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Brain Food: My Top 8 Foods for Optimal Cognitive Function

What I particularly love about being a holistic nutritionist is encouraging others to feel empowered to make informed nutritional decisions encompassing the mind, body, and soul. It’s easy to forget about this powerful trifecta when our everyday lives become so busy, but that’s when it matters even more. For me, wellness isn’t just about fueling our bodies or soothing our souls; it’s also about nurturing our minds. When we start regularly consuming foods that enhance our minds, we take our health to a new level. 

In a world that demands constant mental agility and focus, nourishing our brains with the right foods to support optimal cognitive function is essential. From boosting memory to enhancing concentration and preventing age-related decline, the foods we eat significantly shape our brain health. Optimized cognitive function also allows us to solve more problems, make more thoughtful decisions, and pay more attention to the things that matter in life – big or small. So, let’s explore some of these brain-boosting foods together.

1. Blueberries

Packed with antioxidants and flavonoids, blueberries (and other delicious berries like raspberries and blackberries) are renowned for their brain-boosting properties. Research shows that flavonoid-rich foods can inhibit neuroinflammation and enhance cognitive performance. Blueberries, in particular, are an excellent source of antioxidants, packed with vitamins C and K and fiber, all important for brain health. Blueberries also contain impressive levels of gallic acid, which is particularly good for slowing cognitive decline and reducing stress. So, consuming more blueberries with oatmeal or smoothies is a tasty way to boost your brain.

2. Wild-Caught Salmon

Wild-caught salmon is my go-to when I want to incorporate some animal protein into my meals. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, salmon is a top contender for enhancing cognitive function. As we age, these essential fats are crucial for brain health, supporting memory, focus, and overall cognitive performance. Incorporating salmon into your diet can feed your body and mind, helping you age gracefully inside and out.

3. Walnuts

Although they’re small, walnuts are mighty. Oxidative stress and inflammation contribute to many age-related diseases, but walnuts exhibit antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which may have synergistic effects that suppress inflammation and oxidative damage. Studies have shown that walnuts reduce oxidative stress, improving cognition and overall well-being. Eat walnuts alone or toss them in a salad for those extra brain-boosting effects.

4. Leafy Greens

Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support brain health. They’re particularly rich in folate, vitamin K, and lutein, which are linked to improved cognitive function and reduced risk of cognitive decline. Try including a variety of greens in your salads and soups to spice up your dishes and keep your mind healthy.

5. Turmeric

Turmeric is one of my favorite super spices. It’s well-known for its anti-carcinogenic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties as it contains a powerful compound called curcumin. Research suggests curcumin may improve memory, enhance cognitive function, and protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. I love adding turmeric to my soups, juices, and salad dressings for a brain-enhancing boost. Pro-tip: combine curcumin with a pinch of black pepper for optimal absorption.

6. Matcha

Matcha is definitely one of my “ins” for 2024. For one, it’s been shown to have an enhancing effect on mental function. Matcha is rich in antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective compounds called catechins, which are associated with enhanced cognitive function and improved mood. Whether as a latte or in a chia pudding (pro tip: add berries for double the brain-boosting effects!), matcha is a amazing ingredient to enhance your brain health.

7. Broccoli

Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are nutritional powerhouses packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support brain health. Broccoli is particularly helpful thanks to its high vitamin K and choline levels, which can help keep your memory strong. Broccoli also contains sulforaphane, which positively affects cognitive functioning and mood. I’ve got loads of broccoli-forward recipes on my blog, like this Creamy Broccoli Green Goddess Salad, to help you deliciously incorporate broccoli into your diet.

8. Dark Chocolate

Not all chocolate is created the same, and dark chocolate can actually be amazing for your health. Dark chocolate, full of flavonoids, has been shown to reduce fatigue and enhance cognitive performance in learning, memory, and attention. Indulging in dark chocolate here and there can satisfy your sweet tooth and boost your brain. Enjoy 70% or more cocoa dark chocolate in moderation as part of a balanced diet while reaping its brain-boosting benefits.

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Optimal health means harmony with your mind, body, and soul. Consuming these eight foods brings us closer to finding this harmonious balance. However, getting started can be intimidating when life just feels so busy. Let me make it a little easier for you. Check out my EG Kitchen Cleanse, which includes tonics, salads, soups, and more that contain plenty of brain-boosting ingredients to improve your cognitive function and overall health – all delivered right to your door.

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