1. Good nutrition is critical for your brain to function optimally.
2. Slow-digesting complex carbohydrates fuel your brain for thinking, solving problems, being creative, and instilling memories.
3. High-quality fats build the structures in your nerves and speeds communication between neurons.
4. Healthy proteins provide the precursors for the neurotransmitters used to communicate between nerve cells.
5. Vitamins and minerals enable the nerves to function and prolong the survival of individual nerve fibres.
Food has a tremendous impact on your brain and how it functions. The individual cells in your brain are called neurons and we have about 80-100 billion of them. Each neuron has about 2000 connections with other neurons, which creates trillions of links (called synapses) between brain cells. These connections are what enables us to think, learn, create, solve problems and build memories.
Those links are gaps between neurons called synapses, and that’s where the action in your brain takes place – thinking, learning, creativity, problem solving and memory building. When the neurons of a particular part of the brain are activated, a given synapse can fire up to 200 times per second! That’s a whole lot of energy getting consumed.
With all that activity, quality food is critical to achieve optimal brain function. To perform at your absolute best mentally – and to be uber healthy so that you can go after your passion and purpose – you need to eat as well as you can.
- You need slow-digesting complex carbohydrates to provide a steady source of glucose, which is the fuel your brain uses for thinking, solving problems, being creative and instilling memories.
- You need high-quality fats, because fats are used to build the structures in your nerves like cell membranes and the myelin sheath that protects the nerve and speeds communication between neurons.
- You need healthy proteins to provide the amino acids that are the precursors for the neurotransmitters used to communicate between nerve cells.
- You need vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables for the intracellular processes that enable the nerves to function and even prolong the survival of individual nerve fibres.
Guess what you should be eating to fuel your thinking, creativity, problem solving and memory? That’s right – whole, fresh, unprocessed foods. Cold-water fatty wild fish. Fruits and veggies. Raw nuts and seeds. Olive oil. Coffee, green tea and black tea are all good options.
Today's POWER-UP: Brain Boosting Foods
Here are some examples of healthy fat foods that can improve brain function and health:
1. Fish. Cold-water fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids are great for brain and nervous system health. Examples of healthy cold-water fish include organic wild (unfarmed) salmon, sardines, mackerel and trout. One habit that I’ve been working on is to eat wild salmon on nights after a long, hard day at work. It’s a great food for mental recovery, and I feel much better the next day.
2. Nuts. One of the best daily snacks you can have is a handful of nuts. Studies have shown that the healthy fats, vitamins and minerals in nuts improve thinking and memory and may protect against cognitive decline as we age. So mix together your favourite types and take a portion into work every day, or sprinkle them into cereal, salads, smoothies or just about anything you eat.
3. Avocados. The monounsaturated fat in avocados can help improve your cardiovascular system and blood flow to all your organs – including your brain. Since your brain has no stored energy and depends on blood flow to deliver the glucose and oxygen that it needs to think, foods that improve your circulatory system can help supercharge your brain.
4. Coconut. Once avoided because of its high fat content, coconuts have recently been deemed a super food. The fatty acids in coconut are mostly saturated, which means it is one of the only oils that won’t go bad when cooked at high temperatures. The medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) inside are special because they can be broken down more easily than other types of fat and can be used as fuel for our bodies and our brains.
5. Olive oil. One of the cornerstones of the Mediterranean Diet, olive oil is rich in heart healthy monounsaturated fats. The list of brain improvements seen from regular consumption of this oil include lowered risk of depression, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and cancer. The tricky thing about this oil is making sure it stays fresh. To be sure you’re getting the best product, buy extra virgin oil in a dark glass bottle and eat it in its raw form.
6. Eat Breakfast. Even if you grab a handful of walnuts or a hardboiled egg on your way out the door, that will prime your system for better metabolism throughout the day. We gain an estimated 7 pounds per year if we skip breakfast consistently. Ideally, the first thing in your stomach should arrive within an hour of waking!
Improve your energy and mental performance with these smart foods. Your supercharged brain will thank you.
Dive Deeper: The Brain Power Smoothie
One way to pack better brain foods into your day is through a morning breakfast smoothie. Here is an example of one that is brilliant for your brain:
2 handfuls of spinach or kale
1 tablespoon of ground flax seed
1 teaspoon grated ginger
about ½ teaspoon of turmeric root
about ¾ cup of almond milk (a little more or less depending on your preferred thickness)
Add a scoop of your desired protein powder. Living Fuel and Vega make great plant based proteins.
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend on high for 60 seconds.