Ever have one of those days when it feels like your brain isn’t working at its best? You might feel foggy, like it’s hard to concentrate on important tasks or even follow the plot of a movie. Or maybe you had an embarrassing mental hiccup, like walking into a room and then forgetting what you went in there for.
These sorts of things happen to all of us. Most folks – even some doctors – chalk it up to natural brain aging. They believe it’s just part of getting older. But that’s not true. People in their 30s, even in their 20s, can run into these same problems.
The human brain isn’t like an encyclopedia that sits on a shelf collecting dust. It’s dynamic and full of energy. In fact, 20% of the calories you eat in a day go straight to powering your brain. That’s why the foods you eat – the fuel your brain runs on – are so important when it comes to mental performance.
Here are three of the best natural foods for better brainpower…
Oily fish. They’re a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. These good fats are helpful for a lot of things, like joint and heart health. But they also help improve the structure of brain cells called neurons. A recent study found that people with high levels of omega-3s had more blood flow to the brain. That same study also linked omega-3s to better cognition and thinking.
Some of the best fish when it comes to omega-3 content include tuna, mackerel, sardines and salmon. Skip the farmed versions and opt for wild-caught varieties whenever possible. It’s easy to find these fish in cans, but fresh or flash-frozen is always better.
Avocados. These weird fruits (food nerds will tell you they’re technically berries) contain more calories per gram than almost any other food. That’s good news when it comes to fueling your brain. Their caloric density comes from high monounsaturated fat content. Research shows these healthy fats help protect brain nerve cells called astrocytes. These cells are essential for transmitting information in the brain.
If you don’t already eat them, plain avocados can take some getting used to. One way to ease your way in is to make homemade guacamole. It’s a great side dish – or condiment – to the foods you already eat. All you need is a ripe avocado, a pinch of sea salt, a crack of black pepper and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
Dark chocolate. If it seems too good to be true, consider this… The cacao in dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, an important type of antioxidant. They fight oxidative stress, which contributes to brain fog and some age-related cognitive issues. One study found cacao flavonoids support the growth of neurons and blood vessels in parts of the brain linked to memory and learning. They also stimulate blood flow to the brain, which is how it gets important nutrients.
The cacao content is where dark chocolate’s brain benefits come from. That means you’ll want to pick a variety that has a high percentage. One recent study found that eating chocolate with at least 70% cacao improves brain plasticity, which is essential for learning. For maximum brain boosting, make sure to opt for organic dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao.
These foods are a great place to start. But they aren’t the only foods that can help you build a better brain.