As a student myself, I know that having any sort of edge to keep you a bit more awake in lectures or a bit more focused in seminars is golden information. Not to mention improved memory for exams and keeping inflammation down so that physical health is never an issue. That is why I compiled this list of the 14 best brain foods for students that combines delicious brain-boosting foods with even tastier science to back them up. Incorporate some of these into your diet and you will fly through the academic year!
Avocados are one of the healthiest foods that you can consume and are especially delicious when converted into guacamole. They have received a bad rep in the past due to their high-fat content but keep in mind that it is the good, monosaturated fats that they contain which keep your blood sugar levels nice and steady.
With regards to the brain, the high vitamin-K content helps to prevent blood clots in the brain and have also shown to improve the function of brain mitochondria. Avocados are known to improve memory, spatial working memory, and sustained attention. So get those avocados into your diet if you want to upgrade your brain in (especially) learning situations.
Yep, that’s right, as in the same beets that Dwight Schrute from The Office is famous for growing. Dwight was obviously clued in as to the fact that beets increase blood nitric oxide levels, decrease blood pressure and improve cognitive performance. What’s more, they reduce inflammation, are high in antioxidants that fight cancerous cells and contain natural nitrates that increase blood flow to the brain.
Blueberries contain high levels of flavonoids that can help to protect the brain from oxidative stress with their high levels of gallic acid. They are one of the highest antioxidant-rich foods known to man and are packed with vitamin C and vitamin K and fibre. A handful a day will do and you can either eat them by themselves or chucked into a yoghurt or other similar snack. They’re delicious!
This is one of the newest foods that I am trying to incorporate into my diet. It’s great for the brain since it contains high levels of glycine, a nonessential amino acid that can improve neurological functions by enhancing memory. I have previously written about how gut health also affects brain health. The gut and the brain are extremely closely linked. With its high levels of collagen, some of its better-known benefits include boosting your immune system, overcoming leaky gut, improving joint health and overcoming food allergies. It really is a food superpower!
‘Eat your greens’ has never been more accurate when it comes to broccoli and giving your brain an upgrade. This tree-looking veg contains choline, which helps to improve both verbal and visual memory. It’s also packed with the all-important vitamin C. Just one cup provides you with 150 per cent of your recommended daily intake!
Eggs were part of the same bad-rep phase that avocados went through. There was a lot of debate and misinformation about the link between cholesterol levels and eggs (egg yolks more specifically). The good news is that various studies show that eating eggs had no effect on the cholesterol levels of healthy adults and might, in fact, help raise good cholesterol levels (HDL). They also contain that memory-enhancing compound choline that we saw with broccoli.
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Olive oil is a big brain food and the great thing is you can use it in practically every meal that you knock up. It contains small traces of oleocanthal, which has to capacity to reduce the neuron-damaging effects of ADDLs (amyloid-beta derived diffusible ligands). What does all this mean to a normal person? It has a preventative effect on Alzheimer’s Disease. It is also packed with powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols that are found in the oil which have shown to improve learning and memory.
A quick side note of caution is that olive oil isn’t the best for cooking at high temperatures as it starts to hydrogenise and decompose. Keep cooking with olive oil for dishes that only require medium heat or drizzle it raw over salads for the best brain-boosting effects.
Leafy Greens: Kale, Swiss chard, and Romaine Lettuce
As well as the harder greens such as broccoli, you will want to reach for a lot of the leafy greens too. Kale, swiss chard and romaine lettuce are all great options and in addition to being nutrient-dense, can be beneficial in preventing cognitive impairment and dementia risk.
In fact, you can find a great quote about leafy greens from Psychiatrist Drew Ramsey, MD, author of The Happiness Diet and Eat Complete: The 21 Nutrients That Fuel Brainpower, Boost Weight Loss and Transform Your Health.
“Again, just lots of nutrient density.”When it comes to brain power, greens should be on your plate (and cover a lot of that plate) every meal. “Leafy greens are a great base. You swap out a lot of the empty carbohydrates you get from things like pastas or breads, and you can use some leafy greens.”
Carnosic acid is one of the main ingredients in rosemary and helps to protect the brain from neurodegeneration. It does this by protecting the brain against chemical free radicals, which are linked to neurodegeneration, Alzheimer’s, strokes and normal ageing in the brain. Rosemary is really easy to sprinkle over and add to any cooked meal – especially chicken!
Salmon is the cognitive king of the sea (for us humans, at least) and it is little wonder why after you discover all of its health benefits, especially for the brain! It’s packed with omega-3 fatty acids to help keep your brain running smoothly and improve memory. If you want to get really technical, salmon also boosts the phospholipid bilayer that encases each neural cell and beneficially modifies your synaptic membranes, which are the synapses in the space between two neurons across which neural information is sent. In a nutshell, it helps information to move more efficiently through your brain. All that in one little bit of fish!
Turmeric is a simple spice and ancient root that has been used for its healing properties throughout history. Thanks to curcumin, a chemical compound found in turmeric, the spice is actually one of the most powerful (and natural) anti-inflammatory agents that we know of.
Turmeric boosts antioxidant levels to keep your immune system healthy, reduces inflammation for injuries while also improving your brain’s oxygen intake, keeping you alert and able to process information in a more efficient manner. A bit like rosemary, turmeric is something that you can add to almost any meal!
Last but certainly not least on the list of brain foods is dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is packed full of flavonols, which have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They can also help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to both the brain and heart. Although delicious, you are best avoiding milk and white chocolate when it comes specifically to brain food. Generally speaking, the higher the percent of cocoa, the more enhanced and potent these brain-boosting properties will be. So get stuck in!