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A Veggie Lover's Guide to the Best Foods for Brain Health

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

The right food choices can boost your brain and memory. Read on to learn about the best foods for brain health that are all vegan approved.

We all know the importance of getting your 5-a-day. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is a great way to keep the body healthy. Unfortunately, only about 10% of American adults aren't eating enough fruit and vegetables a day. Fruits and vegetables provide the body with essential nutrients that are responsible for several functions in the human body. In and amongst these vegan-approved foods are some of the best foods for brain health. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the foods that contain the most important nutrients for your brain so you can make sure your cognitive health is operating at its best.

Coffee You can breathe a sigh of relief, coffee is good for you! Coffee contains antioxidants and caffeine making it exceptionally good for your diet and brain health. If you wake up feeling groggy, the first thing most people do is make themselves a cup of coffee, and there’s a good reason for this. Caffeine blocks a chemical called adenosine which is responsible for making us feel drowsy. This is why coffee makes us feel alert. Caffeine also helps to boost the production of feel-good chemicals in the brain such as dopamine. It can also help to improve short-term concentration and focus. There are also long-term advantages of drinking coffee for your brain. Drinking 3-4 cups of coffee a day has been found to reduce the risk of several neurological diseases including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Blueberries There’s a good reason why blueberries are often referred to as a superfood. Blueberries contain compounds that have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. This helps to tackle inflammation and oxidative stress in the body and brain. Both of these can contribute to neurodegenerative diseases and brain aging. Eating blueberries regularly can help to improve communication between certain cells in the brain. This might help to improve memory, problem-solving skills, and other cognitive processes.

Brocolli Brocolli is packed full of vitamin K. This vitamin is responsible for forming a type of fat that is present in our brain cells called sphingolipids. They are essential for proper brain function and development as well as maintaining the functional integrity of the central nervous system. One 160g serving of broccoli contains all the vitamin K you need to keep your brain healthy and improve your memory. Brocolli also contains several compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which can help fight against brain aging.

Turmeric Turmeric does a lot more than give curries their deep yellow coloring. It contains an active ingredient called curcumin. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of curcumin make it a potent food choice for brain health. Curcumin can help to tackle neurodegenerative diseases and has been found to improve memory in Alzheimer’s patients. It also helps to boost the production of serotonin and dopamine, which are responsible for improving mood. Curcumin might even help brain cells grow, helping to relate to the mental decline associated with aging. Most studies that have found positive results with curcumin used high doses of around 500-2000mg a day. This is much more than you’d get from adding turmeric to your food. So while adding it to meals and beverages won’t hurt, it might be worth supplementing curcumin as well.

Dark Chocolate Some dark chocolate contains no animal-derived products making it a great vegan food for brain health. It contains several compounds that are good for diet and brain health including caffeine, antioxidants, and flavonoids. Eating dark chocolate regularly can help to optimize flavonoid levels in the brain, which is thought to help enhance memory, and problem-solving skills and can reduce the rate of age-related cognitive decline. Dark chocolate can also stimulate the production of endorphins and can help to elevate mood and keep cortisol at bay.

Pumpkin Seeds Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, magnesium, copper, and iron. These minerals are all essential for brain health. They help to improve brain function, reduce brain fog, and help with learning and memory. Pumpkin seeds also contain antioxidants that help to protect the brain from the damage caused by free radicals. Pumpkin seeds can be eaten as a snack or added to your favorite salads and meals.

Oranges A single medium-sized orange contains all the vitamin C you need in a day. Vitamin C is a key vitamin for preventing age-related mental decline. Getting the right amount of vitamin C helps improve cognitive function including attention, memory, and focus. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect against damage to brain cells by fighting off free radicals. It can help maintain a healthy brain as you age as well as protecting from neurodegenerative diseases and conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Green Tea Just like coffee, green tea contains caffeine, which improves alertness, focus, and memory. Green tea also contains several other brain-boosting compounds that can’t be found in coffee. Green tea contains the amino acid L-theanine which can make you feel more relaxed and help reduce symptoms of anxiety. L-theanine boosts the frequency of alpha waves in the brain. This helps you to relax without feeling tired. Green tea is also rich in antioxidants which help protect the brain from age-related mental decline and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Kale Kale, along with other leafy greens, is thought to support brain health. Kale contains compounds called glucosinolates which help to protect against oxidative stress and inflammation. Glucosinolates help to protect the cells of the brain as well as defend against several cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. Kale is also rich in vitamins and minerals including:

  • Vitamin B6

  • Vitamin A

  • Vitamin K

  • Copper

  • Potassium

  • Magnesium

All of these are essential nutrients for your brain.

Try These Best Foods for Brain Health Having a healthy brain is not just essential for protecting yourself from neurodegenerative diseases and age-related mental decline. A healthy brain also means an improved sense of well-being. These best foods for brain health will help to keep your brain healthy and functioning at an optimum level. By making sure you get all the nutrients your brain needs as part of a healthy diet you'll be investing in cognitive longevity and healthy and happier life. If you found this article useful, then be sure to take a look at the rest of our website for more information on how a plant-based diet can help to bring out the best in you.

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