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Personal Health

10 Delicious Foods to Feed Both Body and Mind

Your brain isn't a computer, it's an organ of your body that gets stronger or weaker depending upon how you feed it.
10 Delicious Foods to Feed Both Body and Mind
Image credit: Nigel O'Neil | Getty Images
VIP Contributor
Serial Entrepreneur
7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

What you eat has a massive impact not only on your body, but on your brain. Before you eat anything, take a moment to ask: Does this fuel my body or hurt my body? Are you feeding your body food that is high in nutritional value? Eating the right foods in the right amounts will help you stay healthier, and will also fine-tune your brain cells for a life of mental agility. The right diet can help you stay focused, energetic and mentally sharp.

There are plenty of tasty but healthy alternatives at your local grocery store. You just have to know what to look for. To help get you mentally in shape, here are some pro tips on 10 brain-boosting foods that will feed your mind along with your body.

1. Indulge in dark chocolate.

It’s OK to give in to your craving for chocolate. Just make sure you’re indulging in dark chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cacao. Cacao contains flavonoids, an important antioxidant, and is known to support brain health and function. Research suggests that the flavonoids in chocolate may help reverse some memory problems.

Dark chocolate can also improve the brain’s plasticity, which is crucial to many brain functions, including learning and memory. Just make sure you’re sticking with healthier dark chocolate. Most chocolate bars don’t offer the health benefits of dark chocolate, and the high levels of sugar can actually accelerate aging and inflammation.

2. The power of protein.

Protein makes up 20 percent of the human body and is one of the building blocks required to function and maintain good health. This means that getting enough protein is an important part of any diet and is extremely beneficial to maintaining brain health.

Some studies have found that high-protein diets may protect the brain and reduce your risk for developing Alzheimer's later in life. While meat and fish are usually considered high in protein, other important sources include eggs, soy, milk, beans, legumes and nuts. Try to eat foods with a ratio of at least one gram of protein to one gram of carbohydrate. Processed meat should be last on your list of proteins.

Related: Science Shows These 4 Foods Can Boost Your Business Smarts

3. Berries are nature’s candy.

If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to appease your sweet tooth, try swapping candy for antioxidant-rich berries. According to research, berries are great brain food because they reduce inflammation, help improve communication between brain cells, and reduce or delay age-related neurodegenerative disease and cognitive decline. The best berries to indulge in include blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, blackcurrants and mulberries.

Blueberries, specifically, are among the most beneficial. They’re high in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese. Some studies have found that eating blueberries helps improve memory and may even delay short-term memory loss.

4. Green tea has medicinal properties.

Green tea contains bioactive compounds such as catechins, which are natural antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and provide other benefits. Some of the most powerful compounds in green tea are epigallocatechin gallates (EGCG), which have been studied for their medicinal properties in treating various diseases.

Green tea contains caffeine, which has been shown to improve various aspects of brain function, including improved mood, reaction time and memory. It also contains the amino acid L-theanine, believed to increase the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA, which has anti-anxiety effects. Studies show that the combination of caffeine and L-theanine is particularly potent at improving brain function.

Related: The Internet Is Bad Brain Food and Other Vacation Learnings

5. Your brain needs fatty acids.

Omega-3s help build membranes around each cell in the body, and DHA is especially important for the cell membranes of the brain and retina. While salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines are high in omega-3s, the problems are a 90 percent drop in this fish stocks worldwide and serious pollutants found in the fish still available.

There are two types of omega-3s, and you don’t need to eat fish to get enough of both. Short chain omega-3, (alpha-linolenic acid, known as ALA) is found in ground flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts. The long-chain omega-3s, DHA and EPA, are made in the body from ALA in small amounts and are difficult to get from foods (other than fish), but lots of algae-derived supplements are on the market. Just search "vegan DHA EPA supplement."

6. Combine beet juice and exercise.

Drinking beet juice will help lower blood pressure and increase blood flow to the brain. Beetroot juice contains dietary nitrates that increase your blood’s nitric oxide level, which in turn increases athletic performance and improves cognitive functions.

This can significantly enhance your exercise tolerance and performance. Other studies showed that a single dose of beetroot juice enhances blood flow to the brain, and results in measurable improvements in cognitive performance.

7. Black walnuts prevent neuro diseases.

Black walnuts contain three main components that make them beneficial when consumed -- antioxidants, polyunsaturated fats and phenolic compounds. Walnuts also contain a range of other nutrients, including fiber, protein, melatonin and folate, which is a type of B vitamin.

Ellagitannins have anti-inflammatory and free-radical-fighting properties in the body. According to the research, these compounds help prevent the onset and progression of neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Related: Fuel Up: Eating for Optimal Brain Function

8. Olive oil is liquid gold.

Nutritionists have dubbed olive oil liquid gold not only for its long-known health benefits for the heart but also for helping to boost cognition and memory in general. Olive oil increases autophagy, which is a kind of detoxification system in your brain.

It’s important to include olive oil and other healthy fats such as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 and omega-6) in your diet, as these help reduce the risk of heart disease. They also protect neurons and boost neurotransmission in the brain. At the same time, however, it’s important to avoid trans fats or artificial fats found in processed foods, as well as “bad” saturated fats, found in refined carbohydrates, including many processed snack foods.

9. Avocado up!

Avocados are one of the best superfoods you should be including in your diet. Their yellowish-green buttery insides are packed with an abundance of nutrients, including vitamin K, vitamin C and more potassium than a banana!

They’re rich in folate, which can help boost your mood, and oleic acid and omega-9 fatty acids that are linked to improved brain health, memory and cognition. Other studies have found that they may help prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and may keep your eyes healthy as you age.

They’re loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids that can help reduce your cholesterol and they’re loaded with fiber. Some research shows that people who eat avocados tend to be healthier. There’s even evidence that avocados may help prevent cancer.

10. Turmeric and curcumin.

Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. This spice is found in foods from India, Indonesia and Thailand, and has been shown to have any great health benefits.

Curcumin is known to boost brain function and lower the risk of brain disease because it increases the levels of an important growth hormone in the brain known as the brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Many of the studies researching the benefits of turmeric use extracts that contain mostly curcumin, in quantities exceeding one gram per day. In order to get the full effects, you may consider taking a supplement that contains curcumin.

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