We all lead hectic lives. Our brain gets busy, too. That's why we need brain boosters to re-energize it when it gets tired. Whether it’s your job, kids, or a surprise bill for the month, life pulls at you constantly. You want to lead a healthy, holistic lifestyle, but instead, you find that you are living a hectic one. You can, however, eat healthy foods for your brain to enhance its function. To know what these are, read on!
Brain Boosters to Try for a Better Mental Function
What You Eat Affects Your Brain And How It Functions
Your brain is continually at work. It regulates thousands of complex functions.
When you rely on fast food rather than whole-food, plant-based nutrition, you sacrifice your cognition or brain’s abilities. Simple daily tasks can turn into complicated, complex problems if you do not fuel your brain correctly.
You know that how you eat can affect your weight, but do you know that foods also affect your mood, brainpower, working memory, concentration, and even your ability to handle stress?
Here are some brain boosters that will pull you out of your rut and improve your brain health and concentration:
- Coconut oil
- Beans and legumes
- Dark chocolate
- Red cabbage
- Sunflower seeds
- Whole grains
How Your Brain Converts Food Into Power
Before we talk about how the brain receives energy from brain boosting food, we need to understand the process of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
ATP is broken down through hydrolysis whenever cells need energy. Through this process, your cells transfer energy to other organisms in the body like the brain.
Your brain is a powerful organic machine. It controls all thoughts, movements, and sensations at blistering speed.
It stores an immense amount of data as images, texts, and concepts and regulates circadian rhythm, hormone balance, breathing, and blood flow.
Weighing only 2% of our total body weight but consuming more than 20% of our caloric intake, your brain’s functions also make it the most energy-greedy organ in your body. Half of your body’s energy goes toward the bioelectrical messages your brain sends to neurons throughout the body.
The brain is a picky eater, too. Your brain demands a constant supply of glucose and not much else to keep it running; neurons don’t store this basic sugar like other cells.
They are always hungry and rather needy.
You obtain glucose from the carbohydrates you eat, such as fruits, vegetables, and grains. The brain may run on sugars, but this doesn’t mean you should eat junk foods.
Refined sugars, like table sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, aren’t good options since overly high blood glucose levels, or sugar spikes, damage your cells and brain. These types of sugars literally starve your hungry neurons.
Insulin is a hormone that encourages cells to absorb and store glucose. As glucose enters the bloodstream from digestion, the pancreas releases just the right amount of insulin to keep blood sugar under control.
When you consume refined sugars, glucose levels rise too high and too fast for your body to control it with insulin.
This result damages your liver and kidneys as your body tries desperately to rid itself of the sudden influx of excess glucose. Free glucose can bind with protein to form very reactive free radicals that do damage everywhere they go.
The pancreas responds by releasing more insulin than normal, and cells throughout the body respond by pulling in glucose as fast as possible.
The extreme increase of insulin pulls down the dangerous blood sugar levels, but often, they fall too low when your body has been forced to react so drastically. You flood your system with the incorrect fuel, and it feels good, but then your body has to do something to get rid of the refined sugar.
This is why you experience a crash shortly after that sugar rush.
Since your neurons can’t store glucose like other cells, they starve during this crash. The brain is forced to rob glucose from nearby fluids, and then it becomes sluggish as it runs low.
Our memory and focus suffer during these low points.
Healthy Fats as Brain Boosters
There are also other nutrients the brain uses, though not as fuel. Our brains are made up of 60% fat, and low levels of fats in the body can contribute to depression, Alzheimer’s, and dementia.
You do have to choose good, healthy fats like those found in seeds, nuts, algae, coconut, and avocados. These fats contain the essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that we require for health, along with nonessential fatty acids that are also beneficial.
Saturated fats should be used in moderation but can still be a part of a healthy diet. Coconut oil has shown some promise in raising good cholesterol levels, weight loss, and combating brain disorders and degeneration.
Trans fats found in hydrogenated vegetable oils are the ones to cut down on or avoid altogether. These fats raise cholesterol, damage the heart and the brain, and contribute to heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Focus instead on adding good plant-based foods that boost brain function, mood, and memory.
Without good bacteria in our gut, our body has a difficult time absorbing the nutrients from food, even if the food is healthy. Probiotics are live bacteria that help our digestion and can even prevent or treat illnesses.
Sunwarrior’s Probiotic capsules are vegan, aren’t synthetic, and contain prebiotics—food for the good bacteria to thrive on.
Now, are you ready to take charge of your own health and improve your memory and concentration naturally through foods that boost brain function.?
15 Brain Boosters for Mental Health and Power
If avocado toast is one of your favorite breakfasts, then you are in luck. Avocados are a source of monounsaturated fats, omega-3, and omega-6 fatty acids.
These brain boosters increase blood flow to the brain, lower cholesterol, and aid in the absorption of antioxidants.
Avocados also come with many antioxidants of their own, including vitamin E, which protect the body and the brain from free radical damage. They are also a good source of potassium and vitamin K—both of which protect the brain from the risk of stroke.
You can include avocados into your diet by making guacamole, topping your power bowl with slices of it, or simply sprinkling some sea salt on it and eating it straight from the peel with a spoon. You can also check out our Avocado Protein Smoothie to boost your brain and start your day off right.
2. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has been called a superfood. Even if you don’t use it for cooking, I’m sure you’ve seen countless articles about the hundreds of beneficial ways to add it into your life.
If you haven’t, check out our list here.
Coconut oil lives up to its claim to fame. It contains medium-chain triglycerides the body uses for energy, leaving glucose for the brain.
It also seems to have a beneficial effect on blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
Coconut oil acts as an anti-inflammatory and has been linked to helping prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia. Maybe next time you reach for vegetable oil to start sautéing, grab the coconut oil bottle instead.
3. Beans and Legumes
Though these power foods for the brain may not be everyone’s favorite food, beans and legumes are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates. These brain boosters are also mixed with fiber that slows glucose absorption, giving us a steady supply of glucose for the brain without the risks of a sugar rush.
Beans and legumes are also rich in folate—a B vitamin critical to brain function—and essential omega fatty acids. When you’re hungry for lunch, whip up our Beet Bean Burgers or try our Greek White Bean Dip for a healthy and flavorful snack.
Blueberries are another superfood that is easy to incorporate into your diet. Protecting the brain from oxidative damage and stress that lead to premature aging, Alzheimer’s, and dementia, these berries are antioxidant powerhouses.
The flavonoids in these health foods for the brain also improve the communication between neurons. This effect increases memory, learning, reasoning, decision-making, verbal comprehension, and all cognitive functions.
Flavonoids Definition: A group of plant chemicals responsible for the fruits and vegetables' colors.
Other dark berries are good for the brain, too, like blackberry, açai, and goji berries. For more information on the powerful effects of other superfoods, look at our list of 45 superfoods and their benefits.
Next time you’re craving dessert, reach for blueberries and try our Gluten-Free Blueberry Pancakes recipe.
You may love broccoli, or you may hate it, but the nutrients in broccoli are vital for your brain.
It is rich in calcium, vitamin C, B vitamins, beta-carotene, iron, fiber, and vitamin K. These nutrients protect against free radicals, keep blood flowing well, and remove heavy metals that can damage the brain.
In addition to what broccoli does for your brain, it also has other amazing health benefits for your body. Broccoli is so great that we wrote an entire article on all that it has to offer.
If you need inspiration on how to make broccoli tasty, check out our vegan Panera-inspired Broccoli Cheese Soup.
Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and both soluble and insoluble fiber. These powerful little seeds help control blood glucose levels, are anti-inflammatory, aid in hydration, and also contains many antioxidants.
The easiest and fastest way to incorporate these brain boosters into your diet is to sprinkle them on top of a smoothie bowl or yogurt, like we did in our Matcha Crème and Berry Chia Parfait.
7. Dark Chocolate
You love chocolate and maybe even crave it right before you go to sleep at night. Did you know that the flavonols in chocolate improve blood vessel function, which in turn improves memory and cognitive function?
Flavonols Definition: A type of flavonoid with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Chocolate also improves mood, can ease pain, and is full of antioxidants.
To make the yummy bars in the photo, take a look at our recipe for these Raw Vegan Nanaimo Bars. Or, if you want an easy way to get your chocolate fix, we have a chocolate protein powder that’s great for making shakes.
Nuts are great in trail mix or alone as a snack. Walnuts and almonds are extremely good for the brain and nervous system.
They are great sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin B6, and vitamin E. Vitamin E has been shown in a study to prevent many forms of dementia, and it improves brainpower.
Nuts contain some anti-nutrients like phytic acid. Since we consume a relatively small amount of these brain boosters, this isn’t a huge problem, but they are far healthier if you soak them overnight (about eight hours) before eating them.
If you want a different way of including nuts in your diet, try making our Cashew Rawcotta Vegan Cheese to add to any vegan pizza recipe.
Like beans, legumes, and whole grains, quinoa is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates and fiber to balance blood sugar while providing the essential glucose the brain craves. Quinoa is also a good source for iron to keep the blood oxygenated and B vitamins to balance mood and protect blood vessels.
It is also gluten-free for those with sensitivities. Like most seeds, grains, and nuts, it contains phytic acid.
Quinoa also contains saponins; it should be soaked overnight before cooked.
For tonight’s dinner inspiration, follow our Spring Quinoa and Veggie Pilaf recipe.
10. Red Cabbage
Red cabbage is full of polyphenols, a powerful antioxidant that benefits the brain and heart. Red cabbage also has glucosinolates—compounds that fight cancer, decrease arthritis, and strengthen your bones to keep you young.
Red cabbage is great in Asian-inspired meals and easily adds color to your plate. Part of maintaining a healthy diet is making sure you eat a variety of fruits and vegetables of different colors.
To read more on how each color provides a different set of antioxidants, check out The Color of Your Nutrition.
Rosemary has been shown to improve memory and cognitive abilities and function with its scent alone. It improves blood flow to the brain, improves mood, and acts as an antioxidant.
This brain-boosting food is also a powerful detoxifier, helps fight cancer, boosts energy, and combats aging of the skin.
Rosemary is perfect for fall and holiday flavors. Find out how to grow your own herbs in your backyard for easy access to this delicious herb.
Spinach can prevent or delay dementia. The nutrients in spinach prevent damage to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), cancer cell growth, and tumor growth but also slow the effects of aging on the brain.
This brain food is also a good source of folate and vitamin E.
If you hate the taste of raw or cooked spinach, don’t worry. When you blend spinach in a smoothie, you can’t taste it, but you still get all the amazing benefits.
We also have a Super Greens powder that ensures you get your daily serving of greens.
13. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds and other seeds, like pumpkin, contain a rich mix of protein, omega fatty acids, and B vitamins. These brain boosters also contain tryptophan, which the brain converts into serotonin to boost mood and combat depression.
Sprouts and microgreens of these seeds are even healthier.
Seeds are great to eat by themselves, but you can also add them to your meals and side dishes like we did in this Broccoli Raisin Salad that is far from your grandmother’s side dish.
Tomatoes contain lycopene, a very powerful antioxidant that combats dementia and may improve mood balance, too. People suffering from symptoms of Alzheimer’s have lower levels of lycopene, so eating more tomatoes is essential to your health.
When tomatoes are cooked, they transform into a “cis-lycopene” form, which helps your body better absorb the tomatoes’ nutrients. Try a hot bowl of our Crock-Pot Tomato Soup to keep you warm and your brain functioning properly.
15. Whole Grains
Carbs are often considered the enemy when it comes to health, but whole grains are rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber, and some omega-3 fatty acids that shield the heart and brain from damaging sugar spikes, cholesterol, blood clots, and more. Grains also contain B vitamins that have an effect on blood flow to the brain and mood.
Whole grains should be soaked, fermented, sprouted, or grown as microgreens to unlock all their nutritional power and minimize any anti-nutrients. For more information on how to determine which carbs are good for you, check out our article The Good Carbs.
Vegan Omega-3 Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) + Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) from Algae
We've skipped the krill/fish and have gone straight to the source for our plant-based algae Omega-3 DHA + EPA. It is sustainably grown and harvested for bioavailable omega-3, -6, -7, and -9 fatty acids.
It also contains essential polar lipids and chlorophyll. These ingredients help reduce inflammation and the risk of cardiovascular failure.
It promotes healthy vision, joints, and brain health.
Our omega-3 contains DHA, which is essential for proper brain development, improves neural communication.
EPA helps boost mood and brain health.
Healthy Habits for Your Brain You Can Follow
Although the superfoods mentioned above can provide nutrients your brain can benefit from, it’s still important to keep in mind healthy habits to promote brain health. The following are daily or weekly habits you can do to boost brain function:
1. Be Mindful and Live in the Moment
You’ve probably heard the saying live in the moment. Or maybe you’ve heard the saying you only live once. But can being more present in your life really make you happier?
It actually can. Studies have shown that you are happier if you spend less time worrying about the future or focusing on the past and more time living presently.
Let go of the past, stop worrying about the future, and appreciate the now to live a more fulfilling life.
2. Practice Meditation
Meditation is a training program that exercises your mind to become alert, strong, and healthy by enhancing your abilities to concentrate and focus. One benefit of meditation to your brain is you become better at solving your problems.
Problem-solving requires concentration and focus on finding a solution. Your brain can easily focus on the cause of the problem and determine the appropriate solution for that problem.
Enroll in yoga classes and see how it helps you.
3. Exercise Regularly
Exercise does not only benefit your muscles but also your brain. When you exercise, your heart rate increases, allowing more oxygen and nutrients to get to your brain and improve your brain function.
Aerobic exercise is good for both your brain and body as it helps enhance brain function and repair damaged brain cells. For beginners, you can start with a light physical activity like low-intensity walking for 30 minutes r and then increase the level of your workout.
4. Take a Nap
If you feel tired and sleepy during the day, take a nap. This allows your brain and body to recharge.
Taking a nap even for just 15 minutes can help improve your mood, memory, and brain function and can even re-energize you to finish your tasks. The important thing is to listen to your body when it is trying to tell you something.
5. Focus on Doing One Task at a Time
You may think that when you are multi-tasking you are being more productive, but your brain may suffer from it. You cannot maximize its ability to focus on accomplishing a single task when you do other things at the same time.
To help you finish all your work in a day, know your priorities and do them first, one at a time. This way, you complete each task with confidence.
Starting Your Path to Healthy Living
Your brain isn’t the only part of your body that requires attention. When you begin your journey to healthier living, there seems to be so much information to weed through.
It can be confusing and difficult to determine what you should focus on first.
With a little help, you’ll be living a healthier more fulfilling life in no time.
Jason Wrobel shares his top five ways to naturally boost your brain in this video from Sunwarrior:
Brain boosters are indeed important to keep your brain working properly and maintain its good health. Start with eating the brain superfoods mentioned above and then gradually follow the best practices to enhance your brain function.
You don’t have to wait for your brain to function poorly. Eat the right foods now and follow a healthy lifestyle for better brain performance!
What other brain boosters, either foods or best practices, can you share with us? Leave them in the comments section below!
- Boost Your Brain Power And Wake It Up Before Or At Work
- Healthy Fats: Your Brain’s BFF!
- Exercise During Pregnancy
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on November 7, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.