Brain Boosters: Foods That Can Help Improve Your Intelligence, Alertness, Focus, And Memory
When it comes to your brain, there’s always room for improvement. One can never be too smart, too witty, nor full of too many useless facts. Still, all the effort needed to acquire such abilities is rather tiring. If only we could eat a food that would instantly transform us into geniuses. Well, until scientists develop this magic cuisine, here are a few foods that may help out a bit with your brain’s strength.
No one ever started their day wishing that they were less smart. Colleges make billions by promising hopeful 18-year-olds that four years at their institutions will make them more intelligent than the rest of the population. Little do they know that similar results could be achieved by simply consuming…dark chocolate? In a study conducted by Northumbria University in England, students performed better on simple math tests after drinking shakes chock full of cocoa, Fox News reported. It’s not that dark chocolate makes you “smarter” but it does help the knowledge you already have shine through a bit better. The flavonol in dark chocolate boosts the circulatory system, increasing the amount of blood that reaches your brain, according to Fox News. This ultimately increases brain functions which would explain why test scores can improve after a quick chocolaty snack.
When you’re feeling sluggish, you may be tempted to grab a coffee or candy bar for a quick pick me up. Although these foods will give you an instant energy boost, it’s often short lived and the later crash can leave you worse off. Vitamin E filled almonds may offer a more effective alternative. These are the most nutrient filled nuts, according to a 2010 study,Business Insider reported. The vitamin E and magnesium in almonds will keep your brain at top-working capacity without the aforementioned “crash” afterwards. If nuts aren’t your thing, there’s nothing quite like gold old fashioned protein to give your brain a much needed boost to get you through the day. Protein is able to stimulate orexin neurons, the cells in your brain responsible for keeping you awake. All animal by products such as fish, meats, dairy, and eggs are packed with protein.
It happens to the best of us. You get halfway through a perfectly fine work day when suddenly you find you can’t seem to focus on anything for longer than a few minutes. Maybe next time you should put down the coffee and try reaching for a berry snack instead. Studies have shown that blueberries in particular are able to increase “concentration and memory” for up to five hours. This is due to the large amount of antioxidants they contain. These powerful nutrients are able to stimulate the blood of blood and oxygen to your brain which results in sharper focus, no caffeine needed. The fact that they are able to fight cancer as well doesn’t hurt either.
Who doesn’t want better memory? Studies suggest that eating cold water fatty fish, such as salmon not only helps you to improve memory retention, but can also protect you for degenerative mental disease such as dementia. That is because they contain high levels of essential fatty acids called DHA. According to the BBC, tomatoes can help protect memory loss due to free radical damage to cells, you know just in case you needed a reason to have that second serving of pasta.
Superfoods are foods that are high in nutrie
nts and health-giving properties.
Eating a diet rich in superfoods should help to control weight, curb hunger pangs and cravings, protect from diseases and boost the immune system.
But knowing what to eat and how to eat it can be confusing. Getting the most out of superfoods means a wide variety of fruit and vegetables in rich colours, as well as lean meats and oily fish.
Here is our top 10 must-have superfoods:
1. Almonds: Packed with vitamins, minerals, proteins and fibre. Almonds make a great addition to any salad or dessert. Almond milk is also a nutritious dairy-free alternative to cow’s milk.
2. Bananas: Rich in potassium, fibre, vitamin B6, magnesium and manganese, they strengthen the immune system as they contain cytolcin which is believed to increase white blood cells. Bananas give a natural energy boost and help to reduce stress levels because of their tryptophan content, a chemical that converts to the feel-good hormone serotonin.
3. Butternut squash: The deep yellow colour means it’s high in beta carotene, which helps to protect against skin cancer.
4. Chia seeds: The richest source of plant-based omega 3 fatty acids, loaded with antioxidants, high in protein, minerals and fibre. Chia seeds swell to more than five times their weight in liquid, so they’ll help make you feel quicker, and can help with weight loss.
5. Chocolate/raw cacao: Dairy-free 70 percent cocoa or higher elevates your mood, improves your blood flow and can lower blood pressure. It helps reduce inflammation and bad cholesterol and contains heaps of antioxidants.
Raw cacao is even better as none of the nutrients are lost in heat treatment, so make up your own raw chocolates instead. Raw cacao contains more antioxidants than acai, goji or blueberries.
6. Cinnamon: Stabilises blood sugar levels and encourages blood flow through the body.
7. Coconut oil: Quickly and easily absorbed by the body, so it’s an easy source of energy that may help you burn more fat. It helps to protect against heart disease and slightly lowers cholesterol.
It is excellent for cooking as it does not form harmful trans fats when heated, even at high temperatures. Use in place of butter and oil in cooking. A small pinch of salt can be added to savoury recipes to reduce the coconut flavour.
8. Cumin: Contains anti-inflammatory properties and also helps reduce bloating.
9. Greek yoghurt: An excellent source of calcium, potassium,protein, zinc and vitamins B6 and B12. Contains probiotic cultures and is lower in lactose than regular yoghurt, but with twice the amount of protein. Eat with fresh berries instead of shop-bought fruit yoghurt, which can be high in sugar.
10. Hemp: A good source of protein, especially relevant to vegans. Contains omega-3 and 6 fatty acids and is thought to be energy boosting.
1. Watch your diet
Experts have weighed in on this topic, and what they have concluded after many studies is that your metabolism slows down when you cut calories. This might seem counter-productive if you are trying to lose weight, but if you remember to get regular exercise, it can negate that slowdown effect.
Gradual weight loss will keep your metabolism chugging along. If you are trying to lose weight, cut no more than 500 calories from your daily diet and be sure to work off the same amount of calories when you workout.
2. Stop stressing
If you have been stressed out about your job, your family, or any other factor in your life, you need to find a way to cope with the stress positively. Research has shown that when you are completely stressed out, your metabolism can’t deal.
At a study conducted by Ohio State University, women that were stressed to the max burned less calories after eating a high-fat meal when pressed with stress the day prior to eating that meal. Too much stress could cause you to add 11 pounds a year. Eek.
3. Go fast
While experts shun most cleanses and other trendy diets of starvation, new research seems to show that fasting in a certain way might actually help. Alternate-day fasting allows one to eat without any restrictions on one day and then on the next day, only allows one to eat 500 calories. This method triggers weight loss without slowing up your metabolism.
4. Pump some iron
Lifting weights is one of the best ways to rev up your metabolism. Most people are aware of the benefits of strength training, however a newer research has shown that when lifting weights, one of the best things you can do is go slowly instead of fast. By resting for several minutes between sets, you’re helping to promote the growth of muscles.
5. Eat protein properly
Protein is fuel for muscle growth. However, you need to split up the amount of it you consume evenly throughout your day. Your body can only handle roughly 4 to 6 ounces of protein at once. Eating more than that during a meal will cause it to be stored as fat.
6. Employ calorie blasters throughout the day
There are many other little things you can do during your day that will make a difference, like exercising in the morning on an empty stomach, drinking more water, adding small bursts of activity to your day such as a walk on your lunch break, and sleeping in colder temperatures can all contribute to a speedier metabolism.
7. Health problems can cause metabolism issues
Certain health issues like thyroid disorders, prediabetes, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and polycystic ovary syndrome are just some of the ones that can turn your metabolism upside down. If you have any of these health problems, discuss your options with your doctor.
By working these tips into your day, you will soon start to feel your metabolism working more efficiently and quickly for you. And when that happens, you will be able to achieve the goals you have been dreaming about.
I recently read a “30 Tips” post on Rubies and Radishes that had some great suggestions to make eating Paleo easier.*
But… compulsive editor that I am, I edited it down to what I thought were the best tips for eating Paleo, and add a few helpful items and notes of my own. Here you go!
• When you’re just starting, plan out meals and snacks several days in advance. This keeps you from caving in on busy days. Once you get the hang of cooking and eating Paleo, it will be easier to throw together meals from your well-stocked kitchen.
• If planning all your meals seems overwhelming, try it in phases. Most people don’t need a lot of variety in breakfast, so find one or two Paleo-friendly breakfasts that work for you and get those nailed down. Then find a few lunches that work for you. Then move on to planning dinners.
• Cook meat in bulk; save in easy-to-thaw portions in the freezer. Hamburger, pulled pork, chicken, and your favorite kinds of sausage are all handy to have ready to deploy. You can also cook bacon in big batches and keep it in the fridge. Have you tried cooking it in the oven?
• Dedicate time to prep ingredients every week. Or, if it works better for you, every evening after dinner, prep what you’ll need for tomorrow’s meal(s). Thaw anything that’s frozen. Chop up ingredients. Pre-mix seasonings or sauces.
• Paleo eating and meal planning takes time to adjust to. Give yourself time and grace. Keep at it — it will get easier! It’s only hard until it’s routine.
• Read labels. Learn to recognize sugar in all its disguises. Yeah, it’s overwhelming and kind of depressing at first, but it’s a necessary education.
• Don’t spend too much time trying to figure out how to substitute or recreate the non-Paleo food you once ate. Instead of mourning the loss of food that makes you feel yucky, celebrate new food discoveries that make you feel great! As you stick with this, your taste buds will change and junk food will become less and less appealing.
• Explore Paleo blogs and books. The more Paleo knowledge you have, the easier it is to stick with your new lifestyle!
• When you make dinner, make extra. Enjoy it for breakfast (yes, you can!) or lunch the next day, or pack it in the freezer for an easy future meal.
• One of the hardest things about eating Paleo is the social pressure to eat junk. Always have a plan before going to social gatherings. And focus on how that food is going to make you feel tomorrow! Tell yourself, “When I eat crap, I feel like crap.”
• Eat a satisfying meal before you go to parties so you won’t be tempted by unhealthy choices. Drink plenty of water while you’re there. Focus on enjoying the people, not the food.
• If it’s a pot luck, bring your own Paleo dish (or two), because that might be your only healthy choice!
• Likewise, have a plan for how you’ll eat when meeting friends at restaurants.
• Remember to get the sleep you need every night, and drink plenty of water. And several times a week, if not every day, try to get a little sunshine and gentle exercise.