you think! Our favorites are watercress, arugula and kale. All three can be chopped up finely like parsley and put into soups, pasta sauce, salads and more. In studies, watercress and arugula have been shown to heal damaged DNA within two weeks of eating daily. My goal is to eat one bag of arugula a week. Although my dog is addicted to it so I usually buy two bags to keep him happy as well!
Leafy greens contain flavonoids, carotenoids, and Vitamin E which all help prevent cognitive decline. They also contain folate which is a part of red blood cell creation in your body!
Find the green you like and again, hide the ones you don’t. I generally find that once I eat something 10 times (even one bite at a meal) I learn to like or even love it. If you don’t like the bitterness associated with many greens, saute them with sliced cherry tomatoes to remove that taste!
Nuts & Seeds
Your brain needs healthy fats to function and nuts and seeds can fulfill that! They are also full of vitamins and minerals as well. I keep walnuts(Omega-3s), almonds and cashews at the ready in my pantry for a mid morning or afternoon snack. One handful with a few chocolate chips also has the power to fight off any hunger until mealtime! Lastly they have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects as well which helps your overall wellness.
What is Functional Nutrition? Learn more here
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