Food for thought. Or thought for food?

What do you think of when talking about nutrition? We often automatically think of getting in shape or the aesthetic benefits that good nutrition can bring.

We’re missing the effect this has on one of our most important organs – the Brain.

As our understanding of the relationship between the brain and nutrition grows, we are able to eat foods which have a profound effect on our lives.

These are not only foods that will improve your concentration when studying or working, but foods we should aim to integrate in our diet every day. Thus increasing productivity.

1/ Salmon

 
This food seems to make it to the top of every beneficial foods post, and for good reason.
 
As well as being a low fat source of protein, Salmon is packed with high Omega 3 fatty acid content. This has been found to improve memory and mental performance. This study also found that Omega-3 can be highly beneficial in battling depression.

2/ Aubergine / Egg plant

 
Often the skin of a fruit or vegetable can be highly nutritious.
 
Aubergine is no different. The skin contains a nutrient called Nasunin. It has been found that this maintains a sharpness in our brain. This is through enhancing communication between our brain cells and messenger molecules.
 
Don’t skip the skin!
 

3/ Berries

 
Packed with Antioxidants.
 
It seems a bit of a buzzword. But what can antioxidants do for our productivity and level of concentration?
 
The antioxidants found in berries can improve motor coordination and memory. It has been reported that Blueberries could even be capable of increasing the production of new brain cells.
 
Add berries to your morning Smoothie to get the most out of your day!

4/ Leafy greens

 
You’ve probably heard of the health benefits of leafy greens before. But have you wondered why they are good for you?
 
It seems unlikely that a heap of Spinach is going to give you muscles unless you’re Popeye.
 
Well the answer is that dark, leafy greens such as Spinach and Kale and packed with goodness to aid brain function, memory and mental clarity.
 
Many of the benefits of Leafy greens are derived from the high presence of Folate in the food. This is known to improve blood circulation, regulate neurotransmitters and reduce inflammation.
 
If you’re not a fan of salad, try adding tasty sautéed Spinach to your meals.
 

5/ Avocados

 
Stopping millennials buying houses? Or boosting Brain power?
 
Achieving improved blood circulation in the body is highly beneficial for all organs in the body. Particularly for the Heart and the Brain.
 
Improving blood flow to the brain sets you up for:
– Improved productivity
– Increased concentration
– Greater cognitive ability.
 
Like many concentration boosting foods, Avocado contains healthy fats. Add some in to your diet!
So how do we go about achieving happiness if it is not derived from our success? Many believe that the answer lies in the practice of Positive Psychology, which is defined as:

6/ Eggs

 
We’ve written about the importance of a good breakfast in this article.
 
Eggs are packed with vitamins, minerals and rich proteins. As such, it is unsurprising that so many millions of people reach for the eggs first thing in the morning.
 
How can Eggs improve productivity? It’s in a micro-nutrient called Choline and its link to a neurotransmitter which helps regulate mood and memory.
 
As well as this the B vitamins found in Eggs have significant influences on brain health. It has been found that they may help slow mental decline in the elderly.
 
So they’re not just an amazing source of Protein, they look to benefit Brain functioning.
 

7/ Nuts

 
Nuts can have a profound effect on our cognitive functioning and effect our brains in different ways. Here are just a few of the benefits of various nuts:
 
– Walnuts – Walnuts are made up of Omega 6 fatty acids, Omega 3 fatty acids as well as a range of beneficial vitamins. Omega 3 fatty acids are particularly beneficial. This is through the positive relationship with cell membranes. It has also been reported that Walnuts have numerous mental health benefits.
 
– Pecans & Peanuts – Both contain Choline, which aids in memory and brain development.
 
– Almonds – High in Riboflavin, known to boost memory. As well as this Almonds contain Phenylalanine, which has the ability to stimulate the brain to produce positive neurotransmitters.
 
– Cashews – High in Magnesium, Cashew nuts help open up blood vessels throughout your body. This is particularly beneficial in aiding blood flow to the brain.
 
It can be seen that nuts can provide productivity boosting nutrients, so the consumption of such foods should be encouraged.
 
However, large amounts of nuts are not required to see the benefits and can actually be harmful if you consume too much.
 
Aim for a palm-full of nuts per day.

8/ Dark Chocolate

 
The health benefits of Dark Chocolate are appearing more and more frequently in the media.
 
Surely chocolate cannot be good for you, can it? Here’s how it effects concentration and productivity.
 
As with many foods on this list, Dark Chocolate is a powerful antioxidant. It also contains naturally occurring stimulants which enhance focus and concentration. These stimulants are also associated with the production of Endorphins and improved mood.
 
On top of all this, it has a high presence of Flavanols which facilitate blood supply to the brain, bringing with it the associated benefits of this.
 
Not bad for Chocolate, eh?
 

9/ Banana

 
The notoriously healthy fruit strikes again. But how exactly does it improve productivity?
 
There are four main ways that eating bananas does this.
 
The first is a link between Vitamin B6 and Cognitive function. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that men with higher concentrations of Vitamin B6 showed a higher memory performance than those with lower levels.
 
Secondly, Magnesium is present in Bananas. This is beneficial because Magnesium activates an enzyme which converts ammonia to Urea, ready for disposal from the body. This is crucially important. Even the smallest presence of ammonia can negatively affect your ability to focus and pay attention.
 
Thirdly, Bananas provide us with amino acids that your body uses to make the Neurotransmitters – Dopamine and Serotonin. Both of these Neurotransmitters are responsible for regulating your mood.
 
Consuming an adequate amount of these Amino acids may help in achieving reduced levels of Anxiety and Stress. As well as this they can aid in achieving a feeling of calm and focus.
 
And finally, Bananas are packed with energy. More specifically, they are packed with Fructose energy. Refined sugars, present in things such as Soda, give you a quick boost of energy, before leaving you feeling sluggish ang hungry just hours later.
 
The fibre in the Banana slows the breakdown and release of its own naturally occurring sugars. Because of this, the Banana is a good steady source of brain fuel.
 
If you’re not too keen on the taste of Bananas, try it in a Smoothie with other fruits.

10/ Brown Rice

 
Brown rice is absolutely packed with health benefits, many of which you may have heard about. From the slow release of energy to its Whole Grain Properties.
 
But how does it improve productivity?
 
Brown Rice contains Manganese which is involved in the synthesis of fatty acids. This Is extremely important to maintain a healthy nervous system. As well of this, Manganese helps the body produce energy from protein and carbohydrates.
 
As well as this, Brown Rice contains high levels of magnesium. This beneficial through its assistance in the production of enzymes and through the positive effect on blood flow to the brain.
 
As you can see Brown Rice is not only an awesome source of sustained energy. It also provides powerful benefits to our brains and thus our productivity.
 

11/ Garlic

 
It’s a bit of a staple for most people, mainly because it is delicious.
 
But did you know of the positive effects Garlic has on the brain?
 
Studies have shown a direct correlation between garlic consumption and increased levels of Serotonin in the brain. As well as this, a direct correlation between consumption and enhanced memory function was reported.
 
Like many of the foods on this list, Garlic is rich in Antioxidants. Antioxidants work against the free radials which cause harm to cells and age the body. Aged garlic extract (AGE) is known for preventing the oxidation of cells – the process which makes them harmful.
 
There you have it, more reason to eat up the Garlic!

12/ Carrots

 
This may not have been the first food that you expected to see on this list.
 
However, Carrots are worth the inclusion on the list. Not only because of the numerous health benefits associated with the inclusion of carrots in your diet. But because of the log term preventative effect carrots can have on your brain.
 
The Journal of Biochemical and Molecular Toxicology conducted a study which suggested that carrots have the nutritional value capable of reducing Oxidative stress in the brain. It is this stress which could otherwise weaken neuron function and its capacity.
 
So while Carrots may not have the direct effect on your brain like many of these other foods, its certainly worth including them in your diet if you would like to maintain good cognitive function into old age.

13/ Hot Cocoa

 
Another surprise on the list.
 
Cocoa is reported to improve memory. A 2013 study found a correlation between boosted memory and drinking hot chocolate. Cocoa helps to increase blood flow in the body, which is thought to be the root of the potential memory enhancement.
 
It was later published that the cocoa consumption improves cognitive function through improvements in the Dentate Gyrus region of the brain.
 
As well as this, it has been reported that Cocoa can improve happiness. Much like Dark Chocolate, Cocoa contains Caffeine for an energy boost. As well as this the link with happiness is formed through the relationship Cocoa has with Serotonin and Tryptophan in the brain.
 
As well as this, Cocoa is rich in Antioxidants, like many of the foods in this article.
 
However, this isn’t a free ticket to sugary Hot Cocoa.
 
Opt for the unsweetened versions or 85% Cocoa Dark Chocolate.
 

14/ Probiotic Yogurt

 
This modern-age snack provides a productivity punch.
 
Here’s why:
 
– Aids Stress Relief – A study conducted by the University of California found that woman who consumed Probiotic Yogurts had their stress response reduced significantly. It is believed that this is down to the healthy management of gut bacteria and its effect on Chronic Stress. The altered brain functions could be seen in both a resting state and an active state.
 
– Boosted mental capacity – A study in 2015 found significant improvements in mental capabilities and mental health with participants that consumed probiotic yoghurts over a 6 week period. No improvements were recorded for conventional (non-probiotic yoghurt).
 
So while all Yoghurts won’t provide you with improved functioning, studies show that Probiotic Yoghurts could give you that boost you need.

15/ Ginger Root

Ginger has been linked to a wide range of health benefits, and that includes the brain.
 
A study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed how Ginger may increase memory and cognitive function.
 
Memory and cognitive function tests were conducted on a group of women before the study group completed a two month course of either Ginger or a Placebo alternative and further tests were conducted after.
 
After improvements in the assessments were clearly shown, the researchers theorised that the improvements may be down to the abound levels of antioxidants present in Ginger Root.
 
In another study sponsored by the National Institute of Health, researchers found a marked improvement in memory in Mice, before and after Ginger consumption.
 
Researchers explained this improvement through the effect Ginger consumption had on information transmission between cells.
 
These are just two of the masses of health benefits that come from the consumption of ginger.
 
Time to include it in your diet?
 

16/ Broccoli

 
Some people love it, some people hate it.
 
Regardless, it is one of the most nutritious Vegetables we can consume.
 
As well as the Myrad of health benefits. Broccoli is great for the brain.
 
Recent studies suggest that Sulforaphane can promote the growth and repair of the brain. Sulforaphane is a compound with antioxidant and ant-inflammatory properties found in Cruciferous vegetables
 
The term for the growth and repair is Neurogenesis. This was previously thought to only take place in Children. However, recent studies have shown that adult brains are also always undergoing such growth and repair.
 
Love it or hate it. It’s more reason to eat Broccoli.

17/ Chia

 
The health food pops up again. And for good reason. There are four main ways Chia can aid your productivity
 
– Fatty acids – Chia contains the fatty acids our body needs to make DHA fatty acids in the brain. This DHA is vital for the brain to function.
 
– Protein – Chia contains all nine amino acids – it is a complete protein. These amino acids are essential for the brain and can help reduce slumps in mood and cognitive performance.
 
– Carbohydrates – The brain runs on Glucose, however there is no way of storing it in that form. Chia seeds release their energy slowly when digested, an thus provide a steady form of energy to the brain.
 
– Antioxidants – Chia seeds are packed with antioxidants to fight those Free Radicals before they cause any damage.
 
So it turns out the Chia is not all hype.
 
How will you include it in your diet?
 

18/ Hemp Hearts

 
This food may be a little less known to you than the other foods listed in this article. However, Hemp Seeds are incredibly nutritious.
 
They are over 30% fat, which you may believe is worrying. However, They are exceptionally rich in two essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3).
 
As previously mentioned, both fatty acids are highly linked with improved brain performance and thus improved concentration and productivity.
 
There are many ways to consume Hemp, including sprinkling on Yoghurts, Cereal or in Smoothies.
 

19/ Beets / Beetroot

 
Beetroot has been known as an Aphrodisiac since the ancient Romans, but that’s not what we’ll be going into detail with here.
 
Consuming Beetroot can increase productivity through a number of different ways it effects the brain and body.
 
This includes boosting sustainable energy, working as an anti-inflammatory agent and also though being one of the best sources of Choline. Choline increases the memory forming neurotransmitter in the brain.
 
Possibly the most underrated vegetable?

20/ Tomatoes

 
Argued as ‘one of the easiest and most economical ways to increase your intake of a brain-protecting class of plant nutrients called Carotenoids’.
 
These guys safeguard fat in the body, which is important for the brain as it is mainly main of fat. These Cartenoids act as powerful antioxidants.
 
Eat them with Olive Oil for increased absorption and effect.

Now that extensive research has been carried out into the effect that food has on our bodies and our brain, we are able to implement positive changes into our diet.

 

However, it is important to balance a healthy diet with a solid exercise regime where possible.
As well as this, you should trial out different brain foods and see what works for you.

Get creative with your cooking.

Enjoy it.

 

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