Top 10 Foods For Brain Nourishment

 

Is your memory as bad as mine? There are days I can really feel the aging process, lol. I’m always looking for ways to improve/maintain my health and quality of life. The brain is an important part of that.

Last time we covered the nutrients your brain needs most. Before that, we covered the foods that damage your brain. (See here )  Today, I’m going to list 10 foods that will give your brain the biggest bang for its buck.

These foods are bursting with the biggest combination of nutrients to feed your brain.

According to some researchers, the Mediterranean Diet is the best diet for both brain and general health. The foods from this diet contain many of the nutrients that your brain needs. This is especially true as you age as it may help maintain cognitive function and decrease the risk of dementia. Learn more about the Mediterranean diet  here.

Eat a nutrient dense, vegetable heavy diet for overall brain health. If you are eating a healthy diet, you should be eating 5-7 servings of mostly vegetables and some fruits per day. In that case, you should have no problem getting a variety of nutrients everyday.

The most common nutritional deficiencies seen in patients with mental disorders are omega–3 fatty acids, B vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that are precursors to neurotransmitters.

With some mental health issues, diet can help but not cure.

But let say…your family pushes back when you want to feed them healthy food? Ha, never happens in my home. There’s no way your gonna get them to eat 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables everyday. What are the  foods that will cover the most ground, nutritionally speaking?

There are quite a few actually. But that doesn’t mean you should neglect other healthy foods. You want to be nutritionally balanced, after all.

You’ll also notice that none of them are made in the factory. They don’t come in wrappers. Actually all the foods are whole foods, minimally processed, the way God made them. He really does know best, doesn’t he? Process them yourself.

By the way, all of these foods have numerous benefits to other organs in your body, (for instance, the properties in broccoli lower the risk of several cancers. It is also a good source of fiber) but today we are only focusing on how these foods help your brain.

You may want to refer back to the previous post regarding the nutrients that are most important to your brain. I will be referring to those nutrients. Check it out here.

 

BROCCOLI

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Why Your Brain Wants It:

If you were going to live on a deserted island and could on take one vegetable with you, it should probably be broccoli. It’s that good for you, way beyond the benefits for the brain. (Kale is pretty darn good as well.)

Excellent source of  vitamin C, vitamin K, folate.

1 cup gives over 100% of DV  of vitamin C and vitamin K.

Very good source of  vitamin E, vitamin A, , choline and potassium.

Good source of thiamin (B-1), calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, omega 3,  protein and zinc.

Deeper green florets are higher in carotenoids such as lutein, zeaxanthin and beta carotene providing significant amounts. A good source of the flavonols kaempferol and quercitin.

Contains many sources of antioxidants.

Low amounts of omega 3 but still contains some.

Very low glycemic index- good because excess sugar is bad for your brain.

Here’s the important part you can’t cook the life out of it. You retain the most nutrients by steaming it for no more than 4 minutes.

 

Ways To Eat It:

  • steamed broccoli with organic butter
  • beef and broccoli stir fry
  • quiche with broccoli
  • throw some in with pasta
  • cream of broccoli soup

Mediterranian Crunch Salad  I love this salad it is loaded with all sorts of good veggies. It is a meal in itself.

Baked broccoli crisps  I like to substitute nutritional yeast for the Parmesan cheese since I’m dairy free, but you could even add cheddar. I also add more spices like onion, garlic, paprika, etc.

 

 FATTY FISH

SALMON and SARDINES

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Why Your Brain Wants It:

Sardines

Excellent source of B-12 and selenium.

Very good source of omega 3, protein and vitamin D.

Good source of calcium, iodine and choline.

Also contains iron, magnesium, vitamin K, zinc and potassium.

Because sardines are a small fish there is much less risk of contamination.

 

Salmon

Excellent source of B-12, vitamin D, selenium.

Very good source of omega 3 and protein.

Good source of iodine, choline  and potassium.

Also contains calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc.

Should be wild caught, cold water fish. While the skin is quite nutritious it is recommended that you remove it because of likely contaminants.

 

Ways To Eat It:

Sardines

  • on pizza
  • chopped in to a salad
  • with hot sauce on a cracker
  • straight from the can
  • with tomato and avocado
  • saute and add to spaghetti sauce
  • with eggs

Salmon

  • canned or fresh
  • in a salad
  • with tomato and avocado
  • pan cooked with garlic, onion, salt and cumin
  • salmon burgers
  • salmon fajitas
  • salmon tacos
  • use canned salmon in place of tuna in any recipe
  • salmon fried rice

Baked Salmon with Sauteed Spinach Oh look, two brain foods in one meal!

Grilled Salmon Soft Tacos

 

LEAFY GREENS

SPINACH, CHARD and KALE

 

 

 

Why Your Brain Wants It:

Have 1 cup few times a week.

 

Kale

Excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A and vitamin C.

Very good source of brain protecting antioxidants (especially carotinoids and flavonoids), anti- inflammatory and anti cancer nutrients.

Very good source of calcium, potassium and vitamin E.

Good source of iron, magnesium, thiamine B-1, omega 3, protein and folate.

Contains glucosinolates and sulfur which assist our cells in the detoxification process.

Cook lightly to get the most health benefits.

Buy organic.

 

Spinach

Excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K, folate, magnesium, iron, vitamin E, calcium, potassium (more than a banana)  and vitamin C.

Very good source of B-1, zinc, protein and choline.

Good source of plant derived omega 3 (ALA) and selenium.

Excellent source of a variety of flavonoids. Also a rich source of carotenoids. both which protect your cells.

The phytonutrients support cell detoxification.

Cook it lightly (sauteing it for 1 minute) or eat raw, nutrients will vary by cooking method.

Spinach is high in oxalates which prevent the calcium and iron from being absorbed fully. Cooking only slightly lowers oxalate levels. Limit your intake if you have kidney issues.

Eat with foods high in vitamin C, which enables your body to absorb the iron and calcium better.

Anti-inflammatory. Reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain.

Eat organic. Spinach is #2 on the dirty dozen list.

 

Chard

Excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, vitamin E and iron.

Very good source of  choline and calcium.

Good source zinc, B-1, folate, selenium and protein.

Jam packed with a variety of phytonutrients/antioxidants (about 3 dozen!) including some unique ones due to the dark green leaves and brightly colored stems. Reduces free radical damage and helps prevent neurogenerative disorders, defends brain cells from mutation, protects the health of the nervous system including nerve signaling.

Anti inflammatory.

Supports the body’s detoxification process.

Chard is also high in oxalates, but not as high as spinach. Watch your intake if you have kidney problems.

 

Ways to Eat It:

  • spinach, chard and kale can be interchanged in many dishes
  • spinach strawberry salad
  • saute kale or chard with broth
  • use baby leaves in a salad
  • use any in a smoothie

Roasted butternut squash, spinach and mushrooms

Sauteed Swiss Chard with Bacon Everything is better with bacon!

Sausage and Kale Soup

 

Nuts

Walnuts, Brazil Nuts about 1 ounce per day

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Why Your Brain Wants It:

Walnuts

Consume with the skin, that’s where most of the phenols are.

Contain rare phytonutrients that are valuable as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.

Excellent plant source of omega 3 (ALA) supporting neurotransmitter function.

Contains smaller amounts of choline, folate, B-1, calcium, magnesium, potassium, selenium and zinc.

Store in the refrigerator or freezer to keep them from going rancid.

Not a low calorie food.

 

Brazil nuts

Excellent source of selenium. Actually, number one source. Two is all you need.

Very good source of protein, B-1, magnesium.

Good source of vitamin E, zinc, calcium, potassium and iron.

Don’t over do it with Brazil nuts. They can cause selenium toxicity.

Tree nuts are one of the top 8 allergens.

 

Ways To Eat It:

  • sprinkle in oatmeal or yogurt
  • grind to make nut crusts for tarts and cheesecakes
  • add into cakes and cookies
  • eat straight
  • make milk

Nut and seed milk recipe

 

LIVER

(from organic pasture raised animals)

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Why Your Brain Wants It:

Excellent source of B-12 and vitamin A.

Very good source of iron and protein.

Good source of folate, selenium and choline.

Be mindful of how much vitamin A you are getting. Too much can be toxic.

Nutritional benefits outweigh risks of organ meat.

Anti fatigue factor.

Can be from beef, chicken or pork but not polar bear.

 

Ways To Eat:

  • blend into soup
  • blend into gravy
  • blend into smoothies
  • saute it
  • make liver pate (aka liverwurst)

Liver Pate

Absolute Best Liver and Onions

 

CACAO/ COCOA/ DARK CHOCOLATE

70-85% range or higher

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Why Your Brain Wants It:

Very good source of iron and magnesium.

Good source of zinc, potassium, selenium and vitamin K.

High in antioxidants and phytochemicals such as flavonoids increasing blood flow to the brain.

Supports cognitive function and mood.

Anti-inflammatory.

Limit because of added sugar. Higher percentage of chocolate = lower sugar.

Some chocolate, treated with alkali, is much lower in antioxidants and flavonols.

Don’t overdo it, only about 2 ounces per day.

 

Ways To Eat It:

  • in a smoothie
  • use cacao nibs in cookies instead of chocolate chips
  • bake with cocoa powder instead of chocolate with all the sweeteners
  • chocolate mousse/pudding using good ingredients
  • chocolate chia pudding
  • brownies
  • chocolate zucchini bread
  • dark chocolate bars
  • add some to your oatmeal

 

Avocado

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Why Your Brain Wants It:

Excellent source of health promoting fats.

An assortment of phytonutrients ( phytosterols, carotenoids including chrysanthemaxanthin, flavonoids).

Good source of vitamin K, potassium, vitamin E, vitamin C, folate, magnesium.

Not only contains carotenoids, but when added to other non-fat carotenoid rich foods like leafy greens, its fat content helps increase the absorption by 2-6 times. So have some with your spinach, kale and chard.

The flesh closest to the skin has the most phytonutrients, so make sure you get as much of it as possible. Either peel the skin off like a banana or scrape it out with a spoon.

High in monounsaturated fats, especially oleic acid. Also high in phytosterols which provide anti- inflammatory benefits.

Helps convert beta carotene into vitamin A.

Recommended amount- 1/5 – 1 small avocado. Keep in mind it is not a low calorie food.

Best eaten raw.

If you must cook it, use shortest time with low heat. or add to warm food after it is done cooking to avoid damaging the fat.

High in potassium, more than bananas, helping to keep blood pressure under control. High blood pressure can hurt your brain.

Helps you absorb fat soluble nutrients from other foods you eat increasing their nutritional value. Eat a little with meals.

 

Ways To Eat It:

  • use instead of mayonnaise in chicken or tuna salad
  • slice into salads
  • chocolate avocado mousse/pudding
  • slice and eat with tomatoes
  • in a smoothie
  • avocado toast with eggs
  • guacamole
  • slice it on a burger or sandwich
  • pasta with avocado sauce, add your favorite protein like chicken, turkey or salmon

Smashed Chickpea and Avocado Salad Sandwich

Creamy Avocado Rice  Can be served with chicken or salmon

 

COFFEE

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Why Your Brain Wants It:

Excellent source of antioxidants.

According to Leslie Korn, PhD. coffee is a drug not a beverage, so use it like one.

Enhances mood.

Stimulates alertness and concentration.

Improves mental and physical performance.

Offers protection against neurodegenerative diseases.

People sensitive to caffeine may experience increased anxiety and insomnia.

Be careful. Too much acid can destroy villi in small intestine causing malabsorption and deficiencies.

Cold brew has the least amount of acid.

Dark roast less acid than light roast.

Light roast more caffeine than dark. (scoop for scoop)

Light roast preserves more antioxidants than dark. dark roast loses up to 95% of polyphenols.

A 2017 study showed people who drink 2-4 cups of coffee have a 18% lower risk of death. (after adjusting for smoking, diet and obesity.)

I’m not sure, but I don’t think that is a license to drink coffee beverages that are 800 calories and loaded with tons of sugar and artificial creamers. Probably not the same health benefits. Sorry.

Make your own healthier creamer. These can still have quite a bit of sugar, cut back a little each time until you don’t require so much sugar in your coffee.

 

Ways To Eat It:

  • in a smoothie
  • in brownies
  • in cakes
  • in a cup

Ways to tweak your coffee to make it healthier:

  • give it flavor by adding spices to the grounds before brewing such as cinnamon, chai spices, pumpkin pie spices, cocoa, etc
  • add collagen powder
  • add grass fed butter, MCT oil or coconut oil. Gives it a creaminess and a nutritional boost.

Paleo Vanilla Coconut Milk Coffee Creamer

 

BLUEBERRIES

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Why Your Brain Wants It:

Very good source of Vitamin C and vitamin K.

Packed high in anthocyanins, flavonols, and other phytonutrients.

Freezing berries does not destroy antioxidants.

Generous portions (2 cups a day) of blueberries have shown to offer cognitive protection in older adults.

Studies show organically grown berries to have more antioxidants than conventional.

Buy organic. Blueberries can be high in pesticides.

Ways To Eat It:

  • in a smoothie
  • berry salad with some coconut whipped cream
  • in oatmeal

Blueberry coffee cake (gf/df)

Blueberry Spinach Salad

 

EGGS

ORGANIC PASTURE RAISED

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Why Your Brain Wants It:

Eggs are a nearly perfect food for your brain.

Chickens that forage and eat bugs and plants have eggs higher in certain nutrients than those given conventional feed.

Excellent source of choline.

Very good source of selenium, B-12, iodine and omega 3.

Good source of vitamin A, vitamin D, and protein.

Also contains vitamin E,  thiamine, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.

 

Ways To Eat It:

  • eat both the white and the yolk! Don’t miss out on half the nutrients.
  • bake eggs in avocado half
  • quiche
  • deviled eggs
  • baked egg cups filled with veggies
  • frittata

 

Do any of these surprise you?

What are your favorite ways to eat these foods?

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Philippians 4:8

 

Sources

Mediterranean-type diet and brain structural change from 73 to 76 years in a Scottish cohort

On carrots and curiosity: eating fruit and vegetables is associated with greater flourishing in daily life

Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses

Ramsey, Drew MD. Eat Complete

Korn, Leslie PhD. Nutrition Essentials for Mental Health.

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