Life is all about balance. A combination of work/life balance in conjunction with a healthy diet and adequate sleep can help keep your brain mentally sound, sharp, and ready for anything your online classes throw at you. Food is fuel, and it can affect your mental clarity, mood, memory, and ability to focus – just as it affects your physical body. Are you looking to improve one or all of those things? We’ve compiled a list of 10 brain foods to help boost your studies, below.
Research presented at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston found that strawberries, blueberries, and acai berries may help slow down age-related cognitive decline and memory loss.1 Blueberries especially, have been shown to improve concentration and memory functions, and help protect our brains from stress and inflammation.2
Avocados have the highest protein and lowest sugar content of any fruit. Filled with mono-saturated fats (the good kind of fats) and rich in vitamin K and folate, avocados promote healthy blood flow – which assists brain function – and could potentially decrease risks for hypertension and stroke down the road. 3
Broccoli is packed with a variety of powerful plant compounds, including vitamin K and choline (a vitamin B-like nutrient), which help keep your brain sharp. These vitamins are also fat-soluble, meaning when absorbed along with fats and oils, they are stored in the body’s fatty tissues and then used.2
Tomatoes are one of the easiest and most economical ways to fill your brain with a class of plant nutrients called carotenoids; these molecules protect the good fats in your body and brain. Lycopene and beta-carotene are two of the primary carotenoids found in tomatoes. Lycopene regulates genes that influence brain and cell growth, and beta-carotene also prevents heart disease and assists with blood-flow – both of which contribute to a healthy brain.4
- Wild Salmon
Wild salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, and sardines are all great sources of essential fatty acids (EFAs), particularly, omega-3 fatty acids. According to HealthLine, about 60% of your brain is made up of fat – and half of that is the omega-3 kind. Your brain needs omega-3s to build brain and nerve cells—these cells are essential for learning and memory. They also help manage stress and mood, and assist in the creation of serotonin in the brain.2 If you’re vegetarian or vegan – good plant sources include flaxseed, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, oils, or a plant-based omega-3 supplement. Always speak to a certified health professional prior to taking any vitamins or supplements.
- Eggs or Egg Yolks
Eggs and egg yolks in particular, contain large amounts of choline, which not only assists fetal brain development in pregnant women, but also provides vital amino acids (or protein building blocks) that can affect mood regulation and serotonin levels. When you eat eggs, your brain uses the choline to make acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that may be important for maintaining memory and communication among brain cells. Research at Boston University uncovered that choline intake correlated positively with better performance on certain types of memory tests.5
- Green Leafy Vegetables
Regular helpings of leafy green vegetables (the darker – the better) are great for the brain. Greens such as kale, collard greens, spinach, romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, are loaded with vitamins A and K, help fight inflammation and keep bones strong. These superfoods are “super” for a reason, packing 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K in just a one cup serving, with healthy doses of vitamins C and E, and folic acid. A few studies in older adults have also linked a higher vitamin K intake to better memory.2
- Nuts and Seeds
Nuts are great source of the antioxidant vitamin E, which benefits the body and brain. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that high levels of vitamin E may in the prevention of cognitive decline in seniors. Healthy nuts include cashews, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, as well as un-hydrogenated nut butters. They’re also rich in essential oils and amino acids that aid brain focus.6
- Dark Chocolate
According to Psychology Today, an article by Dr. Bret S. Stetka, MD, stated that cocoa is high in flavanols, or plant compounds that are rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Basically, the darker the chocolate, the higher the flavanol content—the better it is for your brain; a good rule of thumb is to consume chocolate that is 85% or more pure cocoa.7 An article in Men’s Health mentioned that flavanol-rich cocoa might significantly increase blood flow to your brain tissue, particularly the hippocampus, which plays a critical role in preserving memory. Other research revealed that flavanols have been shown to decrease blood pressure, improve focus, and may help regulate mood.8
Brain foods are rich in antioxidants and good fats, and packed with essential vitamins and minerals that contribute to overall brain health, wellness, and function. They provide the additional energy and focus you need find success in your studies, maintain a work/life balance, and manage your day-to-day activities among family, friends, etc. What are you waiting for? Grab one of these healthy snacks and get ready – set – go!
1. “9 Foods that Help Save Your Memory.” Health. Accessed December 5, 2017. http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20434658,00.html#sunflower-seeds
2. “11 Best Foods to Boost Your Brain and Memory.” HealthLine. Accessed December 5, 2017. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-brain-foods
3. Axe DNM DC CNS, Dr. Josh. “15 Brain Foods to Boost Focus and Memory. https://draxe.com. Accessed December 5, 2017. https://draxe.com/15-brain-foods-to-boost-focus-and-memory/
4. Ramsey MD, Drew. “Fat Brains Need…Tomatoes.” Psychology Today. Posted April 11, 2012. Accessed December 5, 2017. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-farmacy/201204/fat-brains-need-tomatoes
5. Kelly, Diana. “The Best Brain Food You Should Be Eating.” Reader’s Digest. Accessed December 5, 2017. https://www.rd.com/health/conditions/best-brain-food/
6. Epidemiol, Am J. “Association of antioxidants with memory in a multiethnic elderly sample using the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.” PubMed.gov – U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Posted July 1, 1999. Accessed December 5, 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10400551
7. Roberts Stoler Ed.D., Diane. “Dark Chocolate: Good For Your Brain!” Psychology Today. Posted October 31, 2014. Accessed December 5, 2017. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-resilient-brain/201410/dark-chocolate-good-your-brain
8. Hrustic, Alisa. “Eat This Sweet Treat to Boost Your Brain.” Men’s Health. Posted June 30, 2017. Accessed December 5, 2017. https://www.menshealth.com/health/dark-chocolate-brain-health-benefits
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