SupermarketGuru’s top ten picks for brain boosting foods you can find in your local supermarket.
Last December, we laid out our predictions for the top ten trends in the food industry for 2018. One of those trends was focused on neuronutrition, looking at how food affects our brains. And now almost five months into this year, you may have noticed a lot more conversation surrounding products and foods that serve up a strong nutritional profile for conditions such as dementia, mental illness, stress, and even academic performance.
For parents of school-aged children or for college students trying to survive the pressure of university life, this can be a compelling topic, as studies have shown a strong relationship between dietary intake and academic performance. In fact, one study has shown that healthier lunches could raise student achievement on average by four percentile points.
Also, our aging baby boomer population could find guidance on this topic particularly useful as we are seeing an increase in cases of dementia in the US. According to Alzheimer’s Association, 5.7 million Americans are living with the disease. That number is expected to rise to 14 million by 2050. It is the sixth leading cause of death and the fifth leading cause of death in Americans age 65 or older.
But who doesn’t want to stay sharp and feel great at the same time? Here are our top ten picks for brain boosting foods that supermarkets can promote as this trend for feeding the brain continues to grow:
Berries: Studies show that those with the highest intake of blueberries and/or strawberries demonstrated about one and half to two and half years of delays in cognitive aging; i.e. thinking, remembering, and reasoning. Researchers think it could be the flavonoids, which are plant compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Flavonoids are also found in other food and drinks such as citrus fruits, tea, red wine, and onions. How much do you need to keep your brain sharp? Just a half-cup of blueberries or two half-cup servings of strawberries a week.
Chocolate: A study from researchers based at Reading University's School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences in the UK found that consuming cocoa flavanols may improve aspects of eye and brain function. The study looked at acute intake of cocoa flavanols and then tested the subject's vision and cognitive performance and found that both were improved.
Cruciferous Vegetables: Adding foods like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts could have great brain health benefits. These vegetables pack serious antioxidant power, which helps protect the brain. A Harvard Medical School study found that women who ate more of these veggies lowered their brain age by one to two years.
Eggs: Whether hard-boiled, scrambled or sunny side up, eggs are a great meal or snack. Eggs are rich in choline, a vitamin-like substance (also plentiful in bacon, nuts, yogurt, chicken and more) which helps promotes memory and brain development. In fact, a study recently published by researchers at the University of North Carolina demonstrated that choline helps fetuses develop regions of the brain linked to memory.
Healthy Fats: Healthy fats help “cushion” the brain; in fact 60 percent of your brain is made up of fat. Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for the brain and eyes (deficiency can lead to anxiety and depression). Avocados are another great fat, as well as coconut, flax, chia and hemp seeds.
Herbs And Spices: Next time you're whipping up a meal, turn to your spice rack for an extra brain boost. Spices and herbs may do more for your health than you realize; they are packed with nutrition! According to Dr. Daniel Amen, cinnamon balances blood sugar; garlic, oregano and rosemary increase blood flow to the brain; curry acts as an anti-inflammatory; and saffron can have anti-depressant effects
Protein: Lean and “clean.” Choosing protein sources that are raised humanely and fed a proper diet, or pastured are your best bets. Protein is great to pair with whole grains and can help us feel full longer, avoiding a sharp drop in blood sugar which is a sure energy and brain drain. Ask your local butcher about how you meat was raised.
Vitamin D and E: research demonstrates the need for these essential vitamins in obtaining optimal brain health. Both D and E help to keep our minds sharper, aid in warding off dementia, and even offering protection against Parkinson's disease. There are a variety of great sources of vitamin E in foods including nuts, especially almonds and hazelnuts, wheat germ, and sunflower seeds. Green leafy vegetables like Swiss chard, spinach and kale provide vitamin E as well. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 15 mg for most adults. Few foods are natural sources of vitamin D. Salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel and fish liver oils are the best sources, and vitamin D can be found in small amounts in beef liver, cheese, egg yolks and some mushrooms. The Food and Drug Administration recommends consuming a minimum of 400 IU of vitamin D daily.
Water: Dehydration can lead to fatigue, fogginess, and more, so drinking plenty of water is crucial to keeping concentration and energy levels high.
Whole Grains: Whole grains are great – most notably oats. Getting your oats in a not so sweet granola is a great way to eat more whole grains. Whole grains in general contain phytonutrients, folate and B vitamins that boost memory.