The brain is the command center of the body. It’s the central organ of the nervous system, navigating the senses, receiving information, sending instructions, making decisions, and forever changing. It only makes sense to offer your brain the best fuel there is.
An ever-growing bank of research is exposing the far-reaching health benefits of plant-based foods, including for optimal brain health.
17 of the Best Vegan Foods and Supplements for Brain Health
Tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene can help protect the body against damage caused by compounds called free radicals. When free radicals outnumber antioxidants, they can cause oxidative stress in the body, which can lead to illnesses like cancer and dementia. Tomatoes are also rich in vitamin C.
Cooking tomatoes with olive oil can optimize absorption and efficacy, according to BBC Good Food.
Blueberries could help with short-term memory thanks to their high count of anthocyanins – a group of plant compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. This can help combat neurodegenerative disease. According to research, antioxidants found in blueberries can also improve communication between brain cells.
Blueberries can be a great snack between meals or a healthy addition to smoothies, cereals, and desserts – like this vegan vanilla sponge cake with tofu frosting. You can even purchase blueberry energy bars online.
3. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts are a sound source of vitamin E, which can help prevent cognitive decline, according to research. One large study that analyzed brain function in older women found that participants who regularly consumed nuts had sharper memory than those who didn’t.
Almonds, cashews, peanuts, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and sesame seeds are all great options, easy to include in dishes or grab in a handful before heading out for the day. Walnuts, linseeds, and chia seeds are other great choices as they are also rich in omega-3. You can enjoy many nuts and seeds in butter form, like Jiva Organics’ creamy organic almond butter.
Consuming this sharp-flavored herb could improve brain power, including memory and concentration. One study found that participants who consumed sage as an essential oil could recall information more accurately than those who did not.
As well as oils, you can use sage as a seasoning, like on pasta.
Fans of avocados will be happy to hear that tucking into this fruit can promote good brain health. While avocados contain fat, it is a monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy blood flow. “And healthy blood flow means a healthy brain,” Steven Pratt, MD, author of “SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life,” told WebMD.
Avocados can be a good addition to dishes like nachos and wraps. It can also be an easy quick meal option, simply spread on to toast. If you’re feeling up to it, you can try avocado beer (though we can’t promise this will be good for brain health).
Rosemary could have a positive impact on memory, according to research by the psychology department at Northumbria University. Just the smell of the herb (specifically, rosemary essential oil) was found to enhance memory in people over 65 years old.
A particularly popular ingredient over the holiday period, you can even purchase edible rosemary Christmas trees.
7. Whole Grains
Low-GI whole grains like brown cereals, rice, and pasta can help you stay mentally alert. These foods can also reduce the risk of heart disease. “Every organ in the body is dependent on blood flow,” Pratt told WebMD. “If you promote cardiovascular health, you’re promoting good flow to the organ system, which includes the brain.”
“The Great Vegan Grains Book,” which can be purchased online, provides more than 100 plant-based recipes that celebrate whole grains.
Beans – including black beans and lentils – can help stablize glucose levels in the blood. This is important for brain health since the brain relies on glucose or fuel but cannot store its own.
Beans can easily be incorporated into chilli, nachos, burritos, or even into burger patties.
Rich in B vitamins, bananas can protect the brain as we age and promote good memory. They are also rich in magnesium, which can help facilitate activity between nerve cells in the brain.
A great breakfast food and easy lunchbox addition, bananas can also be enjoyed in a smoothie (find them in supermarkets or online) or used to make vegan ice cream.
The active ingredient in turmeric, called curcumin, is able to cross the blood-brain barrier, allowing it to directly interact with the brain and its cells. Curcumin can help brain cells grow and assist with memory.
Turmeric is used to spice many dishes, including scrambled tofu, but can also be consumed as a supplement.
According to researchers, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other age-related brain degeneration could be linked to a deficiency in vitamin C, of which broccoli is rich in. The vitamin could also be helpful in managing anxiety and stress. Broccoli is a good source of vitamin K – in fact, in contains more than 100 percent of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) in just one cup – which can better cognitive function.
The vegetable is also high in compounds known as glucosinolates, which are important for central nervous system function. Add a handful of the veg to your soup, curry, or pasta dish for a protein kick, since broccoli also contains more protein per calorie than steak.
12. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc, which plays can improve memory and thinking skills. They are also rich in magnesium, B vitamins, and tryptophan, which can reduce stress and boost mood. Additionally, pumpkin seeds deliver copper, which the brain uses to help control nerve signals. You can find pumpkin seeds in most supermarkets or you can purchase them online.
Spinach can support sound memory skills due to its high vitamin B content. The leafy green veg is also rich in nutrients like vitamin K, folate, beta carotene, and lutein, which can help slow cognitive decline, according to Harvard.
14. Dark Chocolate
Chocolate lovers will be glad to hear that eating dark chocolate can benefit health. Dark chocolate and cocoa powder are rich in flavonoids, a group of antioxidant plant compounds that interact with learning and memory. One study of nearly 1,000 people uncovered that those who ate chocolate displayed better cognitive performance in tasks involving memory, organization, and reasoning.
However, don’t go overboard. One-half of an ounce to one ounce a day is all you need.
Oranges are known for their high vitamin C content – in fact, just one medium orange provides you with your whole day’s worth. Good levels of vitamin C can improve mental agility and help fight age-related disease.
16. Green Tea
Drinking green tea may give you more mental clarity, according to research that found that L-theanine and caffeine, found in green tea, have “clear beneficial effects on sustained attention, memory, and suppression of distraction.”
The beverage could also benefit memory and mood.
17. Moon Juice Brain Dust
This herbal supplement from Moon Juice contains a blend of adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms that are said to combat the effects of stress and promote mental clarity and concentration. It contains extracts from non-GMO lion’s mane mushroom, maca root, astragalus root, Rhodiola root, ashwagandha root and leaf, and gingko. Sweetened with stevia, this supplement is vegan, gluten-free, and is made with zero fillers.
View the product here.
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