6 Brain-Boosting Foods for Health at Home
“Supplements are a handy way to add nutrients to your diet when vitamins and minerals are lacking, but prioritizing the health and wellness of ourselves and those around us has never been more important than now. Supplements may be a simple solution for the short-term, but they don’t substitute a well-balanced diet. As people’s lives have slowed down with the advancement of the current pandemic, many of us are relying more on our kitchens to create comforting meals for brain-boosting health at home.
Doing our best to keep mental health in check is essential during this uncertain time. Upgrading your nutrition is one of the simplest ways to give your brain the support it needs. Below are six brain-boosting foods we’re incorporating into our lives and why we love them.
Below are six brain-boosting foods we’re incorporating into our lives and why we love them.
- Fatty Fish:
Wild-caught salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines have been shown to decrease instances of depression, aggression and hostility in case-study subjects. Oily fish promote the uptake of nutrients into brain cells, decrease inflammation and raise levels of serotonin.
- Vegetables and Legumes:
Foods high in folate have been proven to aid energy and memory, and decrease the likelihood of depression. Anti-inflammatory folate-rich foods include lentils, asparagus and other greens.
- Whole Grains:
Anti-inflammatory whole grains – think quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth and millet – are a great way to provide stable energy, without the crash and burn of simple carbohydrates, unless you have sustained a brain injury or concussion. Carbohydrates also boost levels of serotonin, a “feel-good” chemical and neurotransmitter in the brain.
- Vitamin D:
Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with low mood, low cognitive performance, as well as depression. With the lack of warmth and sunlight during winter months, many people suffer from inadequate levels of vitamin D due to limited sun exposure. Foods that are both anti-inflammatory and rich in vitamin D include fatty fish, fortified food products (like almond milk), eggs and mushrooms.
Preliminary research has shown a link between a healthy gut microbiome and the brain . For example, gut bacteria largely produces serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for mood regulation, social behavior and basic function. Servings of anti-inflammatory probiotic-rich foods like kefir, yogurt made from goat’s milk, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi and kombucha can be incorporated into your daily diet to encourage colonization of healthy gut bacteria.
Chronic inflammation, often caused by a diet of highly-processed foods or nutrient deficiencies, has been linked to both depression and Alzheimer’s. Antioxidants reduce inflammation by decreasing levels of DNA damaging free-radicals. Foods shown to be chock-full of antioxidants are dark chocolate, berries, red beans, and green tea, among others.
It’s essential that we do our best to focus on maintaining health during this time. While the foods above are all components of a healthy diet, some brain-boosting foods are more easily absorbed when combined and prepared with other ingredients, like healthy fats. Balance, moderation, and flexibility are all key to feeding your brain the nutrients it needs most right now.