We all lead busy lives. 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.
Your brain is also continually at work. It regulates thousands of complex functions, usually without bothering the conscious you with the exact details. But when you rely on fast food rather than whole-food, plant-based nutrition, you sacrifice your 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 how foods also affect your mood, brain power, memory, concentration, and even your ability to handle stress?
Here are some brain foods that will pull you out of your rut and improve your concentration:
- Coconut Oil
- Beans and Legumes
- Dark Chocolate
- Red Cabbage
- Sunflower Seeds
- Whole Grains
HOW YOUR BRAIN CONVERTS FOOD TO POWER
Before we talk about how the brain receives energy from food, we need to understand the process of ATP (or Adenosine Triphosphate). 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 thought, movement, and sensation at blistering speed. It stores an immense amount of data as images, text, 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 we eat such as fruits, vegetables, and grains. The brain may run on sugars, but this doesn’t mean you can eat junk food.
Refined sugars, like table sugar or high fructose corn syrup, aren’t good options since overly high blood glucose levels, or sugar spikes, do damage to your cells and brain. These types of sugars can literally starve our 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. However, 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. Loose 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 and how 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.
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 food and 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 combatting 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.
But 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 they 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 food?
15 FOODS TO BOOST Your BRAIN 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 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 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. Or 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 to cook with, I’m sure you’ve seen the 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 that 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. So maybe next time when you reach for the vegetable oil to start sautéing, grab the coconut oil bottle instead.
3. Beans and Legumes
Though these may not be everyone’s favorite food, beans and legumes are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates. They are also mixed with fiber that slows 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. So, maybe next time 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 blueberries also improve the communication between neurons. This effect increases memory, learning, reasoning, decision making, verbal comprehension, and all cognitive function. 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 within 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 contain many antioxidants.
The easiest and fastest way to incorporate these 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. But did you know that the flavonols in chocolate improve blood vessel function, which in turn improves cognitive function and memory? 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 to prevent many forms of dementia, and it improves brain power.
Nuts contain some anti-nutrients, like phytic acid. Since we consume a relatively small amount of nuts, this isn’t a huge problem, but they are far healthier if you soak them overnight (about 8 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 pizza.
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 to this protein. And, like most seeds, grains, and nuts, 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 function with its scent alone. It improves blood flow to the brain, improves mood, and acts as an antioxidant. Rosemary is also a powerful detoxifier, fights 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 DNA, cancer cell growth, and tumor growth, but also slow the effects of aging on the brain. Spinach 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 seeds 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 meal 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 Alzheimer’s have lower levels 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. So try a hot bowl of our Crock Pot Tomato Soup to keep you warm and your brain functioning properly.
15. Whole Grains
Carbs often are 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 DHA + 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 & 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 and improves neural communication.
EPA helps boost mood and brain health.
STARTING YOUR PATH TO HEALTHY LIVING
Your brain isn’t the only part of your body that requires attention. When you start 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.
That’s why we developed a short 15 Point Guide to Essential Health e-book. Take charge of your own health. With a little help, you’ll be living a healthier more fulfilling life in no time.
Our amazing team of Sunwarriors creates the healthiest Plant-Based Proteins & Supplements. Our mission is to nourish & Transform The Planet.
Claims on this site have not been evaluated by the FDA. Information on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We encourage you to do your own research.. Seek the advice of a medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle or diet.
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