Coffee, chocolate, and dates, oh my! Some foods you wouldn’t think of as being the best for your brain actually have some surprising benefits. With the brain being one of the most important organs in the body, extra TLC can give a good boost.
Coffee: Rich in Antioxidants!
Many have heard that coffee can be unhealthful due to it spiking blood sugar, cortisol, and even depleting minerals. Yes, it's true if you drink a sugary frappuccino from Starbucks or a black coffee on an empty stomach. But, there is a smart way to drink coffee in order to reap the benefits of this truly ancestral drink.
To absorb all the nutrients coffee has to offer, make sure to drink coffee from an organic or biodynamic source. This will ensure the coffee was grown in a safer, and less toxic way and free of pesticides. Organic coffee has more micronutrients than regular coffee such as magnesium, potassium, niacin, B vitamins, and minerals. In fact, one study found that light and medium roasts contained more polyphenols than dark roasts, and organic coffee beans had more antioxidant compounds than conventional beans! The antioxidant content of coffee is extremely important as antioxidants can prevent oxidative stress on brain cells. This is particularly important for adults as after thirteen years old, the brain virtually stops replacing dead or dying neurons.
Additionally, it's best to drink coffee with fat mixed in such as coconut milk or half and half. Drinking coffee with fat and a side of food slows the absorption of coffee and prevents a caffeine shock. In effect, this prevents your blood sugar from spiking. So next time, try to choose a coffee that is organic and has some healthy fat. After all, coffee is one of the best sources of neuroprotective antioxidants available!
Dark Chocolate = Magnesium
Everyone loves chocolate, but not all chocolate is created equal! A milky way candy bar is not equal to an organic dark chocolate bar with 70% cacao. With many differences between these two, one of the main differences being their magnesium content. Magnesium is essential when it comes to brain functioning and helps with the brain’s ability to change. This flexibility for the brain to change (neuroplasticity) allows our brains to forge new neural connections which affect learning, memory, behavior, and general cognitive function.
Dark chocolate is one of the best sources of magnesium! In fact, dark chocolate contains approximately 65 mg of magnesium in a single 1-ounce (28-gram) serving. Therefore, eating dark chocolate (in moderation) can greatly boost your overall magnesium levels! Research suggests this to be true, as magnesium in the brain acts as the gatekeeper for your receptors, which aid in brain development, memory, and learning.
Dates can Decrease the Risk of Alzheimers
Delicious, and rich in polyphenols, fiber, potassium, magnesium, iron, and antioxidants, dates could be considered a superfood when it comes to supporting your brain health. All of these nutrients (as mentioned above) are amazing for brain health but looking at polyphenols specifically, this specific antioxidant is a powerhouse when it comes to protecting brain cells from damage.
Dates are even known to help prevent the risk of developing alzheimers! Individuals with Alzheimer’s have high beta-amyloid present and research suggests that the nutrients and specific antioxidants present in dates help reduce overall beta-amyloid levels in the brain. The research was done on mice and the results of this research showed that the mice fed with a standard diet had significant memory deficits, increased anxiety-related behavior, severe impairment in spatial learning ability, position discrimination learning ability, and motor coordination in comparison to those rat groups fed date supplementation. Next time you want to give your brain a boost, have a date!
Walnuts: Shaped like a Brain, Good for the Brain
Walnuts are a powerhouse of nutrients and healthy brain-boosting fats. Not only do these nuts look like the brain, but they are also highly beneficial for the brain! Walnuts are rich in omega 3 fatty acid ALA which converts into DHA. According to research, DHA improves learning ability and supports proper brain blood flow. Adequate blood flow to the brain not only supports memory but can also decrease the risk of developing dementia.
Omega 3 fatty acids are also essential for brain health as many Americans have a poor omega 3 to omega 6 ratio due to the massive amount of seed oils in many foods. A higher level of omega 6 fatty acids in the body compared to omega 3 fatty acids can be highly inflammatory. Due to this, the more omega-3 fat you eat, the less omega-6 fats will be readily available to the tissues and brain to produce inflammation. Omega-6 is pro-inflammatory, while omega-3 is anti-inflammatory. So sprinkle some walnuts the next time you eat oatmeal, a salad, or even bake cookies.
Mint: Refreshing for your Breath and Memory!
One of the best foods for garlic breath is also the best for the brain! Whether you drink mint tea, sprinkle some on to your salad, add mint to pasta sauce, or into a dessert, adding mint into your meals can help support overall brain functioning and memory. In fact, research has indicated that mint extracts and their constituents have a neuroprotective potential and can target Alzheimer's disease!
In addition to ingesting mint, peppermint essential oil can also improve brain function. One study demonstrated that inhaling the peppermint oil for five minutes before testing produced significant improvements in memory; talk about a brain food!
Kaylee Noland See all the author’s articles