Pop quiz: what do salmon, strawberries, and whole-wheat toast have in common? They are all brain foods! Believe it or not, the food you eat can play a major role in energy level and brain function.
Omega-3 fatty acids, are most popularly known for their health benefits to the heart; however, these nutrients also have a positive affect on brain function. Consuming omega-3 fats can improve thought processing, learning, and neuron development (the building blocks of the brain) according to, Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience. Omega-3 fats must be consumed through dietary sources because the body does not produce these extremely beneficial compounds. Omega-3’s can be found in coldwater fish such as salmon, mackerel and fresh tuna. Several other sources include: walnuts, chia seeds, egg yolks, hemp seeds, and various bread and pasta items that have been fortified with omega-3 fatty acids (this will be evident on the food label).
Phytochemical-rich berries like strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries have a beneficial role in brain function according to a review published in Neural Regeneration Research. Phytochemicals are healthy, biological compounds in plants. Berries have high amounts of phytochemicals that have been suggested to improve neuroplasticity—the way the brain creates new pathways and reorganizes information. Studies have suggested that berries protect neurons from disease and degeneration. Aim for 3-5 servings of fruit daily.
Breakfast Tip: Pass the Oatmeal Please!
Incorporating whole grains at breakfast is associated with higher reading and math scores. Surprisingly, fruit juice at breakfast time was negatively correlated with reading and math scores according to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Scientists predict this is because of the high simple sugar content in the fruit juice. Simple sugars, found in sugary cereals, breakfast pastries, honey, and maple syrup, can cause a quick spike in blood sugar followed by a crash. Complex carbohydrates on the other hand, found in whole-grain products like oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, and quinoa, lead to better attention span and memory.