10 Best Brain Foods (and the 10 Worst, Too)

“You are what you eat.”

There is definitely truth in that old saying. What you put into your body really does affect how you function and how you feel. It can even affect how you think. There are foods that research shows are good for your brain. And, on the flip side, foods that are not so good for your brain. Whether you are trying to boost your brain power for a scholarship, or whether you want to do your best in a new career, you can eat foods that will help you excel.

Best Foods for Your Brain

If you want to boost your performance, consider ingesting these foods. They can provide you with the brain power you need for better memory, faster thinking and more:

  1. Wild salmonWild Salmon: It’s amazing how healthy wild salmon is. In fact, it’s one of the healthiest foods out there — and its great for your brain function. Wild salmon is known to help you improve the quality of your brain matter, smooth your synaptic connections, and reduce the chance of developing dementia. Salmon is also high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for brain function as well as the heart. It is important to note that farm raised salmon do not have all of the same benefits that you get from wild salmon. So be picky.
  2. Acai Berry: The Acai berry has received widespread interest lately for its health benefits. This little berry is native to South America, especial Brazil. Acai has a number of benefits, including antioxidants that are good for health. Additionally, Acai includes Omega-3 fatty acids, which is a rarity in berries and fruit. However, it is important to be careful. There are a number of scams out there claiming that you can get the brain benefits of Acai. This is untrue. Outside of South America, you need your Acai to be flash frozen to get the benefits.
  3. BlueberriesBlueberries: You don’t need to be exotic in order to get the benefits of a berry brain food. Bluberries have many of the properties of Acai berries, and are more widely accessible. Blueberries have been shown to provide help for long-term memory, protecting your brain from the free radicals that can damage your thinking ability and result in dementia.
  4. Peppermint Tea: Do you need to concentrate? If so, you can use peppermint tea to help you focus better. Researchers have found that you can boost brain performance, at least in the short term, with the effects of peppermint tea. Additionally, the tea can help you retain alertness without becoming anxious.
  5. ArugulaArugula/Spinach: If you are looking to boost your mood and your brain performance in terms of avoiding nervousness and irritability, you should consider leafy greens. Dark colored leafy greens. Spinach and arugula are high in B vitamins that can help your brain with dopamine and serotonin production. You can also ease symptoms of depression with a little help from leafy greens. You can also get some of the same benefits from chard.
  6. Coffee: Yes, in moderation coffee can be a brain food. Coffee is a stimulant that can actually help your short-term memory. As long as you prudent enough to get it fresh brewed. Coffee can help you focus your attention, and the caffeine in coffee can also slow the aging process — including brain aging. One cup of coffee can help you focus better and improve your problem solving.
  7. CacaoCacao: Many people use the fact that cacao can boost brain performance as an excuse to eat more chocolate. And, it is true that dark chocolate can sharpen your mind and boost your cognition on a short term basis. However, you can’t just eat any old chocolate. Your best bet is to get your hands on quality dark chocolate that has been minimally processed. The best is to stir a little cacao powder into a drink. Next best is to get chocolate bars with at least 75% cacao content.
  8. Matcha: Green tea is renowned for its health benefits, and for its ability to help boost brain performance. It calms and focuses, stimulating the brain and helping you concentrate without an excessive nervousness. The best green tea, though is Matcha. Matcha is finely stone-ground and specially prepared in the best Japanese tradition. No soaking tea bags or any of the other things you think of with green tea.
  9. FlaxseedGround Flaxseed: If you want to improve the way your cerebral cortex works, you can take a little ground flaxseed. One tablespoon a day can help you improve your senses, better processing the sensory information you receive. You can mix flaxseed into shakes, or sprinkle it on salad or cereal. It’s a great way to get Omega-3 fatty acids as well.
  10. Curry: If you like a taste of the exotic, you can feed your brain with the help of curry. Turmeric is a yellow spice, in the ginger family, used in many curries. It has shown promise in reducing the deposits in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s, and has antioxidants that slow brain aging.

Worst Food For Your Brain

You also need to be aware of the ways you could be inhibiting your brain performance. Here are some of the worst foods for brain performance:

  1. AlcoholAlcohol: It’s probably no surprise that this drink is probably one of the worst for brain performance. While a glass of wine can be helpful to your health, drinking more than a serving can make you sloppy, and binge drinking destroys brain cells.
  2. Energy Drinks: While caffeine in moderate amounts can be good for your brain, too much of it causes problems. And that is the issue with energy drinks. When you have too much caffeine, or drink energy drinks a great deal (especially after 3 pm) you can mess up your sleep cycle — which is vital for brain health.
  3. Ice CreamFull Fat Ice Cream: It may be tasty, but full fat ice cream is horrible for your brain. High saturated fats can clog your blood vessels and reduce the amount of nutrients that are getting to your brain. So, enjoy an occasional serving of low fat ice cream, but be careful to avoid high fat ice cream.
  4. Unripe Berries: While ripe berries can be a great brain food, you need to be wary of unripe berries. The best results for your brain come when the fruit is eaten at peak ripeness, when the natural nutrients are at their height. Hard, unready berries don’t have all the same nutrients. If the berries are out of season, look for frozen berries that have been picked and preserved at peak ripeness.
  5. PancakesPancakes: You might like to have some pancakes for breakfast, but these are terrible in terms of brain food. High in simple carbohydrates, pancakes may give you a small boost, but you quickly get through that boost. Plus, eating a high carb breakfast increase the tryptophan in your brain — making you groggy and energy-less just two hours later.
  6. Bagels: Like pancakes, bagels are high in refined carbohydrates. If you have a bagel — especially one that appears white — you are looking for trouble. At least as far as your brain goes. Sadly, muffins aren’t any better. It may seem like bagels and muffins should be healthy breakfast choices, but they aren’t.
  7. Soda PopSoda: Here’s another drink to avoid if you want to improve your brain function. The sugar in soda, when taken very sparingly (no more than 12 oz. a day) can aid in some short-term memory retention, but most people overdo the soda to an unhealthy level. As with other sugars, having all that soda can make you anxious, and then crash later, losing alertness. Plus, those who drink more soda are more prone to depression.
  8. Candy: Yet another common treat, exposed as being bad for your brain. Again, the main issue is the sugar. You will end up with sugar highs and lows, due to the glucose, and you will end up with a fuzzy mind state. Clear thinking can be impaired by candy, and it contributes to other health problems (too much can lead to diabetes) that can in turn speed up the effects of aging on the brain.
  9. White chocolateWhite Chocolate: This might come as a surprise to the crowd that believes that chocolate can be good for your brain. But it is important to remember that not all chocolate is created equal. Dark chocolate is the best. And, truth to tell, white chocolate isn’t actually chocolate, since it lacks the cocoa solids. So, really, eating white chocolate helps your brain just about as much as candy. Which is not at all.
  10. Potato Chips: Potato chip products are horrible for your brain, since they include hydrogenated oils, refined carbs and large amounts of fat, all things that promote sluggish thinking and brain aging that can result in dementia.
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