Your diet has a profound effect on how clearly you think, concentrate and remember. Every nerve cell, the chemicals called neurotransmitters that relay information from one nerve to the next and the circulatory system that carries oxygen to the brain, depend on a constant supply of nutrients to function properly throughout your entire life. To help you boost your mood and memory, keep these brain-boosting foods on your daily menu.
Eat to keep your brain power at its best
Don't take feeling fine as a sign of thinking at your best. In most cases, your mental function is affected long before you notice physical problems. Consequently, vague yet profound changes, such as cloudy thinking, mental fatigue or reduced memory, can progress undetected because you otherwise feel fine.
And there's no reason to put up with "getting by" when you can think at your best with the following -- and very simple -- dietary guidelines.
Eat breakfast to boost your brain
Breakfast is essential for restocking drained glucose stores, the brain's main fuel. Your morning meal needn't be big or complicated, but it must be nutritious. Include at least one fruit, one whole grain, and a protein-rich source, such as nonfat milk or an egg substitute. For example, a whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter, an orange and a glass of nonfat milk.
Space your meals so you don't space out
Eat every three to four hours and always include whole grains for brain fuel, with a little protein to sustain energy and alertness.
Lighten up for alertness
Avoid high-fat or "heavy" meals that contain more than 1,000 calories, which divert the blood supply to the digestive tract and away from the brain, leaving you sluggish and sleepy.
Amp up brain-healthy antioxidants
Colorful fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and other unprocessed foods contain a wealth of antioxidants that protect delicate brain tissue from damage caused by oxygen fragments, called oxidants or free radicals. Left unchecked, this damage is associated with memory loss and even dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Maintain a healthy antioxidant arsenal by including at least nine servings of colorful fruits and vegetables in your daily diet -- two at every meal and at least one at every snack.
Embrace fat for brain power
While saturated fats clog arteries and diminish brain function, omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, boost mood, mind and memory, and possibly lower Alzheimer's risk by up to 60 percent. Aim for two servings of fatty fish a week or at least 220 milligrams of DHA daily from foods or supplements fortified with an algal-based, contaminant-free DHA (look for "life'sDHA" on the label of many supplements and foods, including milk, cheese, bread, eggs, pasta sauce and more).
Limit alcohol, nicotine and caffeine to improve your memory
Limit alcohol and avoid nicotine, which can be toxic to the brain or constrict blood vessels and interfere with circulation (and oxygen flow) to the brain. The good news: A glass of red wine several times a week aids brain function. A cup of coffee might kick-start the day and even temporarily improve memory, but more than three cups during the day can interfere with mental processes and give you the "coffee jitters."
Eliminate neurotoxins to up your IQ
Avoid exposure to mercury, lead and other toxic metals that damage brain and nerve tissue and are associated with subtle neurological and psychological disorders, including learning disabilities, reduced attention span, poor reasoning and concentration skills, and reduced IQ.
More memory tips
How to improve your memory
A series on memory and how to improve it and help your brain function better.
The opinions expressed in this article are of the author and the author alone. They do not reflect the opinions of SheKnows, LLC or any of its affiliates and they have not been reviewed by an expert in a related field or any member of the SheKnows editorial staff for accuracy, balance or objectivity. Content and other information presented on the Site are not a substitute for professional advice, counseling, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical or mental health advice from your physician or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on SheKnows. SheKnows does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.