Most people are aware of the fact that edible plants are full of nutrients and special compounds that support our health generally. However, few people know what special benefits plants offer our very busy and energy-hungry brains, but their nutrient-density, colour and fibre combine to make them potent brain foods. Here is a list of the best plant foods to consume if you care about the health of your brain:
- Probiotic plant foods supply good bacteria to your digestive system so that you can digest and absorb your food optimally and therefore provide an optimum amount of nutrients to all your cells – including your busy brain cells. Fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut and the popular drink kombucha, all contain beneficial bacteria.
- Pre-biotic plants supply your good digestive bacteria with food, so they can multiply in number and improve the health of your digestive system. The best sources are artichokes, onions, leeks and garlic as well as asparagus.
- Nuts and seeds provide great, healthy fats for your brain, which is after all 60% fat, and need good fats for optimal functioning. They also contain fat-soluble vitamin E, a potent brain anti-oxidant along with a number of minerals, like magnesium, selenium and zinc as well as protein and some fibre. Be sure to choose a variety of raw, soaked or activated nuts and seeds ahead of roasted ones, because they contain more nutrients and the delicate fats in them haven’t been damaged by high heat.
- The oily fruits, avocados and olives, contain not just great fats for your fatty brain; olives and their oil also contain other nutrients that support your brain such as the fat-soluble antioxidants vitamin A and E, chlorophyll and polyphenols that naturally lower blood pressure, while avocadoes also contain vitamin A and E, as well as a variety of B vitamins which support energy production in your brain along with iron and magnesium. Be sure to choose EVOO that hasn't had other, damaged oils added to it.
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts as well as kale, bok choy and turnips provide vitamin A and C as well as potassium, iron and zinc and other beneficial brain compounds along with loads of fibre to help the beneficial bacteria work optimally in your digestive system and ensure the efficient elimination of waste products.
- Colourful fruit, especially dark berries, carry powerful antioxidants in their vibrant colours, which support your brain by managing the damaging effects of free-radical production. They also contain powerful compounds that support your brain generally and protect your eyes.
- Brightly coloured vegetables like sweet potatoes, red capsicums, carrots and green leafy greens contain a variety of antioxidants, like vitamin A, C and E, all of which support your brain and the creation of clean energy within cells. Combined, they also contain some B vitamins, a variety of nutrients like iron, magnesium, manganese and zinc, all of which support your brain.
- Sprouts are filled with a variety of wonderfully nutritious compounds that are needed to support the plant as it grows. By eating these plants in their infancy you get to benefit from all the protein, vitamin A, C and K as well as B vitamins they contain, including the minerals iron, magnesium and zinc and their fibre.
- Herbs and spices contain a variety of known and as yet unknown compounds, although the benefits of the spice turmeric are now well researched in terms of brain health. Curcumin is the bright yellow compound in turmeric that carries the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of this spice that support optimal brain health. Turmeric should be consumed with good fats or oils to maximise its absorption.
- Chocolate is a tasty brain food if it’s eaten without loads of sugar and in a concentrated form. Choose 70%+ dark chocolate with unrefined sugar and don’t eat it after 4pm, because an active compound, Theobromine, can increase your heart rate and interfere with deep sleep.
One more: legumes and unrefined grains, such as quinoa and millet also support brain health because of the protein they contain as well as a variety B vitamins which support energy production and a variety of important brain minerals and fibre.