We are what we eat – a common saying and the reason we should eat the best foods to allow our brain to work perfectly. Read the first part of this article if you haven’t yet; meanwhile, I prepared a list of some fantastic foods that can help us to be Super Students.

Omega-3 is Good for You (even in the womb)

60% of our brains is made of fat, so fats are needed to survive, just be careful about what kinds of fat you’re taking! Omega-3 fatty acids are your best choices, i.e. α-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Our bodies don’t produce them, so we need a regular intake.

It has been studied that women who take omega-3 during pregnancy, mostly in the third trimester, give birth to babies with better brain performance. That’s probably because omega-3 is involved in building neurons and their synapses, while reducing also the oxidative stress. [1] So go and ask your mom!

Beside these features the omega-3 are strong fighters against:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Neural degeneration
  • Brain atrophy

Where can we find this super nutrient? It is mostly present in:

  • Flaxseeds
  • Salmon
  • Chia seeds
  • Fish oil
  • Walnuts
  • Algae
  • Avocado

Talking about fat in general, apart from the omega-3 sources, you can freely use vegetable oils like the olive oil that are polyunsaturated fats and are excellent for improving bloodstream, which supplies the brain with nutrients, so anything that is good for the heart and blood vessels, also benefits the brain.

Whole grains are better

A long time time ago, whole grains were the food of the poor, but today they’re are the food of clever Super Students.

They are rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber and vitamin B. Since their glycemic index is low, the glucose contained in the grains is slowly released into the bloodstream, keeping you alert for a longer time.

So you should opt for oats, whole meal products (this version of pizza is actually delicious!), rye, brown pasta, brown rice – everything that looks brown, and not sugared.

Another positive side effect of whole grains is decreased weight gain, because fibers reduce the absorption of fats throughout the intestine.

Add nuts!

Nuts as walnuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pines, peanuts, are fantastic for the brain and the whole nervous system in general. They contain

  • Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin E
  • Iron

Additionally vitamin E has been described as an ingredient able to prevent many forms of dementia by protecting the brain from free radicals and boosting brain power. [2]

Berries, berries, berries

Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, blackcurrant, açai berries, goji berries, bilberries… there are plenty of them. None is better than the other, just eat them as they are one of the best known super foods. All of them have antioxidant properties and contain vitamins as C, E and some of the B family.

As powerful antioxidants, they protect the brain from premature aging and different dementias. Flavonoids are also able to improve neural synapses and so they enhance: [3]

  • Memory
  • Learning
  • Reasoning
  • Decision making
  • Verbal comprehension
  • Calculus

Blackcurrant is rich in vitamin C that among other functions is considered to increase mental agility.

Strawberries, blueberries and açai berries were recently awarded as valid helpers in the brain “housekeeping”. It is an essential mechanism that allows our brain to get rid of all the trash accumulated that interferes with its normal functioning. [4]

Iron makes you strong – and more!

Even a mild iron deficiency is able to impair your learning, memory and attention! So make sure you take enough iron with your food: 18 mg/day for females and 8 mg/day for male. Iron is naturally occurring in:

  • Pumpkin seeds: one serving of 30 g of whole seeds contains over 3 mg, plus they are an excellent source of zinc, an aid for memory and thinking skills, besides they contain also magnesium, fiber, protein.
  • Beans: one cup (180 g, 6.3 oz) can have 3 to 7 mg. Among these, lentils are also full of fiber that lowers cholesterol, while soybeans are rich in copper, manganese, fiber, vitamins and amino acids. Chickpeas are also an excellent source of protein.
  • Dark leafy greens: mostly spinach, but also kale, chard: raw or cooked they are rich in iron. One cup (180 g) contains 6 mg as well as vitamins A, E and folates, calcium, fiber and protein.
  • Sesame seeds: one cup (140 g, 5 oz) is 20 mg worth of iron. Sesame is also a source of copper, phosphorus, zinc and vitamin E.
  • Cocoa powder: in 130 g (4.6 oz) pure cocoa we find 23 mg iron.
  • Seafood: one medium oyster contains nearly 2.5 mg iron.

Best Brain Boosting Bs

B vitamins are a class of great substances that are indispensable for our organisms. Various deficits of vitamin B are even related to certain types of dementia.

B1 and B3 are important for the nerve cells while B6, B12 and folic acid are a natural part of blood cell architecture.

We can find them in:

  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Leafy greens
  • Broccoli – also an important source of vitamin K, that enhances cognitive function and improves brainpower
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds – mostly sunflower
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes – these are also rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant
  • Yeast

Some other plants…

I could write a book solely about herbs that boost our brain – they are so numerous and have so many different effects! For the purposes of this article, I’ll list just some of them:

  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): its scent alone is able to improve memory and cognitive function. It is an antioxidant, detoxifier, improves blood flow to the brain and improves mood.
  • Peppermint (Mentha piperita): is excellent for boosting energy, creativity and learning.
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis): improves memory both as essential oil or raw.
  • Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba): related to memory improvement, is able to increase the release of neurotransmitters as well as improve blood flow. [5]
  • Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis): very important in memory and to fight anxiety. [5]
  • Ginseng (Panax ginseng): is neuroprotective, enhances physical activity and mood as well as working memory and cognitive functions as reasoning and calculus. [5]
  • Brahmi (Bacopa monniera): a plant from the ayurvedic traditional medicine that is related to memory improvement and dementia preventing.
  • Basil (Ocimum basilicum): increases concentration and focus and reduces fatigue.
  • Coffee (Coffea Arabica, Coffea canephora, et al.): it keeps you awake by competing with adenosine (the sleep inducing neurotransmitter) and so stimulates the pituitary gland to inform the whole body to be more alert – more adrenaline, more glucose, more oxygen, more work from every single organ.

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Now that you know what you should eat, no excuses – keep your brain on the top of its potential, as it should be. Boost your brain and keep it that way.

 
Elalim Zen Vukovic

Author Elalim Zen Vukovic

An Italian medicine student and Science geek. Elalim participated in several science fairs worldwide and is passionate about solving the problems that affect Humanity the most. Apart from Medicine, she likes Maths, Technology, Entrepreneurship, History, Astronomy, Travelling, Music and Art.

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