There are specific foods that have rich nutrients that help to boost our brain cell metabolism (cognitive enhancer) and to protect our brains (neuroprotector).
Some nutrients also improve the flow of blood to the brain, provide energy for the brain to function and prevent oxidative stress in the brain cells. All these nutrients found in foods improve your brain’s functioning.
Stress is a major health problem that we encounter every day.
When we’re stressed out our bodies release inflammatory cytokines hat can damage the brain cells. But what does this have to do with food? The right nutrients in food keep our body’s immune responses high, and inflammation under control.
Additionally, brain foods rich in antioxidants, good fats, vitamins and minerals provide energy and aid in protecting against brain diseases.
Avocados have Vitamin K and folate, which helps prevent blood clots in the brain (protecting against stroke), improve cognitive function and help in both memory and concentration.
Packed with mono-saturated fats or the “good” kind of fat (natural fatty acid), Avocados will keep your blood sugar levels steady.
Beans are a great source of protein, carbohydrates and vitamins! A good source of zinc and proteins, beans will provide the nutrients that help brain blood flow and helps in anabolic body-building.
Sweet and healthy! This fruit has phytonutrient called citrulline that is said to promote smooth muscle relaxation. It improves your brain’s blood supply, especially when you’re stressed.
Fish and seafood
Fish is packed with Omega-3 fatty acids. There are two critical Omega 3 fats namely eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids, or simply EPA and DHA respectively.
These are mostly found in fish and seafood and are essential in improving mental skills, like thinking, remembering, and learning. This is particularly important for children and the elderly.
One of the most popular foods in Africa! They’re rich in potassium and B-complex vitamins like riboflavin. These nutrients improve your memory by enhancing neurotransmission and neuronal metabolism.
Who doesn’t like Yoghurt! The essential ingredient contained in yoghurt, apart from calcium, potassium and magnesium, is probiotics. These are living bacteria found in most forms of yoghurt and also in the gut. Probiotics have been found to confer benefits with regards to coping with mood changes, stress, pain and anxiety according to research.
These are foods you can get for a very fair price in the market, even the supermarkets. Rich in multivitamins and vital for DNA strength, broccoli (and cauliflower) has plenty of folates (Vit B9) and helps to wade off depression.
It also has high levels of Vitamin K and choline which have been shown to strengthen cognitive function and memory respectively. Broccoli also contains a chemical known as sulforaphane, which promotes brain healing from traumatic brain injury.
Broccoli contains Lutein that helps in preserving our ability to solve problems based on our past experiences, it’s called crystallized intelligence. Lutein that is found in broccoli protects the neurons in the brain.
Just munching on a few nuts a day can improve your cognitive health, whether they are peanuts, cashews, almonds or macadamia. The high levels of vitamin E in the nuts have a positive impact on memory loss caused by ageing. One of the most studied nuts for brain function are walnuts which have high levels of DHA omega 3 fatty acid compared with other nuts.
Yummy! Mango is rich in multivitamins B-complex that helps in increasing flow blood to the brain which improves mental health.
For starters, it’s one of the highest antioxidant-rich foods known to man, including vitamin C and vitamin K and fibre. Because of their high levels of gallic acid, blueberries are especially good at protecting our brains from degeneration and stress.
Yes, dark chocolate! In fact, dark chocolate can actually be good for you! Chocolate is chockfull of flavanols, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They can also help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to both the brain and heart.
Dark chocolate also contains magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and manganese, which helps to improve blood flow, lower high blood pressure and protects the skin against the sun’s UV-rays.
Before you go munching on all chocolate, make sure what you’re munching on is actually chocolate, not just sugar, margarine and come colouring.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The king of all plant oil! Real extra virgin olive oil is truly a brain food. They contain powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols that are found in the oil, which not only improve learning and memory but also reverse the age-related changes. They are great for salads.
These include sukuma wiki (kale), spinach, amaranthus (managu), jute (mrenda) and other leafy greens are a potent source of magnesium, zinc, and manganese and multivitamins that helps dilate blood vessels, and increases blood flow to the brain. This increased blood flow that helps increase focus and memory.
The iconic Indian flavour seasoning! Tumeric is not just delicious in smell and taste, but it also improves your brain’s oxygen intake, keeping you alert and able to process information.
Also, it possesses anti-inflammatory properties and reduces blood sugar level that helps to protect the brain cells.
Seeds: simsim, pumpkin, sunflower
Pumpkin seeds are a staple in West Africa traditional soup! Pumpkin seeds contain powerful antioxidants that protect the body and brain from free radical damage.
Pumpkin seeds are also an excellent source of magnesium, iron, zinc and copper that enhances nerve signalling and improve cognitive skills.
Sim sim are sesame seeds, they make the sesame oil that is used in Asia for stir fries etc. If you’re from Nyanza and Western Kenya, you may have had sim sim as a snack or dessert, it’s combined with (sukari nguru) jaggery and melted into sim sim balls or biscuits.
Oil derived from simsim is rich in linoleic and oleic acids which are types of omega 3 fats that are beneficial to the brain. Instead of sugar, you can choose to make savoury options of sesame balls, they make a great snack!
Sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that helps boost serotonin levels and alleviate stress. They are also a good source of linoleic acid. Serotonin is a hormone of the brain that makes you feel good, literally.
Purple and Green Tea
Purple and green tea are some of the healthiest hot beverages you can take. They contain B vitamins, folate, manganese, potassium, magnesium, however, most of us consume them for their high levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants counter oxidative stress in the brain cells.
In fact, it has been found to improve alertness, performance, memory and focus. Also, green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that increases the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA, which helps reduce anxiety and makes you feel more relaxed.
Green tea also has low amounts of caffeine, making it a good option for those who wish to cut down on their caffeine intake.
Juicy! Oranges are high in vitamin C (anti-oxidant) can help defend your brain against damage from free radicals. You can get all the vitamin C you need in a day by eating one medium orange.
You can help support your brain health and boost your alertness, memory and mood by strategically including these foods in your diet.