Back to School Brain Foods
Ahhhhhh! Back to School. New pens, new books, new teachers and new tests!! I had a small panic attack just writing about it. And the best way to avoid further panic is to pack your lunch full of brain boosting foods! When we nourish ourselves with brain foods we can better prepare for learning, being busy and stress!
Here is a list of some of the best foods for brain health.
These delicious nuts are jam packed with polyphenols and Omega 3’s. Polyphenols are nutrients within our food that contain antioxidant properties especially beneficial for the brain; protecting cell membranes from damage and improving the overall health and function of our brain cells. Oxidative stress on brain cells is one of the many culprits affecting our mental performance and degenerative disease. And don’t they look like tiny, bite-sized brains? Nature is so smart!
These guys don’t get enough credit for essentially being a superfood! One delicious little egg contains 13 essential nutrients; and that my friend is in the yolk, so stop eating only the whites. Not only are eggs a good source of Vitamin A, minerals and antioxidants they are also an excellent source of B Vitamins, specifically B12. Your B Vitamins are responsible for a healthy nervous system, mood regulation, mental clarity, concentration, memory and they promote normal nerve growth and cell formation. You probably feel smarter already!?! And if you’re still on the “eggs are so bad for my cholesterol” train, read what smarty pants Chris Kresser has to say here.
One of the oldest documented foods; asparagus is quite the smart food. A good source of antioxidants like lutein, zea-xanthin, carotenes and crypto-xanthins, which are the fancy names for flavanoids that help remove harmful free radicals that can cause neuro-degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease. But the best part is that asparagus is a great source of Vitamin K, which is proving to be essential for the synthesis of the fat that helps form the myelin sheath around our nerves. This fat is crucial for proper brain and nervous system function.
Grass Fed Beef
An odd thing to have on a healthy brain food list, but let’s take a look at why grass fed is important. When animals eat a diet consisting primarily of grains and legumes, as they do with most conventional farming practices, the fat in their meat loses a lot of its nutrients. And these nutrients are the ones that benefit our brain like Omega 3’s and CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid). Omega 3’s, specifically DHA and EPA are critical for brain development, but also benefit ADHD, autism, dyslexia, attention and behavioural issues. CLA has been shown to support neuron signaling in the brain and has antioxidant properties. Grass fed beef also has a better ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 and that’s wonderful news since our North American diets tend to be heavy on Omega 6.
Even writing the word chocolate makes me happy! We tend to reach for it when we need a little pick-me up! Well congratulations for being intuitive because chocolate can boost blood flow in the brain. This increased blood flow is known to help short-term memory and general alertness. Bing! Hello world!! The flavanols within dark chocolate improve brain function especially for those suffering from sleep deprivation. Dark chocolate will also increase endorphins, what brings us pleasure, and it contains serotonin, what helps put us in a good mood. So you’ll be happy about that upcoming exam.
Nutrition is a fundamental part of brain health and any back to school planning. Throughout the school year ask yourself if your meals includes one or more brain foods, consistency is key!
What are your favourite foods to nourish the brain?
The “OMG I have a huge test today” Breakfast
2 hard or soft boiled eggs
½ avocado, sliced
2 handfuls of sprouts
a handful of walnuts, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
Place eggs in a pot and cover with an inch or two of cold water. Heat the pot on high and bring the water to a rolling boil
Turn off heat, but keep the pot on the same burner, cover and let sit for 10-12 minutes
Run cold water over eggs, peel off shell, quarter eggs lengthwise and place in a bowl
Add salt and pepper to eggs, to taste
Slice half an avocado and place in bowl alongside eggs
Top with sprouts and walnuts
Drizzle olive oil over your delectable dish and enjoy!
Jeanette Rauch Registered Holistic Nutritionist, RHN