Your brain is a major organ that needs adequate fuel throughout the day to best serve you. So, when you’re hopping around from one appointment to the next or you’re working on a deadline and go a few hours without a nibble, your brain suffers. (That’s probably why you start to get “hangry” and burned out.)
Rule number one? Eat every few hours to keep your brain nourished and energy levels up. And secondly, be careful about what you’re eating, too. A sugary donut isn’t going to cut it. Instead, here are a few of the best foods you can eat to keep your brain sharp, so you can feel more productive during the day and lower your risk of mental disease.
Salmon is bursting with brain-boosting nutrients, such as healthy omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Studies have shown that supplementing with fish oil supplements and eating 2-3 servings (or more) of fish each week can both lower risk of and mitigate symptoms of dementia. As it lowers inflammation, it makes you less prone to disease, which can cause cognition to slowly decline over time.
If you don’t like salmon, you can also try mackerel, halibut, canned tuna, and sardines. Layer smoked salmon on a bagel for breakfast, use mackerel to make a savory dip, or use sardines as a topper for pizza.
Yes—that’s right—you can indulge in a square or two of dark chocolate regularly. Because dark chocolate (aim for 70% or darker—the higher the percentage, the greater the benefits) is high in antioxidants that protect your brain and fight free radical damage, it can lower inflammation to promote longevity and brain health. Plus, the caffeine kick increases immediate alertness, to wake you up from brain fog.
Just don’t go overboard, as you don’t want to end up with diabetes or sugar-overload in the process. All you need is a half an ounce to an ounce a serving. You can also add to more savory dishes, too, for that sweet-and-spicy mix. Combine with nuts and seeds—like these spicy General Tso’s nuts—which also boost your brain health.
Eggs are a great kitchen staple to have on hand, as they are incredibly versatile. You can make portable egg cups in a muffin tin for easy weekday breakfast, top a fried egg on a burger, salad, or slice of toast, or hard-boil a batch to take with you to work all week for a power snack. Beyond these benefits, though, they are also rich in iron, vitamin D, protein, and choline, all of which can improve mental health and lower risk of dementia. Yet, keep the yolk—that’s where the choline and vitamin D are!
Beyond giving you a rainbow-colored plate, fresh berries, such as blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, all have antioxidants to lower inflammation and protect the brain. Blueberries in particular are especially important for brain health and lowering risk of dementia, so try adding them to yogurt, salads, smoothies, and oatmeal. You can even make a fruity glaze or dressing to use as a flavor-booster in meals.
Let the #avotoast craze continue—America’s favorite green fruit is great for your brain (beyond just being absolutely delicious!). Thanks to lutein, a type of antioxidant in the brain and eyes, eating avocado daily can keep the brain and eyes sharp by improving focus, memory, and problem-solving skills. Plus, it also has healthy fats to reduce inflammation in the brain and fight disease.
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