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The Best Brain Food in the World

author image Owen Bond
Owen Bond began writing professionally in 1997. Bond wrote and published a monthly nutritional newsletter for six years while working in Brisbane, Australia as an accredited nutritionalist. Some of his articles were published in the "Brisbane Courier-Mail" newspaper. He received a Master of Science in nutrition from the University of Saskatchewan.
The Best Brain Food in the World
A close up of blueberries. Photo Credit: John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images

The brain has many nutritional requirements that help it perform its roles. It requires glucose as an energy source, a compound that is easily metabolized from carbohydrates. Various vitamins and antioxidants help protect the brain from injury, while certain vitamins and fatty acids also carry out specific roles that help brains cells function. The best brain foods contain many of these important nutrients in an easily digestible form.

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Whole-grain Breads

Slices of whole grain bread.
Slices of whole grain bread. Photo Credit: Jupiterimages/ Images

Cooked and ground whole grains, such as wheat, oatmeal, barley and millet, are healthy carbohydrates that can be digested quickly to yield glucose sugar. A convenient way to consume whole grains is as baked breads, although crackers and cereals can be just as nutritious. Information described in “Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism” points to glucose as the main fuel for the brain, with daily consumption of at least 100 g of carbohydrates needed to provide enough glucose to power brain functions. Whole grains are also good sources of B vitamins, selenium and soluble fiber. Soluble fiber can regulate blood cholesterol levels, which reduce the risks of cardiovascular diseases and brain injury, such as stroke.

Fatty Fish

A close up of fried herring.
A close up of fried herring. Photo Credit: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Fatty fish -- such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines -- are rich sources of essential fatty acids. Perhaps the most important of these are omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain and nervous system function. A study in “Biochemical, Physiological and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition” reports that omega-3 fatty acids are required for myelin synthesis; myelin is the protective sheath around nerves that allows for speedy flow of brain impulses. Further, omega-3 fatty acids play crucial roles in behavior and cognition; deficiencies have been associated with depression, dyslexia and attention-deficit disorders.

Antioxidant-rich Berries

Berries for sale at a market.
Berries for sale at a market. Photo Credit: Hemera Technologies/ Images

Blueberries are especially rich in antioxidants, which act to protect blood vessels and the brain from the oxidative stress created by free radicals. One of the antioxidants is vitamin E, which can combat age-related loss of cognitive abilities. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Barcelona, Spain, and published in “Nutritional Neuroscience” in 2005 found that diets rich in blueberries significantly improved the learning capacity, memory and motor skills of aging rats. Further, the anthocyanins in blueberries were found to promote new neuron growth in the amygdala region of the brain.

Nuts and Seeds

A close up of raw almonds.
A close up of raw almonds. Photo Credit: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Many nuts and seeds are good sources of protein, minerals, vitamin E, omega-6 fatty acids and some essential amino acids. As an example, pumpkin and sesame seeds are both rich in tyrosine, the amino acid required for dopamine synthesis. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and coordinates movement. Many nuts and seeds are good sources of B vitamins. Information published in “Vitamins: Fundamental Aspects in Nutrition and Health” indicates that vitamin B-6 is needed to produce dopamine and serotonin, which are both essential for communication between neurons. Folic acid is needed by the brain to maintain memory and concentration. Vitamin B-12 is associated with higher brain functions, and its deficiency leads to symptoms very similar to Alzheimer’s disease. Examples of particularly healthy nuts and seeds include walnuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, flaxseeds and sunflower seeds.

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