10 Brain Foods Everyone Should be Eating September 19, 2016

by Eat

Nourish your noggin with these ten nutritious brain foods.

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We all know that food affects how we feel and how we look. But now more than ever, we’re learning that what we eat affects how we think. According to Rebecca, our in-house dietitian, nutrient-dense foods rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals help us grow new brain cells while warding off illnesses such as depression and dementia.

“The fact is, our brains are constantly aging–and while we can’t stop that aging process, we can slow it down by consuming nutrients that keep it young.”

What better time to talk about brain boosting foods than the back-to-school season? Now’s the perfect time to slot more of these ten nutritional powerhouses into your diet.

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1. Lentils

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1 cup of lentils contains a whopping 90% of your daily recommended intake of folate, a vitamin responsible for regulating DNA and producing neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine to regulate your mood, sense of pleasure, and clarity. Plus, lentils are a hefty source of magnesium, a mineral responsible for stimulating brain growth and controlling blood sugar.

RECIPE: Loaded Lentil Salad with Honey-Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

2. Avocado

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The avocado’s creamy green flesh is full of healthy monounsaturated fats which help lower blood pressure and support cognitive function.

RECIPE: Loaded Avocado Toast

3. Salmon

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This fatty fish makes us (o)MEGA happy thanks to its high concentration of nervonic acid (a monounsaturated fat) and omega-3 (a polyunsaturated fat), both of which help insulate and stimulate brain cells.

“When you aren’t getting enough [omega 3 fatty acids], you can experience fatigue, poor focus, and memory issues” explains Rebecca. “Other symptoms include mood swings, anxiety, and depression. Even more alarming is the fact that a lack of omega-3 in the body will eventually accelerate the rate at which our brains age.”

RECIPE: Crispy Salmon with Bok Choy, Wasabi Lime Dressing, and Soy-Infused Rice

4. Beets

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These deep red root vegetables are chock-full of natural nitrates to boost blood flow to the brain and improve cognitive performance.

RECIPE: Carrot and Beet Bruschetta Toasts with Lemony Ricotta and Radish Arugula Salad

5. Rosemary

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This bold herb, which is part of the mint family, is a fragrant source of antioxidant-rich phytonutrients which help enhance memory and concentration by facilitating blood flow to the brain.

RECIPE: Chicken Paillard with Herb Gremolata, Rosemary Potatoes, and Arugula Salad

6. Spinach

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Turns out Popeye was onto something. The high concentration of Vitamin K in this dark green leafy vegetable ensures your brain receives oxygen and helps insulate brain cells.

RECIPE: Mahi Mahi Piccata with Sautéed Spinach, Israeli Couscous Pilaf, and Capers

7. Turmeric

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This super spice gets its signature yellow hue from curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory ingredient that prevents plaque buildup in the brain.

RECIPE: Turmeric and Mango Smoothie

8. Broccoli

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This beloved cruciferous vegetable is an essential source of choline, a nutrient that boosts your mood, energy, and focus while improving memory. It has also been shown to prevent cognitive decline by regulating inflammation.

RECIPE: Chipotle-Glazed Pork Chops with Roasted Broccoli and Garlic Mashed Potatoes

9. Olive Oil 

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This kitchen staple contains hydroxytyrosol, a phythonutrient prized for its ability to protect the lining of blood vessels and oxygen supply to the brain. For an extra nutritional boost, use extra virgin olive oil in salad dressings or dips.

RECIPE: Mediterranean Quinoa Bowl with Kale Chips, Olives, and Feta

10. Yogurt

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It’s no surprise that fermented foods make for a happy gut, but you may be surprised to learn that probiotic-rich foods also support brain function. In fact, bacteria in the gut produces two essential neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine.

RECIPE: Spiced Shrimp with Israeli Salad and Lemon Mint Yogurt Sauce

But be careful: not all yogurts are made equal. Make sure to avoid the pre-sweetened varieties at the grocery store and opt for unflavored types instead.

Wondering what other foods you should never, ever buy at the grocery store? Find out here.

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