Brain development begins in the mother’s womb and remains crucial throughout your life. It is vital because it controls every other function of your body. The foods we eat play a critical role in overall body development. The same goes for brain development as well. Certain foods positively affect your baby’s memory and learning capacity, and others can hinder it. Since your baby needs all essential nutrients for brain development, an expecting mother’s food determines foetal brain growth. So, consuming brain healthy food during pregnancy can improve baby brain development.
Brain development results in coordinated physical movements, mental abilities, behavioural responses and emotional development in babies. The development transcends through several phases- from prenatal, newborn, infant, adolescence to adulthood. In addition, the brain regulates communication, cognitive skills, concentration, memory, etc. Cognitive skills include learning, grasping power and thinking skills. There is a direct relationship between brain function and dietary habits.
What are Brain Healthy Foods?
The brain needs adequate nutrition to function efficiently. You can obtain these nutrients from multiple food groups like fish, vegetables, fruits etc. These foods help protect the brain from several diseases because they contain antioxidants like omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, they are also rich in essential minerals and amino acids.
Antioxidants prevent oxidative damage to the brain. They do so by getting rid of excess free radicals. Thus, they prevent degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In addition, omega-3 fats reduce the risk of depression and stress. Studies suggest that they also help in the treatment of depression.
Fish Nutrition Facts
The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one half wild Atlantic salmon fillet (154g).
- Calories: 280
- Fat: 12.5g
- Sodium: 86mg
- Carbohydrates: 0g
- Fiber: 0g
- Sugars: 0g
- Protein: 39.2g
Fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies suggest that omega3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation. In addition, they improve the function of neurons in the brain. They also enhance the secretion of hormones like serotonin, which improve mood. As a result, fish in your diet supports memory and learning.
Fish also contains a good amount of antioxidants, reducing the harmful effects of free radicals. As a result, they reduce oxidative damage to the brain, preventing diseases like Alzheimer’s. Salmon, sardine, tuna, mackerel are examples of a few fish excellent for your brain health.
Nutrition Facts of Eggs
Hard-boiled eggs are loaded with nutrients, protein and healthy fats. One large hard-boiled egg (50 grams) provides (1):
- Calories: 77
- Carbs: 0.6 grams
- Total fat: 5.3 grams
- Saturated fat: 1.6 grams
- Monounsaturated fat: 2.0 grams
- Cholesterol: 212 mg
- Protein: 6.3 grams
- Vitamin A: 6% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 15% of the RDA
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin): 9% of the RDA
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): 7% of the RDA
- Phosphorus: 86 mg, or 9% of the RDA
- Selenium: 15.4 mcg, or 22% of the RDA
Studies show that amino acids in eggs are essential for the secretion of neurotransmitters. Our bodies get essential amino acids from protein, and eggs are an excellent source of protein. Neurotransmitters pass nerve impulses from the brain, which are necessary for communication between the brain and body. For example, neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin help reduce depression and anxiety.
Eggs also contain vitamin B and choline, which help boost memory and concentration. As per studies, cacao has reasonable amounts of flavonoids, beneficial for brain health. They help nerve cells work better. In addition, flavonoids help improve memory, cognition, and learning.
Peanut Butter Nutrition Facts
The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 2 tablespoons (32g) of smooth peanut butter with added salt.1
- Calories: 190
- Fat: 16g
- Sodium: 136mg
- Carbohydrates: 8g
- Fiber: 2g
- Sugars: 3g
- Protein: 7g
Peanut butter is rich in vitamin E, which help with cognitive performance and reduces stress levels. In addition, peanut butter contains thiamine. Studies show that thiamine helps improve glucose utilisation by the brain. Furthermore, it is crucial for enzyme secretions that help maintain healthy brain functions.
Peanut butter also contains high protein, which helps form neurotransmitters that help send nerve signals.
Nutrition Facts of Oats
The nutrition facts for 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of raw oats are (Source):
- Calories: 389
- Water: 8%
- Protein: 16.9 grams
- Carbs: 66.3 grams
- Sugar: 0 grams
- Fiber: 10.6 grams
- Fat: 6.9 grams
Oats help in the optimum functioning of your brain. Oats are laden with vitamins E, B complex, and zinc. These vitamins play roles in brain function in multiple ways. For example, vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps maintain your brain health by preventing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress may induce brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, anxiety, memory loss etc.
Vitamin B helps in the synthesis of neurotransmitters. For example, dopamine and serotonin are effective in memory and concentration. They also help to reduce your mood swings. Additionally, oats contain fair amounts of zinc. Studies suggest that zinc improves brain development. Therefore, it is an essential nutrient for pregnant mothers. Zinc helps in the prevention of congenital disabilities too. So, not to forget, a baby’s diet should include zinc-rich foods for brain development.
Berries, especially blueberries, strawberries, cherries etc., are rich in vitamin C, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. All these contribute to brain health and function. For example, studies suggest that vitamin C can protect health by preventing diseases like ischemic stroke, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s etc.
Vitamin C also helps fight depression, one of the primary reasons for memory loss. In addition, antioxidants protect the brain cells from radical injury. Therefore, vitamin C in berries plays a role in preventing degenerative brain disorders. Also, eating berries before bedtime is a good practice, which results in improved sleep quality and affects optimal brain functioning.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, green lettuce, and broccoli are rich in brain-healthy nutrients like iron, vitamin K, A, folate, and beta carotene. Research suggests these plant-based foods may help slow cognitive decline.
Leafy greens also contain reasonable amounts of iron. According to research, iron improves brain function. Also, iron is essential for various brain activities like DNA synthesis and cell division. Consequently, iron maintains the brain’s energy levels.
Furthermore, these vegetables are also rich in antioxidants. So, adding them to your daily diet helps improve the health of brain cells. They are also good magnesium, selenium, and zinc sources, which enhance brain functions.
Zinc is vital in the transmission of impulses and signals in nerves. It is also essential for nucleic acid metabolism and cell division. Unfortunately, zinc deficiency impairs DNA and protein functions that may affect brain growth and functions.
Whole grains such as oats, barley, millets etc., provide energy and B-vitamins. These aid in the smooth functioning of the brain. B vitamins help to increase neurotransmitter production and help prevent memory loss. In addition, the vitamin B complex helps improve degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Meat and Dairy Products
Meat and dairy products are good sources of protein. Additionally, they also contain iron and zinc. Both are crucial in improved brain cell functions. Also, they impact nerve cell formation and nerve signal transmission. They also boost memory.
Several studies show that meat contains amino acids like glycine and serine. Amino acids are essential for the function of neurotransmitters. So that connects meat and dairy products to brain health. However, red meats and full-fat dairy are also high in saturated fats and calories. Therefore, you should consume them in moderation.
Nutrition Facts of Oats
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, a 100-gram serving of unsalted pumpkin seeds(Source🙂
- 574 calories
- 14.7 g of carbohydrate (including 1.29 g of sugar and 6.5 g of fiber)
- 29.8 g of protein
- 49 g of fat
- 52 mg of calcium
- 8.07 g of iron
- 8.54 g of saturated fatty acids
Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc and magnesium. They also contain B vitamins and amino acids. Research suggests that magnesium improves depression. In addition, it helps produce serotonin, a kind of neurotransmitter that improves mood and regulates sleep.
Vitamin B complex promotes the breakdown of amino acid homocysteine. Excess levels of this enzyme trigger dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It also impairs your cognitive skills. B vitamins help information of enzymes. Tryptophan is another amino acid that prevents depression and anxiety.
Nutrition Facts of Broccoli
- Calories: 31
- Water: 89%
- Protein: 2.5 grams
- Carbs: 6 grams
- Sugar: 1.5 grams
- Fiber: 2.4 grams
- Fat: 0.4 grams
Broccoli has high amounts of vitamin K. Studies show that broccoli has high glucosinolates- natural compounds. It effectively limits the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter necessary for the smooth functioning of the nervous system.
It contributes to brain functions and sharp memory. Low levels of acetylcholine may cause Alzheimer’s. In addition, cauliflower, sprouts, and kale are also foods rich in glucosinolates.
Sage is well known for improving memory and concentration as it contains L-theanine, an amino acid. Studies suggest that this compound reduces stress and anxiety and relaxes your brain. In addition, it crosses the blood-brain barrier to enhance neurotransmitter activity.
Green tea is an excellent drink with multiple health benefits. According to research, it contains L theanine which enhances attention span, alertness and memory.
Green tea also contains polyphenols and other antioxidants. It also helps prevent mental stress. In addition, antioxidants prevent radical cell injury to brain cells. Therefore, this reduces the risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Turmeric contains curcumin that helps prevent cell injury. In addition, the antioxidants like polyphenols in turmeric neutralise free radicals. They prevent oxidative stress due to free radicals, preventing any cell injury to the brain.
They also have anti-inflammatory properties. Studies suggest that curcumin prevents plaque on neurons, preventing cell injury, cell death, and memory loss. In addition, curcumin reduces age-related damage to the neurons. Otherwise, it may clog the nerve cells.
Easy Ways to Consume Brain Healthy Foods
There are multiple brain-healthy foods. So make a note and start making minor changes to keep your brain healthy and agile forever.
Include vegetables in your salads and soups. You can also add them to your sandwiches. Start taking fruits and nuts as snacks. You can powder nuts and sprinkle a spoonful in your drinks or meals. You can also include fish and meat in your soups or as broth.
Brain Healthy Food Recipes
The foods you eat are crucial for every aspect of your health. What you eat affects your brain health. Let’s find a few simple recipes to include brain-healthy food in your diet.
Leafy Salad with Walnuts
Salads are the simplest and easiest combination of brain-healthy food. They can be innovative and combine the goodness of vegetables, berries and nuts.
- Preparation time: 5 minutes
- Serves: 1
- Green Lettuce (chopped): 2 cups
- Sage Leaves (Torn): 1-2
- Cherry Tomatoes: 6
- Diced Cucumber: ¼ cup
- Strawberries (Sliced): 3
- Walnuts (chopped): ⅓ cup
- Pumpkin Seeds: 1tbsp
- Olive Oil: 1tbsp
- Salt and Pepper: As per taste
- Mix lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper for the dressing
- Take the rest of the ingredients in a big bowl, add the dressing, toss and serve immediately.
Potential Side Effects and Precautions
Consume any food in recommended doses. However, excess consumption of any dietary supplements can be harmful. For example, it can lead to an allergic reaction or any other discomfort. Therefore, you should practice portion control and watch out for triggers. Consult a physician in case of any side effects.
Seafood is beneficial for brain health. However, if you are allergic to shellfish, it’s advisable to avoid it. Studies suggest that shellfish allergy has symptoms such as:
- A reversed sensation of temperatures
Some people are allergic to peanuts. Peanut butter is also not advisable for such people. Studies suggest that symptoms may include:
- Tingling feeling
- Breathing difficulties
Certain foods interact with medications. For instance, vitamin K and warfarin cause adverse health outcomes. Therefore, if you are on medications, talk to your doctor. Find out possible drug reactions to prevent any mishaps.
Healthy eating habits are essential for your overall health. A healthy, nutritious and well-balanced diet helps your physical and mental health. In addition, it’s vital for the healthy functioning of your brain. Therefore, your diet impacts your brain health significantly.
Some foods that are not healthy for your brains are refined flour, sugars, unhealthy fats, and junk foods. It results in impaired brain functions like memory loss, learning disabilities etc. By making simple dietary changes, you can prevent such problems.
There are several brain-healthy foods. Few of these include nuts, fruits and vegetables. However, people with food allergies need to be cautious. In addition, consult a doctor if you are on any potent drugs to prevent any adverse reaction.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What foods boost brain functioning?
A. Generally speaking, foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids often top the list. In addition, you can try fatty fish, almonds, groundnuts, and walnuts. In addition to Omega-3s, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, and blueberries boost brain function. Drinking a cup of green tea helps improve brain alertness, enhances mood and sharpens attention.
Q. What are the seven brain-healthy foods?
A. Brain healthy foods are those that support its function and mental tasks. Eggs, Greek yoghurt, leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts, leafy greens and berries are the top seven foods ideal for supporting brain health. These brain-healthy foods are rich in omega3 fatty acids, vitamin B, vitamin E, zinc, iron and choline. Moreover, these foods are lunch box friendly.
Q. What foods are bad for the brain?
A. Carbonated or sugary drinks, refined carbs, foods high in trans fat, highly processed foods, alcohol, and an artificial sweetener like aspartame are considered bad for brain health and function. In addition, these foods negatively impact memory and increase the risk of dementia. Therefore, it would be an excellent choice to cut them off from your diet.
Q. Is Egg good for the brain?
A. Yes, eggs are brain-healthy food. They are rich in B vitamins and choline, which support brain function and development. Choline, abundant in egg yolks, aids in the communication between brain cells and protects against cognitive decline.
Q. What can I drink to improve my memory?
A. You can drink green tea to improve your memory. It is a brain-healthy beverage containing an amino acid called L-theanine, which strengthens memory and attention. You could also try peppermint tea to reap similar benefits. Green tea and peppermint tea are rich in powerful antioxidants that reduce inflammation in the body. It is best to drink 2-4 cups a day.
Q. Is Rice Bad for the brain?
A. To be specific, white rice is bad for the brain. It is highly refined and chemically processed. White rice tends to cause brain fog by spiking your blood sugar levels. However, brown rice is better for brain health as it contains fibre and essential vitamins.
Q. Is milk good for the brain?
A. Yes, drinking fresh cow’s milk positively affects brainpower, making it a healthy dietary source. Vitamin B12 present in the milk is proven to boost your memory and mental agility. It’s particularly vital for a developing child’s overall brain development.
Q. Are carrots good for the brain?
A. In addition to being good for the eyes, carrots are also good for the brain. It is rich in luteolin, a chemical that can decrease age-related memory loss and inflammation in the brain. Drink carrot juice to attain the benefits of beta carotene. It reduces stress on the brain and boosts memory.
Q. Are tomatoes good for the brain?
A. Lycopene, a powerful antioxidant present in tomatoes, protects your brain cells against damage from free radicals. Plus, tomatoes offer vitamin E, vitamin B, and potassium. You can make a brain-healthy drink from tomato juice, but avoid adding sugar or salt.
Q. Is Chicken bad for your brain?
A. No, chicken is not bad for your brain when consumed in moderation. Chicken is rich in choline and vitamins like vitamin B12 and B6. Vitamin B12 is responsible for preventing brain problems such as brain fog, fatigue, and nerve damage. The choline provided through chicken aids in synthesising an essential memory-boosting brain chemical called acetylcholine. Furthermore, chicken is a source of lean protein.
Q. Which nuts are good for the brain?
A. Walnuts are the best nut for your brain. Walnuts are rich in DHA and omega-3 fatty acids. DHA helps in improving the brain’s performance and reducing age-related cognitive decline. While other nuts like almonds aid in memory, pistachio nut oils boost fatty acid preservation and inflammation prevention, and macadamias support regular brain function.
Q. Which dry fruit is best for the brain?
A. Among dry fruits, apricots, dates, prunes and raisins are suitable for the brain. Eating dry fruits regularly boosts memory by lowering stress and anxiety. They also have essential antioxidants that help protect the brain from age-related conditions.
Q. How do oranges affect your brain?
A. Eating oranges or drinking 100% pure orange juice improves the blood flow towards the brain. It, in turn, increases cognitive function. Moreover, vitamin C in oranges works by fighting harmful free radicals. Drinking orange juice thrice a week provides you with enough thiamine to protect the brain nerves.
Q. Is papaya good for the brain?
A. Yes, papaya is good for the brain. Carotenoids are a kind of antioxidants found in papaya that help neutralise excess free radicals in the brain. Excess free radicals are one of the prime causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, papaya contains choline and omega3 fatty acids, which aids in a faster reflex action and improve brain health. However, pregnant women and people with allergies, kidney stones, and hypoglycemia should not consume papaya.
Q. Is Apple good for the brain?
A. Apples have a high concentration of quercetin, a plant pigment that inhibits free radicals as excess free radicals harm the brain cells. Apples also help in preventing memory loss and reducing the occurrence of strokes. In addition, drinking apple juice shows a significant improvement in the brain’s memory function.
Q. How do Almonds help your brain?
A. Almonds are high in vitamin E and omega3 fatty acids, good for the brain. Almonds are also rich in magnesium, boosting overall neural health and keeping the nervous system in good shape. A healthy nervous system is equivalent to a healthy brain. Moreover, the protein in almonds aids in the healing of brain cells.