Foods that boost your brain power!
Written on in Healthy Living, Nutrition and Wellness.

Food for thought

By Rebecca Goodrich, MS, dietetic intern.

It is often said that “you are what you eat.”  We can say that there is definitely some truth in this, as health and nutrition can be defined in numerous ways.  Food has always been impactful to our health and contributes to how we feel emotionally, physically and even mentally.

When it comes to mental health and nutrition, it is very common for our emotions to get in the way.  For an example, you may find yourself after consuming a Thanksgiving meal to feel bloated, sluggish or uncomfortably full.  Or maybe you’ve just had a berry smoothie shake and now you feel energized, light and ready to go.  Either meal that you choose to consume can play a toll on you physically and/or emotionally. 

Nutrients and YOU

It is remarkable how nutrition plays an important role in our daily lives.  What we eat can determine how we feel as well as the reverse.  Research suggests that certain foods interact with our brain chemistry to release certain emotions.  Let’s take Carbohydrates for example.  Carbohydrates increase serotonin (inhibitory neurotransmitter, calming effect) which can explain the possible reason for craving carbs while under stress.  On the other hand, protein-rich foods increase neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine which increases alertness.  Poor nutrition or lack of a variety can actually increase a person’s susceptibility to becoming depressed.  Because of this, we can suggest that maybe we are what we eat after all.  

Tell me more!

Now that we have a little more of an understanding between foods and our body’s chemistry, we can talk further about what foods can actually all around help us feel good.

Whole grains:Our brain’s major source of energy is glucose.  While this is true, it is beneficial to choose healthy whole grains such as brown rice or whole wheat breads/pastas to help boost our brain’s capability and allow us to feel energized.  Just remember to make sure your ingredients say “whole.”

Fish (alpha Linolenic acid and Linoleic acid):  We’ve all heard some of the importance and beneficial effects of essentially fatty acids (EFAS).  Omega 3 in particular is a little different and unique compared to omega 6.  Omega 3 contains two components called DHA and EPA.  These two components are great for healthy brain function, heart and joints.  Omega 3 is also knows for its great benefits in reducing inflammation and some studies have shown protection against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia (needs further evaluation).  Some sources are salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, and sardines. 

Blueberries:Eat your fruits and veggies!  Remember hearing this as a child?  Well, good thing we listened to our parents….or did we?!  Blueberries and fruits in general are essential to following a healthy diet. Blueberries contain flavonoids which provide the beautiful color that blueberries posses and are also antioxidants which studies have shown may protect against certain cancers and inflammation in the body.  When it comes to brain power, research suggests that blueberries have shown protection in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.  Blueberries may also improve/delay short-term memory loss.

Tomatoes:Fruit or vegetable?  Tomatoes are technically considered a fruit and contain the fabulous antioxidant, lycopene. This is the antioxidant that gives tomatoes their “red” pigment.  Lycopene has shown to protect against free radicals which are involved in particularly Alzheimer’s disease. There are many other fabulous foods such as Nuts, Broccoli, Pumpkin Seeds as well as other fruits and vegetables that boost brain power due to its antioxidants and nutrient content.  Note: foods high in Zinc such as pumpkin seeds and nuts have shown to enhance memory and thinking skills.


Rebecca Goodrich, MS


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