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Can food make you smarter?

I'm Sarah - wife to my amazing husband, John, and mom to two little girls, Cami and Maisie.  I used to work in the finance industry before having my daughters, and now I'm a freelance personal finance writer and blogger.  I love being wi...

Healthy brain food

Does what we eat play a role in how well we remember things? Does our diet make us smarter?
Healthy brain food

We all know it's crucial to eat a well-balanced diet in order to maintain good overall health and reduce our risk of obesity and high blood pressure, but what about our brain health? Does what we eat affect how smart we are? Can changing our diet improve our ability to remember certain things and be more focused and alert?

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On its own, food, unfortunately, will not make us any smarter (don't think by eating steel-cut oats with blueberries every morning you'll all of a sudden develop street smarts), but certain foods can increase our focus and awareness. In fact, according to Scientific American, the brain uses more energy (roughly 20 percent) than any other organ in our body — meaning most of what we eat will end up fueling our brains. This is why a diet rich in fruits, veggies and omega-3s is significantly better than a diet consisting of processed foods and refined sugars.

What we eat increases brain activity

Did you know? Keeping your brain fueled with vitamins and minerals reduces your risk of depression, Alzheimer's and other brain disorders (source: Food for the Brain).

Healthy foods — like salmon, eggs and tea — increase the activity of our brains and help promote healthy cell development. They help our brains run more efficiently, can lift our moods and make us feel more alert throughout the day. If you're feeling more alert, there's a good chance you'll do better at your job and be inclined to challenge yourself more. Think about it — how do you feel physically and mentally after eating fast food for lunch? What about if your lunch consisted of lean meats, fresh fruit and fresh veggies? Depending on what you choose, you'll either need a nap, or you'll be ready to tackle your afternoon. If you feel better physically, you do better mentally.

The best foods for our brains

Healthy brain food

So even though foods won't make us smarter (to get smarter, you have to go back to your schooling days and learn, research and study), certain foods will better improve our brain function. According to Pick the Brain, these foods include:

  • Healthy fats — salmon, tuna, eggs and flaxseeds
  • Foods rich in antioxidants — blueberries, carrots, broccoli, spinach and tea
  • Lean proteins — seafood, soy, lean chicken and fish
  • Vitamins and minerals — iron, calcium, vitamin C and B-vitamins
  • High-fiber foods — beans, nuts and veggies

One final tip: Drink water

If all else fails, stay hydrated. Water is good for the brain and without it, it can't function properly. According to Psychology Today, being dehydrated drastically affects our short-term memory and can even impair our long-term memory over time. Brain cells lose efficiency without water, and the results can be detrimental.

Reader challenge

Change one thing about your diet to make it more "brain-healthy." This can include replacing your morning coffee with water and tea, bringing fresh fruit to work instead of grabbing chips from the vending machine or adding a multivitamin into your daily routine.

More on brain health

Brain power: Eat to improve your memory
Smart foods: 7 ways food impacts mood and memory
Foods that improve brain power

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