It’s making a super fast breakfast to optimize your brain function, but also getting smart with your snacks and knowing what your brain needs for lunch and dinner.
Try some of these easy ideas to build more brain-friendly eating habits:
Start your day with some brain food for breakfast:
- Oatmeal mixed with 1 tablespoon flaxseeds, 1 teaspoon peanut butter, sliced banana or other fresh fruit, and some walnuts or almonds on top. Flaxseeds are an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a healthy fat that boosts cerebral cortex function.
- Yogurt with fresh fruit and granola. Layer 1/2 cup of yogurt, 1 tablespoon granola, 1 cup fresh fruit (sliced or diced), and a spoonful of nuts such as walnuts and almonds. Almonds are beneficial for increased attention and awareness necessary for learning, as well as restoring memory and cognitive function.
- Eggs. They are a powerful mix of B vitamins (they help nerve cells to burn glucose), antioxidants (they protect neurons against damage), and omega-3 fatty acids (they keep nerve cells functioning at optimal speed).
- Smoothie with berries and beets. The natural nitrates in beets can increase blood flow to your brain, improving mental performance. In a blender, combine 1/2 cup of orange juice, 1 cup frozen berries (strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries), 1/2 cup diced beets (raw or roasted), 1 tablespoon granola, 2–3 dates, 1/4 cup coconut water or plain low-fat yogurt, and 3 ice cubes. Blend for one minute.
Use snacks to get energy and focus better:
- Walnuts. This powerful brain food improves cognitive function and can even reduce memory loss. You need less than a handful for maximum effect.
- Fresh fruit. Rich in vitamin C, fruit boosts mental agility and reduces decline in the brain’s cognitive abilities. Eat it whole (apple, banana, tangerine, pear, and peach) or dice several different types of fruit and eat as a fruit salad (watermelon, papaya, mango, berries, cantaloupe, oranges, grapefruit, and pineapple).
- A fruit and nut mix. Prepare it ahead of time and bring it with you to school or work; it’s great for an energy boost when you feel that mid-afternoon slump. Mix up a tablespoonful each of walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, raisins, figs, dates, dried apricots or peaches.
Boost your brain power with lunch and dinner:
- Salad with fresh spinach and lentils. Lentils are rich in vitamin B which can help improve brain power, while dark leafy greens such as spinach may reduce cognitive decline. For a protein boost that will keep you fuller, add some grilled salmon which is also rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids.
- Seafood. Grill, bake, or saute salmon, mackerel, kippers, or trout. These are considered oily fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids that contribute to healthy brain function and reducing memory loss.
- Tomato and kale salad. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that may protect our cells against damage from free radicals which are linked to memory loss. Kale is considered a super food: it’s rich in many vitamins including A, C, and K, and promotes the resilience of brain cells; it can also positively impact our memory, attention, and verbal abilities.
- Sweet potatoes. They are rich in the powerful antioxidant beta carotene, which has been linked to a boost in the brain’s cognitive function. You can steam or boil them much like regular potatoes, or you can cut them into strips and bake in the oven to make sweet potato fries (spice them up with crushed or smoked paprika, pepper, thyme, oregano).
- Whole grains. Rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber, and omega 3 fatty acids, whole grains release glucose slowly into the bloodstream so that your brain gets a steady boost of energy. They can also promote mental alertness and improve your overall mood. Steam a cup or two of the following in a rice cooker: bulgur, brown rice, barley, whole wheat couscous, or quinoa (it’s technically a seed, but is cooked just like rice).
- Carrots and squash. Much like sweet potatoes, carrots and all types of squash (spaghetti, acorn, butternut, kabocha) are rich in beta carotene, which helps improve memory and verbal skills. You can eat carrots raw, or you can steam or bake them. Squash is easiest to bake in the oven, either by slicing in half or cutting into large cubes and sprinkling with your favorite spices.