The human brain is home to roughly 100 billion nerve cells. These nerve cells, or neurons, are interconnected and communicate with each other frequently. Every single action your body takes (both voluntary and involuntary) requires countless neurons to act.
The staggering number of neurons in your brain is one of the reasons why it’s capable of such incredible feats. There might not be anything more complicated in nature than the human brain. Even more exciting is that we barely understand a fraction of the brain’s capabilities.
So with how incredible the brain is, what can we mindfully include in our day-to-day diet to support our brain in doing its job?
Which Foods Support Brain Function?
Your brain is an organ, but it functions more like an engine in your body. The brain is the central command center, like the engine inside of your car. Both brains and engines require a steady supply of fuel to function properly.
For engines, you’ll need to fill up on gas every week or so. For your brain, you’ll need to eat multiple times every day. The brain uses the nutrients from your food as fuel. The vitamins and minerals in your food are broken down during digestion and supply you with brainpower.
Filling your car with low-quality gasoline can negatively impact your engine's performance. The same is true for your brain. Some foods are not so great for your brain. Others, especially fruits and vegetables, can support your brain health and cognition.
Here is a detailed list of eight specific foods that can support brain function:
Blueberries are the first item on this list for a very good reason: they’re extremely good for your brain. Few foods in nature can provide the same health benefits as fresh, whole blueberries; the few that can, don’t have anywhere near the flavor or versatility of nature’s delicious superfood.
The list of benefits that blueberries provide for your brain is long, but the most important is the high concentration of flavonoids. Flavonoids are antioxidants that help combat oxidative stress in your brain.
Oxidative stress results from free radicals damaging the cells in your brain. The damage to brain cells can result in cognitive decline and reduced function in the central nervous system. If the damage is too severe, the brain cells can be killed — and brain cells don’t just regenerate and heal like our other cells do.
Blueberries are more than just a preventative measure. They can also provide immediate benefits for your brain. One study found that young and old individuals who ate blueberries had healthy blood flow to key areas in the brain.
While the new blueberry-flavored MOSH protein bar doesn’t quite have the handful of blueberry noted above needed to see brain-boosting benefits, it does contain our Brain Blend, which includes brain-fueling nutrients like vitamins D and B12, omega-3 fatty acids, ashwagandha, and lion’s mane.
Avocados are something of a new sensation for health-conscious Americans. Although avocados have long been a staple in Mexican cuisine, Americans only started seriously consuming them in the late 1990s when import restrictions were loosened.
It didn’t take long before the benefits of avocados were identified, and the popularity of these creamy fruits has been skyrocketing ever since. The primary health benefits of avocados come in the form of healthy fats.
It’s a common misconception that fat is bad for you, but there’s a spectrum for the healthiness of fats, with one end being “bad” for you (saturated and trans fats) and one end being “good” for you (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated). Avocados are loaded with the latter, which can help reduce the negative effects of the former.
For example, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are among the most common results of eating a diet high in saturated or trans fat. These issues have been known to contribute to age-related cognitive decline over time.
Replacing some of these unhealthy fats with the healthier ones found in avocados can help to support healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which can go a long way toward maintaining cognitive function as you age.
It might be surprising to see the word “chocolate” appear on a list of healthy foods, but believe it or not, there are a lot of benefits that come from chocolate.
The main benefit of chocolate is that they are packed with flavonoids. We’ve already covered why flavonoids are essential to the battle against oxidative stress and cognitive impairment, but that’s not the only benefit they provide.
Flavonoids (especially those found in dark chocolate) can promote the relaxation of your arterial muscles. Doing so makes it easier for your arteries to dilate, making blood flow smoother.
Not only can your blood pressure decrease, but your brain can have a more consistent supply of blood. Your brain relies on blood to supply it with oxygen. Anything good for your blood flow can contribute to a healthy brain.
Unfortunately, there are two catches involved with eating chocolate for your brain.
First, you need about 10 to 14 grams of dark chocolate per dayto have any real significant impact (and that’s way, way more than what we use in our MOSH bars to add that delectable flavor of goodness — sorry).
Secondly, most types of chocolate have a staggering amount of added sugar, and too much sugar can be very harmful to your brain.
Look for dark chocolate (as it has the lowest amount of added sugar) and avoid eating it too frequently. Chocolate can be a good food for your brain, but too much of a good thing ends up usually not so good.
Spinach and other dark leafy greens are packed with vitamins C, E, and K, along with magnesium, folate, fiber, and beta-carotene. Each of these nutrients is highly beneficial, but the “cherry on top” for spinach is its phenomenal lutein concentration. A single cup of cooked spinach has five times the amount of lutein of the second highest source (green peas).
Lutein is an antioxidant that plays an important role in cleansing the toxins in your brain. These toxins are unavoidable as they’re merely the waste and byproducts produced by a normally functioning brain.
The brain is normally cleansed of these toxins while you sleep as spinal fluid washes over it. If the spinal fluid is the water that bathes your brain, then lutein would be the soap used to scrub it.
Nearly everyone has some version of a morning routine. Brushing your teeth, taking a shower, getting dressed, and making your bed are typically common staples. Consuming a caffeinated beverage is just as common as these other actions.
You might be using this drink as a tool to help wake you up and clear your brain fog, but it might be doing even more for you than that. Specifically, the polyphenols found in caffeine can have a positive effect on brain function.
Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant that you know by now is very helpful for protecting your brain. These reducing agents can neutralize free radicals by donating electrons in the form of hydrogen atoms. It’s a little complicated, but the results of this transaction can protect the cells and tissues of your brain from oxidative stress and inflammation.
Caffeine does have some clear benefits. But there are also some risks involved. Drinking excessive amounts of caffeine can disrupt your serotonin levels.
Serotonin is very important to brain function, and any disruption can cause a ripple effect of increasingly negative consequences. To avoid potential issues, it is a good idea to limit your caffeine consumption to 400 milligrams or less each day.
Another thing to be on the lookout for is the sugar content of your favorite caffeinated beverage. Plenty of caffeine-based drinks are overflowing with added sugar, and you’d be surprised at how much sugar is already too much sugar.
Try to avoid hyper-sweetened drinks (think sodas, lattes, and energy drinks) and stick to lightly sweetened coffee or tea where you can control the cream and sugar that you add to these drinks.
You can find fish at the top of pretty much any list of foods that are good for your brain. It’s pretty difficult to find a fish that’s bad for you, but a few are better for you than others.
In general: the fattier and more oily the fish, the more health benefits it can provide. It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s the truth.
It’s important to keep in mind that the brain is mostly made up of fat. Roughly 60% of your brain is fat, making it the fattiest organ in your body. In a sense, the fat you consume becomes the building material of your brain.
We briefly touched on the importance of eating healthier fats when discussing avocados earlier. What we didn’t mention was perhaps the healthiest fat of them all: omega-3.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that maintain a double bond between atoms. There are three main types of omega-3 including alpha-linolenic (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Each type can provide various health benefits that usually revolve around cell membranes and their receptors. It can get a bit complicated and scientific, but let’s just say that your body and brain really enjoy it when you provide them with omega-3.
Cold water fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines are excellent sources of omega-3. In particular, these fish are high in DHA and can play a crucial role in the growth, development, and maintenance of brain function.
Eating cold-water fatty fish often can give you enough DHA and EPA to keep your brain going strong. The only issue is that these fish aren’t quite as excellent of a source for ALA.
However, avocados are very high in ALA fatty acids. The combination of fatty fish and avocados can ensure that you meet your needs for omega-3.
Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. There aren’t many foods that can rival the variety of nutrients provided by a single egg. Eggs are an excellent source of protein, vitamins B12, calcium, potassium, selenium, and several antioxidants.
Each of these nutrients is enough for eggs to earn a place on this list, but the choline really secures its spot. Choline is a micronutrient that functions similarly to the B vitamins.
The liver is capable of producing choline, but it’s usually not enough to meet your needs. Choline plays a role in a variety of bodily functions. For your brain, the primary purpose is that it can be used to create a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.
Acetylcholine is extremely useful for the brain, primarily because it can alter the excitability of neurons and induce synaptic plasticity, which helps coordinate the neuron firings and positively influences synaptic transmission.
That’s a lot of scientific jargon to say that acetylcholine plays a crucial role in your memory, motivation, arousal, and attention span.
A single egg can provide you with about 112 milligrams of choline. Adult women and men, respectively, need 425 and 550 milligrams of choline daily.
The biggest thing to remember when eating eggs for choline is that they have a lot of cholesterol. The problem is eggs have about 185 milligrams of cholesterol.
Four to five eggs might be enough to reach your choline requirements, but it will blow way past your upper limits for daily cholesterol. Make sure to monitor your cholesterol levels if you start incorporating more eggs into your diet.
Nuts of all varieties are often considered a brain-healthy food because of their high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids.
Walnuts are especially high in omega-3 and are a much better source than avocados. Since we’ve already covered the health benefits of omega-3, let’s discuss the other reason nuts are so good for your brain: vitamin E.
There are a total of 13 essential vitamins. Each of them plays a role in keeping the body functioning properly. The primary purpose of vitamin E is to essentially hunt down the loose electrons of free radicals and neutralize them.
Almonds provide a virtually identical amount of vitamin E as sunflower seeds. Pretty much any nut or seed will give you an adequate supply of vitamin E, including flax seeds and pumpkin seeds, too.
You’ll just have to be careful about the caloric content. Although they might be small, there are a lot of calories jam-packed into nuts.
Food for Thought
You probably noticed the different numbers for each type of gasoline at the gas station. These numbers refer to the octane rating with 85 to 87 representing “regular,” 88 to 90 representing “plus,” and 91 to 94 representing “premium.”
Food functions similarly to gas, except that no numerical grading systems quite exist. If there were, the food listed above would be rated in the “premium” range of brain fuel.
Everything that you consume can affect your brain and body, which is why one of the best ways to support your brain function and cognitive health is to replace unhealthy foods with healthier ones.
An easy way to get started? Order your customized bundle of MOSH protein bars as your first step to getting brain-fueling nutrients into your “tank” — from vitamins D and B12 to lion’s mane and ashwagandha, each ingredient we include in our bar has been thoughtfully selected because of its ability to help keep your brain and body fit, fueled, and feeling good.
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