Lifestyle Solutions for a Happy Healthy You!

Is There Really Such a Thing as Brain Food?

Take a long hard look at a shelled walnut. It really looks very little like the majority of other nuts, and closer than anything, it resembles a human brain. Does the visual resemblance qualify it as “brain food?” No, resemblance alone does not hold any true correlation between what a food is and what it does (if so, half the population would likely be eating a lot more bananas and zucchini). Walnuts, long touted as a sort of brain food, because they are loaded with omega-3s, which help with cognitive function, among other things. Walnuts are also shown to increase melatonin levels, which helps regulate patterns and normalize inconsistencies. Walnuts also boast sizable amounts of copper, iron, magnesium and calcium, and other nutrients essential to good brain function, as well as good health. But really, does this make them truly a “brain food” or is it the beneficial fat, found in a variety of foods, the deciding factor?

We are all familiar with the highly revered and adored omega-3 fatty acids that are naturally occurring in certain nuts, fish, seeds, and even kiwi fruit. According to a report in Psychology Today, “The health of your brain depends not only on how much (or little) fat you eat but on what kind it is. Intellectual performance requires the specific type of fat found most commonly in fish (omega-3s).” So with this information, should we bulk up on all manner of omega-3 energy bars and omega-3 fortified eggs to keep our brain firing at the hyperactive level of an 8-year-old preternatural genius?

The road to higher brain function is more likely paved with a few key (and minimally processed) simple foods that will deliver the omegas and the power to keep us all firing at full speed.

Wild Salmon:
Wild Salmon is a genuine brain food as it is insanely rich in essential fatty acids (including the hyped omegas), high in protein, low in saturated fat, and very low on the contamination scale (the same cannot be said for farmed salmon).

Acai Berries and Blueberries:
Blueberries are loved for their beauty, there versatility (I once had a blueberry hamburger) and their significantly high antioxidant content, but they are also known as the “brain berry.” Acai berries are a somewhat recent import from South America and are may very well take that “brain berry” designate away from the beloved blueberry. The acai not only contain all the antioxidant goodness that blueberries contain, but they are superbly rich in omega-3 fatty acids.  (Leesa recommends Chews4Health because it contains both berries!  www.chews4health.com/Leesa)

Coffee Beans:
The coffee bean is incredibly rich with antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins and minerals and even the inherent caffeine has been revealed (in moderation) to be beneficial for brain function. Regular coffee consumption has been shown to actually reduce the risk of mental decline and diseases such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s, and has also recently been found to be the prime source of antioxidants in the average American diet.  (Leesa recommends drinking Organic Coffee! )

Cacao Beans:
Cacao, also known as the building blocks of chocolate, beyond being the source of one of the world’s most beloved confections, is also revered as a powerhouse of cognitive enhancement, as well as a source of great mood and energy enhancement. It is also loaded with antioxidants, flavonoids, catechins and many other brain & body beneficial elements. Sadly, this does not give you license to go out and gorge yourself on chocolate. The benefits you may get from cacao beans can only be obtained by consuming high cacao percentage dark chocolate (at least 75% cacao) and not that sorry stuff marketed as milk chocolate.

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, N.Y. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

 

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