Between getting back to routine and recovering from the holiday festivities, we could all use a little extra brain power this time of year. What better way to boost your cognitive function than with some easy-to-incorporate “nootropic” foods?
“Nootropic” may sound like a term for tropical treats, but the word actually stands for drugs or supplements that improve your brain and all of its amazing cognitive functions. While that can certainly include tropical fruit like guava and coconut, there’s a wide and varied list of foods that everyone should add to their plates in order to help bolster the old noggin.
Kale and other dark, leafy greens
Kale and other leafy greens are beloved superfoods loaded with important vitamins and nutrients that make them an essential part of anyone’s diet. These salad staples may also help strengthen your brain. They contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two vitamins that, according to a study published in Nutrition Reviews, play a role in cognitive performance in adults.
A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriatrics found that supplementation with omega-3 can stall dementia and age-related mental decline by rebalancing the ratio of omega-6s and omega-3s in your diet. So to keep your brain healthy, grab a couple of cans of sardines at the grocery store—they’re loaded with omega-3s!
Who knew those pretty purple berries were brimming with goodness? In addition to being high in potassium, phytoflavinoids, and vitamin C, blueberries are also rich in an antioxidant called anthocyanin, a compound that researchers at Tufts University found to be important for maximizing cognitive ability into old age.
Brimming with vitamin C, just 100 grams of the tropical fruit contains 380 percent of your daily recommended value. Boosting vitamin C intake is a no-brainer—research conducted in a retirement community in Sydney, Australia, found that supplementation with vitamin C led to less cognitive impairment during the aging process.
Enjoy that morning cuppa for more than the jolt it gives tired bodies. A cup of coffee (equivalent to 100 mg of caffeine) stimulates the central nervous system, which has been shown to potentially improve mental concentration in older adults. One study in particular, which combined coffee consumption with standardized testing, found coffee consumption as having a pronounced cognition-boosting effect for women.
Not a coffee drinker? Not a problem. Those who prefer the comforts of a hot cup of tea can also reap the mental benefits of caffeine, specifically by sipping on green tea. The beverage has the bonus benefit of L-theanine, an amino acid that, according to research published in Nature, can improve memory when consumed in conjunction with caffeine. No wonder drinking a cup always feels so calming.
Mom was on to something when she insisted you eat all that broccoli. The nutrient-dense cruciferous veggie is packed with brain-boosting vitamin K. Long known to be essential in blood clotting, more recent research published in the journal BioFactors points to vitamin K’s role in the creation of new brain cells. It does this by aiding the formation of sphingolipids, which are a key part of brain-cell membranes.
Lion’s mane mushroom
Studies have shown mushrooms to help stimulate nerve growth factor, which helps to maintain memory. Portabellas, cremini, and other common types of mushrooms are great and all, but when it comes to super mushrooms, it’s Lion’s mane that helps bolster the brain. Can’t find it in the grocery aisle? Look for it in Jamieson Mushroom Complex supplement instead.
Turmeric doesn’t just stain counters and make food taste delicious; the curcumin that gives this spice its golden hue is also a naturally occurring antioxidant. It’s also a great tool for stimulating neural cell generation, making it yet another nootropic food.
An excuse to eat chocolate? Yes, please. Especially now that science shows it’s actually good for you. Dark chocolate has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain and can stimulate new brain cells, which makes it the perfect treat to shave into your next morning parfait or to pair with fresh berries for dessert.
Coconut oil doesn’t just give your cooking a hint of tropical flavor. According to a clinical study published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementias, it also helps to ignite brain power by firing up neurons. Popularized through the keto diet, coconut oil’s medium-chain triglycerides help produce ATP, a high-energy molecule in the liver that fuels the brain.
They’re inexpensive, quick to whip up, and versatile. Any way you cook them, eggs are simply a smart source of protein. They’re also a savvy addition to a nootropic diet, and that’s because egg yolks are rich in choline, which, according to numerous studies, is an important nutrient for both brain development and liver function, as it helps your brain transmit signals. Eggcellent!