With classes underway and the weeks moving along rapidly, many students become so focused on their studies that their nutrition falls to the wayside. Add on the stress of exams and late-night snack breaks while studying, and you soon have a recipe for disaster.
Whether it’s smoothies or energy bars, we often think about feeding our bodies but forget to feed our minds--especially important when you’re a college student. Medical News Today confirms the need for a nutrition-oriented solution, offering a vital reminder that “the brain is an energy-intensive organ, using around 20% of the body’s calories, so it needs plenty of good fuel to maintain concentration throughout the day.”
If you feel run down or concerned about upcoming deadlines and tests, you might need to examine your current eating habits to see what your diet is missing. After that, you can strive to improve your food intake to raise your energy levels and boost your cognitive function to stay focused on your academic goals.
So steer clear of the snack and soda aisles when grocery shopping next time and focus on these 14 brain foods.
Fish, and oily fish in particular, often tops the lists for the best brain foods for good reason. Types of fish such as salmon, trout, and sardines are widely known for packing in omega-3s, vitamin B12, and other fatty acids that the brain needs since approximately 60% of the human brain is comprised of fat, and half of that fat is of the omega-3 variety, according to Healthline. The National Library of Medicine's PubMed expands on the virtues of consuming fatty fish, stating that polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are vital to the human body's overall health and well-being and can influence brain elasticity, which is crucial for college students working hard to learn, retain and apply a mass of information.
Eating a daily serving of berries boosts brain function, helping to keep your memory sharp and ready to absorb and process information. Many people are aware of the flavonoid antioxidant effects of berry fruits. Still, these sweet bursts of energy also signal pathways associated with inflammation and cell death to keep brain function at a premium.
Avoiding energy drinks and sodas does not mean you cannot enjoy a cup of coffee to get some caffeine. Two key beneficial features of coffee are its caffeine and antioxidant content. Both help your brain function at peak levels. (Just watch how much cream and sugar you add to your coffee, as too much of these can add unwanted fat and extra calories.) While moderate coffee and caffeine intake can be great for your brain, too much can have unhealthy side effects, so try to limit to no more than 4 (8-ounce) cups a day. A few positive effects of moderate consumption of coffee include:
- Increased alertness
- Enhanced mood
- Sharpened concentration
- Boosts the brain's ability to process information
- Reduced risk of degenerative aging diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's and stroke
Broccoli is the cruciferous vegetable kids love to hate, but most people come to at least respect broccoli with age, thanks to its many brain-related health benefits. Broccoli is brimming with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants that slow mental decline and boost healthy brain function.
If you love your morning eggs made your way, you are off to a great start in boosting brain health. Eggs feature various nutrients that support brain health, including folate, choline, and vitamins B6 and B12. Choline is a crucial micronutrient since your body uses it to make acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter tied to regulating memory and mood.
Loaded with vitamin C, oranges play an important role in preventing mental decline and fighting off free radicals that can compromise brain health. If you can't squeeze in a daily medium orange, opt for an extra serving of broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries, bell peppers or kiwi.
You may not have considered this herb from the mint family as brain food, but it features a few important brain-associated health benefits. Sage features compounds that can act as powerful antioxidants that bolster your brain's defense system.
Like eggs and whole grains, beans offer you a huge boost of B vitamins that are essential to achieving and maintaining consistently high brain function.
If you want to add another source of essential fatty acids, nuts and seeds offer an excellent alternative. Nuts and seeds also include vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects cells from free radicals and oxidative stress that negatively impact the brain. If you don’t love fish, walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds offer an alternative source of omega 3s.
Leafy greens like kale improve cognitive function to the point that it slows memory loss and brain function decline. The massive brain benefits in kale are due to their abundance of folate, vitamin K and lutein.
If you love guacamole at your favorite Mexican restaurant, or you enjoy an occasional piece of avocado toast, you will love adding even more avocados to your diet to improve your memory and cognitive processes. Full of healthy fats and potassium, this single-seeded berry that toggles the line between fruit and vegetable designation is a cognitive miracle that improves blood flow to the brain and much more, thanks to its infusion of healthy unsaturated fats.
Found in your favorite curry dishes, turmeric is a spice that features a host of brain benefits due to its curcumin content. Curcumin is known to cross the blood-brain barrier, which means that it has the power to directly enter the brain and provide assistance to your brain's cells. Studies have also shown that turmeric can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Here are a few additional brain-associated benefits of turmeric:
- Benefits memory
- Eases depression and can improve mood
- Helps new brain cells grow
13. Whole Grains
Adding whole grains into your diet is another easy way to incorporate the brain-bolstering vitamin E and reap its benefits with foods like brown rice, oatmeal, barley, and whole-grain bread and pasta.
14. Dark Chocolate
Many people might consider this last one too good to be true—similar to coffee's inclusion in the list—but dark chocolate and cocoa powder offer several brain-healthy compounds including caffeine, antioxidants and flavonoids. Further, its reputation as a mood booster is not a myth. A recent study by The National Library of Medicine's PubMed studied chocolate and crackers to see which food most boosted participants' moods. You can probably guess which one increased participant happiness.
Learn about more strategies to help you earn your undergraduate or graduate degree online from JWU in good health by bolstering your cognitive abilities with nutritious food, exercise and relaxation. For more information about JWU's academic offerings and student support, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].