Note: If you enjoy this article, consider reading Brain Foods: List Of “Bad Brain Foods”.
What are “brain foods”?
Brain foods are foods that help improve functioning within the brain. One example of a brain food is fish. Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which allow the blood vessels of the brain to remain healthy and fluid. Fish also provides nerve cells within the brain with necessary nutrients that allow cells to function at their highest level.
Due to the profound benefits that have largely been associated with eating fish, it is recommended to include fish within your diet at least a couple times per week. If you cannot include fish within your diet, you may want to consider taking fish oil supplements. Taking supplements and eating fish have been proven to be equally as effective.
There are many great foods that have been researched and documented to boost brain power. Knowing which foods boost brain power will allow you to make necessary dietary changes that will positively impact your brain. I’ve compiled a list of 50 Good Brain Foods and posted them below. Beneath the list is a section featuring more information about “good brain foods,” more information about the glycemic index, and other various food technicalities.
A list of “50 Good Brain Foods“:
- Acai berries
- Brewer’s yeast
- Brown rice
- Brussels sprouts
- Collard greens
- Dark chocolate
- Flaxseed oil
- Green Tea
- Lean beef
- Peanut butter
- Pumpkin seeds
- Red cabbage
- Red grapes
- Romaine lettuce
- Stabilized rice bran
- Wheat germ
Understanding “Good Brain Foods”:
Foods in the complex carbohydrates family are amongst the best type of brain foods. In complex carbohydrates, the molecules are longer. Because the molecular structure is longer, it takes a longer period of time for our intestines to digest and break-down the complex carbohydrates into simple sugars that our body is able to use. Why is a longer digestion or breaking-down process optimal? Because they don’t provide us with a large surge of energy and then die down. They provide our bodies and brain with optimal amounts of balanced energy for our body and brain to access.
What is the glycemic index?
The speed and intensity to which sugars from foods impact our brain cells is measured directly by the “glycemic index” also known as the “G.I.” Foods that are ranked with a high-glycemic index are likely to make our bodies create a lot of insulin. The part of the body that produces insulin to regulate our sugars is known as the pancreas. Diabetics often have a dysfunctional pancreas and need to take insulin because their body cannot naturally cope with the sugar levels.
Eating foods with high glycemic indexes
Eating foods high on the glycemic-index will put lots of stress on the pancreas and will directly affect the body, brain, and our hormone levels. Because the pancreas becomes over-stressed and overworked, the body may feel sluggish and the brain may feel initially energized, but will likely crash within a short period of time. That is why eating foods with a low-glycemic index are recommended.
They don’t put pressure on the pancreas to excrete much insulin and our blood sugar levels remain steady. When our blood sugar levels are steady, our brain is being fed a constant, steady supply of energy to work with; rather than excess energy for 20 minutes followed by a mental burnout for several hours. To figure out which foods are better for your brain and overall brain power, use this glycemic index search form.
Types of brain foods – Glycemic Index examples:
- Cereals: Oatmeal and bran cereals are the healthiest. Corn flakes have a higher glycemic-index ranking.
- Dairy: Milk has a relatively low glycemic index: higher than legumes, but lower than fruits.
- Fruits: Apples, blueberries, cherries, and grapes are examples of fruits that have a lower glycemic index rating. Whole fruits rank lower than juices due to the amount of fiber in fruit which slows the production of simple sugars.
- Grains: Spaghetti and rice have a low glycemic index ranking. White bread is less healthy and is higher on the glycemic index.
- Vegetables: Legumes, kidney-beans, soybeans, lentils, and chick peas are all examples of great brain foods. They have the single lowest glycemic-index of any food group. Carrots and potatoes have significantly higher glycemic indexes.
Preparation of your food
The way in which you eat and prepare your food definitely can affect the ways in which the body and brain uses it. For example: eating a cupcake after a meal of vegetables may actually slow the absorption of sugars. You may not get nearly as much of a “sugar high” or crash-and-burn affect. Eating most fats can also slow the absorption of sugars inside your body. Over-cooking certain types of starches can be much like pre-digesting them. This causes them to unload their sugars into the blood at a much quicker rate than usual, which isn’t good.
Amino acids and neurotransmitters
Certain types of proteins also affect your brain’s overall ability to perform at a peak level of functioning. Proteins provide our brains with amino acids, from which neurotransmitters are created. Neurotransmitters carry signals between neurons (brain cells) and allow parts of the brain to effectively communicate with one-another. When you feed the neurotransmitters with quality food, they deliver messages to other neurons more quickly, more effectively, and more powerfully.
When you eat foods that aren’t brain boosters, the neurotransmitters have a much tougher time carrying messages from neuron to neuron – their strength is much weaker. Neurotransmitters are created via substances tyrosine and tryptophan. Tyrosine is not an essential amino acid because the body can make it without any help from food. Tryptophan, on the other hand, is an essential amino acid that can only be obtained via your diet.
Low carbohydrates vs. high carbohydrates and low protein vs. high protein
Several low carbohydrate foods with high amounts of protein and tyrosine include: soy, eggs, dairy products, and seafood. These are all foods that are likely to increase activity in the brain quickly and speed things up. On the other end of the spectrum, we have foods that are likely to calm down the brain. They are low in protein, but high in carbohydrate and tryptophan. Foods that will calm the brain include: almonds, sesame seeds, chocolate, sunflower seeds, legumes, and pastries.
Optimal proportions of proteins to carbohydrates depend on the individual. Everyone is different and certain people have slight sensitivities or abnormal reactions to various foods. It really all depends on the individual, therefore, experimenting is a must. You need to do it yourself to figure out what type of diet feels optimal for your body and brain. Use some common sense in addition to the list of “50 Good Brain Foods” above and you should be off to a great start.
Consider taking multivitamin supplements
You can also consider taking multivitamin supplements. Taking vitamins are healthy, though it can cost you a little bit of money. I take one multivitamin on a daily basis and am satisfied with it. Though I don’t fully know the degree to which it is helping, I have a good feeling that it does make a difference. I don’t always eat a perfectly balanced diet – and I don’t think that most people are able to eat a consistent balanced diet. Here is where vitamins come in to play: they pick up your slack. Any vital vitamins that you may have missed in your diet during the day are usually covered by taking vitamins for memory loss. If you think that you could benefit from taking multivitamins, it sure wouldn’t hurt to give them a try.
For more in-depth information on brain foods, see the article: 5 Supercharged Brain Foods.