Best and Worst Foods For Your Brain
Have you ever noticed that you feel more fatigued and have problems concentrating when you eat or drink certain things? A healthy diet impacts more than just your weight. When you have a balanced diet, it benefits your whole body, including the aging processes, your appearance, and even your brain. Although scientists are only beginning to recognize the key role that nutrition plays in cognition, the discoveries are mind-blowing. There are foods that help protect memory, make you think faster, and help with logic and comprehension. However, there are also foods and drink that damage your brain, deprive it of nutrients and may have dangerous long-term consequences. Let’s take a look at the best – and worst – food and beverages for your brain.
Best Beverage: Water
We begin with water. The human body is mostly water, with muscle being comprised of 75 percent water, while fat is about ten percent water. This means that if your body is dehydrated, all of your body’s processes suffer. Decades of research has shown that when you are thirsty, it is more difficult to maintain focus, memory, and the ability to do basic calculations. Even dealing with your alarm clock is less efficient when you need fluids. This partially explains brain fog. Experts say drinking water first thing in the morning may give you a bigger boost of brain power than a cup of coffee.
Worst Beverage: Diet Soda
More people are getting brain diseases at a much earlier age. According to Dr. Russell Blaylock, one of the factors that is causing early onset dementia and Alzheimer’s is diet soda. Diet drinks have harmful artificial sweeteners designed to convince the brain they don’t contain sugar or calories. .Diet sodas basically trick the brain into thinking it is receiving glucose, which never comes, which then sets the brain off on an emergency path to find calories. Things like aspartame contribute to the escalation of neurodegenerative diseases that begin in the brain. Diet sodas are even worse than regular soda, since studies show that they make people more impulsive and focus on short-term gain So next time you crave a soda, choose the regular Coke over the diet.
Best Beverage: Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea is a gentle, lightly flavored herbal tea that people usually do not associate with energy or other things believed to give the brain a jolt. But Chamomile tea is much more powerful, since it can help you settle down and get to sleep. Researchers have proven that chamomile can not only help get you to sleep, it also improves the way your brain works the following day.
Best Animal Product: Eggs
Eggs can get a bad rap due to constantly differing marketing groups trying to sell you products. But the science is clear — eggs are good for your brain.. Eggs bring you vitamin D, which helps stave off the cognitive declines associated with aging. Three large eggs give you 33% of the vitamin D you need each day. Eating the yolk is crucial, since that’s where most of the benefits come from. The yolks include choline, which is a mineral that is linked to better verbal and memory acuity. Studies also show choline helps build the memory neurotransmitter, known as acetylcholine.
Best Nut: Avocado
Avocados are classified as nuts. They are high in fat, but they contain the good kind of fat your body needs. Researchers have shown that in order to fight the battle of the bulge, your body actually needs proper fats. The brain is composed of 60 percent fat, and just like water, the brain needs this substance to function properly. Avocado comes in handy because it contains monounsaturated fats , which promote healthy blood flow to the brain. Kansas State University has found that these fats work to keep the brain cell membranes flexible. They also protect nerve cells in the brain, which gives support to information-carrying nerves.
Best Oil: Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has benefits for your whole body, but it has been recently studied for its association as an anti-inflammatory, which helps prevent degenerative brain disease. Coconut oil has fats and cholesterol which, believe it or not, actually provide benefits to the brain. That’s because the brain is a hungry organ that needs lots of calories for energy. Coconut oil can bypass glucose metabolism, which means its energy is absorbed directly into the hungry brain cells.
Best Snack: Broccoli
Broccoli is one of the best foods you can eat. That’s because it contains a ton of vitamin K, which has been demonstrated to improve verbal episodic memory (your ability to understand and remember verbal instructions.) Like eggs, broccoli also contains choline, the mineral that improves memory. People who eat broccoli actually perform better on memory tests. Moreover, new tests show that sulforaphane, which is found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, has the ability to protect the blood-brain barrier if the brain is injured.
Worst Snack: Microwave Popcorn
Popcorn is great if you make it the old-fashioned way, by air popping it. However, microwave popcorn is bad, and not just for your heart. Big brands like Jiffy Pop contain diacetyl (DA), which is a chemical that has been shown to break down the layer of cells that protects the brain. It also causes proteins to clump, which is a marker of Alzheimer’s. Fortunately, some popcorn makers have removed DA. Unfortunately, the bags contain harmful chemicals as well, like PFCAs, which cause heart disease.
Best Fruit: Tomatoes
Ripe tomatoes are a good source of an important nutrient called carotenoids. This nutrient family helps memory over the long-term and has a similar impact on cognition. The carotenoid you have probably heard of is called lycopene, which is found specifically in the skin of tomatoes. Lycopene protects the brain from inflammation, which decreases the impact of depression. This also means that tomatoes are a mood booster. Little red tomatoes are the best variety to try, since the skin contains a higher concentration of lycopene in than beefsteak tomatoes.
Worst Fruit: Juices With High Fructose Corn Syrup
Fruit juice is usually bad for you unless you make it yourself with no additives. The sugar content is the culprit, because fruit juices have high fructose corn syrup. This has a different impact on the brain than good old table sugar. Table sugar has equal parts fructose and glucose, but the syrup is loaded with fructose. A study in the Journal of Physiology showed that rats who ate a diet high in fructose had difficulty navigating the maze, even if they had previously mastered it. This is just one way that researchers think fructose hurts brain cells. Specifically, they think it hurts the way brain cells store sugar and energy, which harm the brain’s ability to learn and process thoughts. Fruit is also high in fructose, but research has shown that it does not have the same harmful impact on the brain health as fruit juice.
Best Juice: Beets
A new study has shown that drinking beet juice increases blood flow to the brain in people who are older. Researchers think this could slow the progression of dementia. Beet roots contain nitrates, which are already known to have a positive impact on blood vessels. This boosts the amount of oxygen available to areas in the body which needs them. The new study confirms the benefits extend to the brain’s blood vessels as well. Focus and concentration are easier when there is more oxygen flow to the brain.
Worst Juice: Citrus Juice
Citrus juices, like sodas, contain a substance called brominated vegetable oil (BVO), which is a flame retardant that is banned in Europe in Japan. Unfortunately it is still present in soda products in North America, especially in citrus juice. Over time, BVR builds up in the system, damaging brain cells and causing nerve problems.
Best Condiment: Olive Oil
Olive oil contains oleic acid, which is one of the omega-9 fatty acids that gets converted during the digestion process into OEA. OEA is a hormone that promotes healthy brain cells. A study from the University of California, Irvine, showed that rodents given OEA could remember how to perform two tasks than those that did not have OEA could not. Researchers believe that OEA signals the part of the brain responsible for turning short-term memories into long-term ones. In other words, it’s the glue that holds the short-term memories together so they can mature.
Worst Condiment: Soy Sauce
What’s a little soy sauce to do any serious harm? Well, the reality is just a little bit of soy sauce has almost 40 percent of the daily recommended intake of sodium per day. That’s a problem, because salty food screws up the brain. According to the journal Neurology, hypertension, which can be caused by too much salt, restricts blood flow to the brain. This means your memory, focus, and organizational ability will be less than optimal. Lots of sodium also leads to dehydration. The easy way to avoid this is to stick with low-sodium soy sauce.
Best Guilty Pleasure: Dark Chocolate
There’s nothing to feel guilty about with dark chocolate. It’s actually one of the best things for your brain. Chocolate increases the release of all kinds of feel-good substances, including endorphins. This cuts down on stress. It also includes a substance that is similar to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Flavanols found in dark chocolate are favorably associated with cognitive function for young and old alike. The many compounds in dark chocolate boost memory, improve attention span, make your reaction time faster, and aids in problem-solving skills by increasing blood flow to the brain.
Worst Guilty Pleasure: Frozen Pizza
Some high fat, high salt foods make you feel fatigued, which means your brain isn’t sharp. The journal Nutrients found that most frozen pizzas are off the charts in their fat content, serving up nearly 50 percent of the total daily recommendation for fat – and that’s just in one serving, let alone two. The cheap Tombstone and other similar pizzas are the worst, so it’s better to make your own.
Best Crunchy Snack: Carrots
Carrots are already known for their ability to improve your vision. Now scientists are looking into the impact of carrots on the brain. When they studied luteolin, a substance also found in celery, they found that it reduced inflammation in the brains of mice. The mice who had plenty of luteolin did better on memory tests, showing the same level of concentration and recall that much young mice displayed. It is believed to have a positive impact on the hippocampus. Researchers believe a similar impact happens in humans. Lab tests also showed promise in carrots protecting the brain against bad toxins.
Best Comfort Food: Whole Grain Bread
Oprah Winfrey isn’t the only one who celebrates when eating bread. Bread has an undeservedly shady reputation because of diet fads that rail against grains. But whole grain bread is one of the best things for your brain. The brain needs energy in the form of glucose and whole grains can supply the best kind of glucose. White bread is definitely out, but whole grains have a low-GI, which means the glucose is released into your bloodstream slowly. This means you are alert throughout the day rather than in just short spurts.
Worst Comfort Food: Ice Cream
I scream, you scream, we should all scream against ice cream! Why? Because of all the high-fat, high-sugar foods, it’s the worst one. While it won’t screw you up too bad if you have a single cup, the real problem happens when you eat a whole pint, as people are liable to do when they are upset. A huge dose of saturated fat and and sugar is found to diminish cognitive skills and verbal memory. It increases that foggy sensation that makes you feel like you can’t think straight.
Best Sandwich Spread: Almond Butter
Almond butter is the perfect thing to eat when you get older. Almonds have a higher concentrations of vitamin E — three to four times the amount in peanuts — which reduces the risk of age-related cognitive trouble. That means a simple switch from peanut butter to almond butter can provide big benefits. Almond butter also contains healthy fats and protein, making it an all-around performer.
Best Fish: Wild Salmon
Wild salmon contains DHA, which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid which improves memory. DHA also makes you recall things faster, including memories. When researchers tested the supplement on people who had low levels of omega-3s, they found that adding about one 3 ounce serving of wild salmon made a big impact. Just be sure to stay away from farm-raised salmon, which doesn’t have all of the benefits of its brethren.
Worst Fish: Tuna
Tuna is fine in small doses, but you shouldn’t eat it regularly. The problem with tuna is that it tends to contain mercury. Mercury, like all heavy metals, can damage the brain. Avoid things like bigeye, ahi, albacore and yellowfin tuna. Other fish is safer and contains more benefits to the brain.
Worst Meat: Steak
Rib-eye steak, the beef that is found in rib roast or prime rib, is delicious, but it contains the highest amount of fat. Rib-eye contains 37.6 grams of fat in just one 3.5-ounce serving. This includes a whopping 15 grams of saturated fat. In addition to the obvious heart problems, consuming that much saturated fat at one sitting is associated with Alzheimer’s Disease and other cognitive impairments, according to a study in Physiology & Behavior.
Best Meat: Liver
Vitamin B12 is great for the brain. It also happens to be a substance the body cannot produce itself. And it can only come from from animals, which is why vegans and vegetarians often have huge B12 Deficiencies. Liver is nature’s top superfood for vitamin B12. When you eat the liver of an animal that is raised without antibiotics or other chemicals, it provides the brain with key nutrients. Without B12, your brain may be irrevocably broken and you may have bad memory, exhaustion and depression.
Best Berry: Blueberry
Blueberries are well known as a superfood. The flavonoids in blueberries have been revealed to improve spatial memory when tested in rats. This is in addition to the other benefits of blueberries as antioxidants, which reduce the amount of inflammation in the brain.
Worst Berry: Blueberry Muffins
Processed muffins, like blueberry muffins, have corn oil, fructose, and trans fats. Trans fats are dangerous, as they can zap both memory and brainpower. Since commercial muffins contain all of these bad substances, they induce withdrawal symptoms and make people more sensitive to stressful situations, meaning it’s hard to think properly.
Best Seeds: Pumpkin Seeds
Zinc is the best known enhancer of mental agility and memory. Zinc is a micronutrient and it is a building block for enzymes and proteins. Zinc deficiency causes forgetfulness. This happens because when the body is deprived of zinc, it reduces signal communication in the brain. That means that forgetfulness is literally an example of getting your wires crossed. The easiest way to get plenty of zinc is from pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds contain 23 percent of your daily zinc needs in just a quarter cup serving.
Worst Addictive Food: Cheese
Cheese is delicious, it’s true, but it is also as addictive as heroin. Researchers at Yale found that cheese is very addictive due to the protein casein, which creates casomorphins when the dairy breaks down in the body. These casomorphins then attach to the brain’s opiate receptors, causing the same calming effect as a hit of heroin. Cheese is not all bad, since it contains protein and calcium, but people need to be aware that it can trigger addictive feelings in the brain, leading to binge-eating and sudden crashes that deprive the brain of energy.
Best Herb: Rosemary
Better memory begins with just a simple smell: the smell of rosemary. Rosemary oil contains a chemical called 1,8-cineole, which improves the brain’s performance. One study showed that people who had higher levels of 1,8-cineole showed increased speed and accuracy on tests. Rosemary-infused oils or sea salt are a great way to increase your intake of rosemary. It can also be added to season chicken and is increasingly found in healthy popcorn.
Best Leafy Green: Kale
Harvard conducted a long-term, 25-year study of more than 13,000 women, which showed that eating high amounts of leafy green vegetables caused less age-related cognitive decline. Of all the leafy greens, the dark-leafed kale was extremely impressive. It’s already a low-carb food that doesn’t induce a spike in glucose, but kale also has omega-3 fatty acids. It contains ALA, alpha-linolenic acid, which is linked to reduced risk of depression and diabetes. Since diabetes and depression harm the brain, kale is a good thing to eat to fight both conditions. Kale is also an anti-inflammatory that will regulate blood sugar. High blood sugar ages blood vessels and brain cells faster. Kale is an easy thing to add to the diet to combat these negative things. Kale can be found in chips, salads, stir fries or soups.
Best Grain: Quinoa
There’s a lot of hype about quinoa, an ancient grain found in South America. In this case, the hype is totally justified. It is a great source of complex carbohydrates and fiber, which can balance blood sugar at the same time it provides the essential glucose to the brain. Quinoa has iron, which is a vitamin that promotes, oxygen in the blood. It also contains the important B vitamin, which is a mood-balancer, and a nutrient needed to protect blood vessels.
Worst Food: Anything Containing Partially Hydrogenated Oils
French fries epitomize food that is bad for you for good reason: they are cooked in oils called “partially hydrogenated oils” – which is just a fancy way of saying trans fats. Trans fats add to the risk of obesity and heart disease. Now we are also finding out that they are draining on your brain’s energy source. A diet that has lots of trans fats increase a peptide known as beta-amyloid. This is essentially a plaque that is linked to Alzheimer’s disease. A study published in Neurology revealed that people who ate high levels of trans fats had lower cognitive abilities, and even smaller brains—later on in life. That means french fries, onion rings and other things that go into the fryer should be avoided at all cost.