7 Power Foods to Supercharge Your Studies
Eating the right super foods can give you the extra stamina and focus you need to maximize your studies. We discuss the 7 best power foods for brain health in this article.
By Lynell Ross, Certified Health & Wellness Coach
In order to give yourself the best chance of learning and the ability to focus, you must to take excellent care of your brain health. We are holistic beings that require a whole-body approach to health, eating well, hydrating with plenty of water, getting enough sleep, rest and down time to avoid stress, enjoying positive relationships and having a purpose in life. If you want to maximize your brain potential, you want to avoid unhealthy substances like recreational drugs, tobacco, and spending too much time watching television, playing video games or misusing alcohol.
Eating can not only be one of the most enjoyable parts of life, but eating well can provide you with excellent physical and mental health. To get the nutrition you need, choose foods from whole food groups. When you eat from these categories, you provide your body and brain with the nutrients, and what you need to thrive:
Dairy products like yogurt and milk
Protein foods such as meat, fish, chicken, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds
Healthy fats and oils
The foods you eat contribute to the health of your blood, organs and the structure of your brain. What you eat makes a huge difference in the health of your brain function. Superfoods for your brain are those rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and phytonutrients. Studies have shown that in addition to these, omega-3 fatty acids, polyphenols, and certain vitamins from food can protect your brain from disease.
While eating a balanced diet, if you want to give your brain the best chance, you will want to incorporate these brain healthy superfoods into your diet on a regular basis:
1. Salmon and Fatty Fish
Trout, mackerel, herring, sardines and salmon are powerful brain foods. Our brains need the essential fatty acids these fish provide because our bodies can’t make them. The best omega-3 fats come from the EPA and DHA in oily fish.
When we eat oily fish, we enhance our memory, reduce stress, slow mental decline, lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and improve our mood by boosting serotonin levels. Try to eat at least two servings of fish per week for brain health.
Dark Chocolate has been shown to improve brain plasticity which is crucial for learning, boost focus, alertness and improve mood naturally.
2. Nuts and Seeds and Dark Chocolate
Nuts and seeds are other healthy fat superstars containing omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Studies have shown that those who eat more nuts as they age have better brain function. The Vitamin E in nuts and seeds are also a rich source of Vitamin E, and antioxidant that protects cells from oxidative stress caused by free radicals which fights cancer, and contributes to better cognitive reasoning and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Make your own delicious and nutritious trail mix to snack on from your favorite nuts such as walnuts, almonds, macadamia, cashews, pistachios, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds. When you toss in a few cacao or dark chocolate chips and raisins, you have a snack that will help you power through your work and studies. Cacao is a great source of polyphenols that helps reduce inflammation, and improves the level of nitric acid in the blood which dilates arteries to improve blood flow to the heart and brain. Those who love chocolate can now enjoy dark chocolate knowing that it contains flavonoids, antioxidants that improve blood blow to the brain and reduce inflammation. Dark Chocolate has also been shown to improve brain plasticity which is crucial for learning, boost focus, alertness and improve mood naturally.
3. Whole Grains
People often don’t give enough credit to the power of grains. When we eat foods made with whole grains, we improve our cardiovascular health which provides blood flow to the brain. Grains provide our body and brain with energy in the form of glucose in our blood for brain function and are packed with Vitamin E for better brain health.
When we eat French toast made from whole grain for breakfast, oatmeal or a mixed grain cereal, chose whole grain bread for a sandwich at lunch, and have dinner with pasta, brown rice or barley, glucose is slowly released into the bloodstream helping us focus and concentrate better all day.
Many people underestimate the power of beans for brain function in addition to being heart healthy. Beans contain magnesium, zinc, fiber, antioxidants, and folate all super contributors to brain health. Whether you choose to soak and cook your own beans, or use canned, or frozen, all have the same brain benefits. Beans are higher in fiber than any other food group and contain high amounts of antioxidants, and folate which is vital for brain health. The flip side is that deficiency in folate can lead to depression and cognitive impairment.
It is easy to eat beans throughout the day. Have a bean, egg and cheese burrito for breakfast, add beans to soup or salads at lunch, or have beans as a main dish for dinner to help you stay focused and engaged.
Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries are all very high in antioxidants which help reduce inflammation in the body and brain. Blueberries are especially noted for being a super brain food, and may help improve your memory or even delay short term memory loss. The anti-oxidant compounds in blueberries increases neuroplasticity, which boosts learning and memory by helping brain cells form new connections.
Eating berries takes little effort, simply wash and eat for breakfast, lunch and as a snack. The beauty of berries is that they make wonderful desserts with yogurt and nuts and can keep us from eating sugary desserts. Berries are low in natural sugar, while processed foods are high sugar which lead to memory difficulties by causing inflammation in the brain. Berries can help us ward off sugar cravings while boosting brain health.
6. Vegetable Curry
This really is two superfoods packed into one. Vegetables provide valuable nutrients, including potassium, fiber, folate, vitamin A and Vitamin C, while the turmeric in curry powder packs a powerful punch for brain health.
The potassium in vegetables helps us maintain health blood pressure and fluid balance, which is important for our brain. Leafy green vegetables are filled with brain healthy nutrients. We need vitamin K, lutein, folate and beta carotene to help slow cognitive decline and boost cognition.
Recent studies show that eating at least one serving (half cup cooked or one cup raw) of leafy greens helps slow decline in brain function. Add spinach to your morning omelet, have a kale salad for lunch, or a side of mixed greens with your dinner to boost your brain power.
Curry is powerful for the brain.
Sprinkle on a tablespoon of turmeric or curry powder which contains the spice turmeric to your veggie sauté and you have one of the most powerful dishes you can eat for brain health. Turmeric is a bright yellow spice that has been proven to reduce inflammation, which protects your brain. Curry powder and turmeric adds wonderful flavor to vegetables, while being packed with anti-oxidants and curcumin, one of the most potent anti-inflammatory substances found. Turmeric improves the brains cognitive function, boosts memory and improves the brains oxygen intake.
7. Coffee and Tea
Studies have shown our beloved coffee and tea to boost brain alertness, as well as increase the brain’s capacity for processing information. It helps us to improve memory and potentially decrease the risk of dementia. Coffee, black and green tea all contain powerful antioxidants to boost brain health.
Research has shown coffee and tea to reduce risk of cognitive decline, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. Note that drinking too much can cause nervousness or keep you awake if you drink too much.
Paired with a healthy breakfast, lunch or early afternoon snack, drinking coffee and tea have plenty of brain health benefits to help you study, improve memory and lead to better learning.