8 ultimate power foods for the brain
The saying goes that “you are eat”. And while that may have become a bit of a cliché, it still rings true – especially for the brain.
As a result, there are foods that have been shown to improve cognition and/or protect long-term brain health1. And here at Instant Knockout Academy, we’ve put the best foods in a list, so you know exactly what to eat to fuel up brainpower.
Your brain requires a lot of energy – in fact, around 20% of your body’s calories are used up by your brain daily2. Eating a brain-boosting diet can maintain short- and long-term brain function, so you can perform better during intense training and maintain concentration throughout your day.
So which foods are best for your brain? We take a detailed look.
8 of the best power foods for the brain
You’ve heard the buzz about fish oils, right? Well, that comes from the fact that fish – particularly fatty fish – contain omega 3 fatty acids, which is said to help the brain generate nerve cells. This, in turn, makes omega-3s essential for learning and memory and may help prevent (or at least slow down) age-related cognitive decline3.
The most important omega-3s are said to be docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). When taken as a supplement, DHA has been shown to boost attention – and may even reduce the symptoms of attention deficit disorder (ADHD)4.
Blueberries are rich in antioxidants that can help improve memory and maintain brain function. More specifically, blueberries provide anthocyanins – a type of flavonoid that gives blueberries their distinctive blue color. These compounds have been shown to fight inflammation and oxidative stress – a major cause of cognitive decline6 and the reason why you feel muscle soreness after exercise.
In fact, research suggests blueberry consumption can positively impact memory and learning by reducing oxidative stress on “aging neurons”7.
During one six-year study looking at the effects of berry consumption in 16,010 older people, greater intake of blueberries appeared to reduce the rate of cognitive decline by up to 2.5 years8.
3. Leafy green vegetables
Leafy green vegetables like spinach, arugula, broccoli and collards are packed full of brain-boosting nutrients. These include the following9:
- Vitamin K
Broccoli, for example, is especially rich in vitamin K – providing nearly all your recommended daily intake (RDI)10. This fat-soluble vitamin was discovered in 1935 and has been shown to play a role in the growth and development of the brain cells11.
Meanwhile, beta-carotene and lutein are carotenoids that appear to have anti-inflammatory properties that can protect against inflammation and promote longevity12. Folate is also said to affect mood and cognition. In fact, folate deficiency is prevalent among younger and older people with neuropsychiatric disorders13.
According to statista.com, 63% of Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee and 44% said they drank up to three 7oz cups of ‘Joe’ every single day14. Caffeine is probably one of the most popular power foods for the brain available. And while excess consumption of coffee – or anything else – can have negative effects, coffee has been shown to:
Boost alertness: Caffeine is thought to block adenosine – a brain chemical associated with sleepiness15.
Improve memory & concentration: In research, caffeine consumption appeared to increase “vigilance” and sustained attention16. The stimulant is thought to improve working memory, which is important for ignoring distractions17 18.
Lift your mood: In moderate amounts, caffeine may help reduce anxiety and improve subjective well-being19.
An amino acid found in green tea, L-theanine is said promote focus and alertness without stimulation, and relaxation without sedation20. In other words, it could give you the mental energy and clarity you need to perform your best under pressure.
Caffeine and L-theanine
Studies suggest that together, caffeine and L-theanine can work ‘synergistically’ to boost sustained attention, sharpen focus and reduce the jitteriness that can sometimes occur from caffeine consumption21.
As a result, the blend of caffeine and L-theanine is known as ‘smart caffeine’. So by combining number 4 and number 5 on this list, you could sharpen your senses and get into your flow more easily.
While you’d have to drink a lot of green tea to get enough L-theanine for this purpose22, you can find more concentrated and clinically-dosed amounts in supplements.
Instant Knockout Cut, for instance, combines the steady, energizing power of caffeine and L-theanine to make sure you can smash your workout targets without any jitters or crashes. What’s more, you get added vitamin B12 which has the potential to increase energy, concentration and mood – all of which can impact your weight.
Find out more about Instant Knockout Cut here.
6. Medicinal mushrooms
Certain types of mushrooms have been used for centuries in ayurvedic medicine. These include reishi, shiitake and turkey tail.
But arguably the most powerful medicinal mushroom for the brain is lion’s mane mushroom, which could help improve the following:
- Long-term brain health
Research suggests lion’s mane may help improve the aspects of cognition listed above by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress (both of which can damage the neurons)23. The mushroom is also thought to increase nerve growth factor (NGF), which may help protect long-term brain health24. NGF may even protect against neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease – although further research is required to confirm this25.
You can eat lion’s mane raw, dried and cooked. You can also steep it and drink as a tea. As a food, the mushroom has a seafood-like taste – similar to lobster or crab26. However, the concentrated amounts of the active hericenones and erinacines found in supplements may be more effective.
Some researchers believe that nut consumption could help prevent “age-related brain dysfunction”27. In another study, people who ate nuts for extended periods appeared to enjoy sharper memories than people who didn’t eat nuts28.
So which types of nuts are best for the brain?
Well, the nuts which contain the highest levels of vitamin E are:
Key note: While research suggests nuts may help treat age-related cognitive decline, more in-depth research needs to take place to confirm this.
8. Dark chocolate
According to an article posted on the Harvard website, dark chocolate contains flavanols – which the university describes as “plant-based substances” that “may benefit human brain function”. The article refers to a 2011 study which suggests that dark chocolate consumption can improve memory and performance in adults aged 50-6931.
It appears that the flavanols in dark chocolate work by increasing blood flow and oxygen to the brain.
The bottom line
There’s no doubt that you need to eat good, nutrient-rich foods to be healthy. And as your whole body relies on your brain to function, you must do your best to feed your mind and ensure it stays healthy for longer.
This article doesn’t provide an exhaustive list of healthy foods and ingredients for the brain – you can get all the nutrients you need from other foods. That said, you may improve your life by adding these top power foods for the brain to your diet.
If you’re not sure where to start with your fitness, give Instant Cut a go, for a natural energy boost, new levels of burn and excellent weight loss results. Train and fuel up like a pro.