As health-conscious individuals, we tend to focus on eating right for our physiques. Whether it's building lean muscle, torching body fat, or increasing strength, we build our meal plans around what will best ignite our fitness goals and get people's heads turning. In fact, fueling our minds with brain boosting foods is just as, if not more, important!
Just like a great workout causes a surge in neurochemical activity, eating the right foods can produce feelings of happiness, alertness, and other positive emotions that help us be more productive throughout the day. Certain foods can trigger the release of endorphins, as well as serotonin. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for memory, learning ability, and happiness, and it also contains anti-depressive properties.
Eating brain boosting foods will not only improve your gym performance, but also facilitate success in other aspects of your personal and professional life. If you're happier and more alert, you're more motivated to tackle the day. If you learn better, you'll expand your knowledge, skills, and intelligence both in and outside the gym. And improved cognitive function will help you better store, retrieve, and make sense of new information.
So what brain boosting foods should you consider including in your regimen? Here are seven top contenders:
Known for their ability to improve memory, blueberries contain a plant-based chemical called flavonoids. Flavonoids are capable of enhancing inter-cellular communication and regenerating neurons.
Spinach doubles as a muscle-building and brain-building superfood. This leafy green contains tryptophan, an amino acid that acts as the building block for serotonin. Other tryptophan-rich options include turkey, halibut, sunflower seeds, and egg whites.
Salmon and other deep-water oily fish have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, especially so-called DHA. Research shows that DHA improves memory by up to 15% and helps ward off depression.
Broccoli makes this list because of the plant-based compounds called lignans that it contains. Lignans are responsible for improving thinking, remembering, reasoning, and learning abilities. Additionally, broccoli has a high potassium content, which helps send more oxygen to the brain thereby increasing cognitive function.
Walnuts aren't just shaped like brains - they enhance brain function thanks to the nuts' high DHA and Vitamin E content. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant that destroys free radicals in the brain. Walnuts also buttress our brains' grey matter, which is responsible for everything from memory to emotional well-being to decision-making.
Regardless of whether it's black, white, or green, tea contains two ingredients that land it on the list of brain boosting foods. First, tea possesses the amino acid L-theanine, which has a calming effect. Second, the caffeine found in most teas stimulates alertness.
Last but not least, avocados contain oodles of healthy monounsaturated fats that boost blood flow and oxygenation to the brain. This speeds up the delivery of nutrients to the brain and promotes better brain functioning. Moreover, the healthy fats found in avocado help preserve the brain cell membrane and specialized nerve cells (i.e., astrocytes) that essentially furnish "back up" support to neurons.