Written by Jenni Madison, Living With Nature
Having a healthy brain equates to having a healthy life. Making food choices that nourish this vital organ can help attain feelings of happiness, mental clarity, focus, concentration, increased learning and productivity, both physically and mentally.
It’s hard to imagine that a few simple switches in your diet could offer so much, but it's true. Brain health is everything, which is why I put so much effort into it myself.
With all of that said, isn’t the simple benefit of feeling happier and more joyous each day good enough! Remember if you feel happy, you are more likely to spread that joy onto others, and that in itself is a beautiful purpose and contribution to humanity.
In my article, the brain and gut relationship, I describe how your gut health will also affect your brain health. Another important relationship between your food and your brain is through your gut.
Healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and food enzymes are all a part of the best foods for optimal brain function, they include:
Avocado is best consumed whole as a creamy nutrient condensed fruit (rather than as a processed oil) for its whole food benefits. The monounsaturated fats in avocado contribute to healthy blood flow and are anti-inflammatory. These fats also support the natural chemical production of acetylcholine, which supports memory and learning.
Avocados are high in tyrosine, an amino acid that is a precursor to dopamine — the brain chemical that keeps you motivated and focused.
Avocados are also rich in folate, which is essential to brain health, cognitive function, and memory. A triple whammy for neuro support and protection.
2. Virgin Coconut Oil & Coconut MCT Oil
In her book, Feed Your Brain, brain health specialist, Delia McCabe speaks of the brain being made up of 60% saturated fat, so it makes sense that we need to also feed our brain a good quality saturated fat, plus other brain health fats daily!
The brain normally uses glucose for energy and is also very happy to use healthy fats like MCTs for fuel, which is why MCTs are renowned for their ‘fuel your brain’ reputation. The MCTs in coconut oil get broken down into ketones, which feed the brain directly, bypassing glucose metabolism.
3. Hemp, Flax and Chia Seeds
Just a quick note on essential fatty acids, these are essential because they are not produced within the body, and therefore must be obtained through food nutrition. Put these three delightful seeds together and we have a wonderful dose and good balance of Omega 3, 6 and 9, the absolute Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs).
Also, when it comes to eating your EFA’s, quality is paramount. These molecules are heat sensitive and so if buying them in oil or extraction form consideration of process, storage and distribution must be understood. One wrong move in this delicate chain and these babies are burnt. Which is why I recommend eating them in the whole seed form. It is safe as EFA Raw Pie, as long as they are sourced organic and raw.
So crunch away, add these precious EFA abundant seeds to your smoothies, breakfast puddings, granolas, salad dressings, and salads.
Remember, your brain is made up mostly of fat, so feeding your brain these EFAs, alongside Coconut MCTs, is fuel direct nutrition for the brain.
4. Green Leaves
Mumma says to eat your greens and your brain will be happy. Now I’m talking all greens, kale, spinach, sambung, dandelion, all of them because green leaves are one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables on this beautiful green planet.
These nutrients are extremely high in brain-protecting antioxidants including beta-carotene, flavonoids, and polyphenols (popular also in coffee). So who needs a coffee in the morning when you can have a polyphenol-rich green smoothie.
Vitamin C is also worth a mention here, as these juicy leaves are loaded with it and vitamin C acts as a natural anti-depressant, by increasing the neurotransmitter serotonin. Also known as the happy love hormone.
Greenies are also a good source of omega-3’s as mentioned above, essential for brain and body health.
A green smoothie a day keeps you smiling all day.
Oh, how I love my raw nori rolls. They are so easy to make and a great way to get healthy brain regenerating seaweed into my diet.
Sea vegetables contain an abundance of minerals essential for human health in a bioavailable form. They are a good source of iodine, and may even be a good source of B12, just what vegans and veggie heads need. If you find that one hard to believe as I did, here is the research.
B12 is essential for brain and nerve health.
Taurine is also an important building block found in seaweed, it is an amino acid that stimulates the release of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid).
A couple of other simple ways to enjoy seaweed is to add dulse flakes or kelp salt into salads and soups. or try some dried wakame in warm miso soup.
Tumeric is revered in Ayurvedic medicine and has also earned its tag name, the Antidepressant and Anti-Alzheimer’s spice.
Most spices such as cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, saffron and vanilla provide some brain health benefits, but turmeric deserves a special mention.
Turmeric contains over 100 known compounds, some of which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties
Turmeric has been found to work even better than Prozac for depression and without the side effects!
Tumeric is best sourced and eaten fresh, and it is particularly easy to grow your own turmeric.
7. Raw Chocolate
Yes, you read that right, chocolate is good for your brain! However, only when eaten raw. Processed cacao can have many of its powerhouse nutrients damaged when heated.
Kept raw, cacao is a powerful antioxidant and a great source of tryptophan the amino acid precursor of serotonin.
It’s also an appreciable source of the anti-stress mineral magnesium.
Chocolate is one of the few dietary sources of anandamide, a naturally occurring neurotransmitter called the “bliss molecule. Anandamide binds to the same receptors as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the primary psychoactive component in marijuana.
Yes, those chocolate cravings are completely justified. It really does make you feel better and keep your brain healthy.
Fresh berries, with an emphasis on blueberries, are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals and have been linked to improved memory and learning capability. The high concentration of gallic acid also found in blueberries helps protect cognitive function by working to reduce oxidative stress, which can lead to neurodegeneration.
Celery contains a plant compound called luteolin, which is a potent antioxidant that can help calm inflammation in the brain; inflammation being the number one cause of neurodegeneration.
Celery also provides a healthy dose of fibre, as well as vitamins C and K and potassium, and is great to munch on as a snack, or dip into some raw hummus or cashew cheese.
10. Raw Nuts, Especially Walnuts!
Did I leave the best till last? Nuts are literally brimming with protein, vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Which is why I love the raw lifestyle because I eat so many nuts.
According to Julie Corliss, Executive Editor of Harvard Health Letter,
People who eat nuts live longer, healthier lives than those who don’t. While every nut offers brain health benefits, the walnut is undisputedly the leader of the pack.
Walnuts are one of the best sources of ALA (alpha-linoleic-acid), another important plant form of omega-3 EFAs. To sum up much of the brain health research available today, walnuts have the ability to reverse several parameters of brain ageing. They are effective in keeping your mental and cognitive function young!
Now, this is worth eating a few walnuts a day for.
Nuts also contain the mood-elevating serotonin. Serotonin is an important chemical and neurotransmitter in the body, which helps to relay messages from one area of the brain to another. This includes brain cells related to mood, sexual desire and function, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation, and some social behaviour
Jenni Madison is the founder of Coconut Magic. She is living her dream of beautiful Nature. Amongst what once was an avocado farm, she is growing her own veggies, eating raw, frequently fasting, and sharing her authentic passion about connecting with Nature on her personal blog, Jenni Madison.