When it comes to boosting-brain power, there are some foods and nutrients that science shows have an edge for keeping adults and kids sharp and fueled for the day. Make sure you've got your bases covered by eating some of these brain-boosting foods every day, using the healthy recipe ideas that follow.
—Michelle Edelbaum, Web Editor
DHA and EPA, two types of omega-3 fatty acids, are important for brain development and are associated with lower risk of depression and better mood, the expression of emotion and concentration, says Rachael Moeller Gorman in EatingWell Magazine. Omega-3 fatty acids are found mainly in fatty fish like salmon, though they can be made by the body in small amounts from ALA, another type of omega-3 that’s found in plants like flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil and soy. A variety of food, including soymilks and breakfast bars, are now fortified with DHA. Supplements of DHA/EPA made from algae are available. A good target for adults eating about 2,000 calories/day is 900 mg to 2,000 mg/day and for kids who eat about 1,000 calories/day a good target is 400-500 mg/day of omega-3s, says Joe Hibbeln, M.D. Acting Chief, Section on Nutritional Neuroscience at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Here are some easy foods to help you get more omega-3 fats.
1. Wild Salmon
2. Chunk Light Tuna
Watercress acts as a tasty divider between the salmon salad and crackers. Multicolored peppers and grapes add color to this bento and boost your daily servings of fruits and veggies.
Get the Recipe: Salmon Salad Bento Lunch »
Studies show that fueling the brain with breakfast is important for thinking, acting and learning. This is especially important for kids, since studies show that children who are undernourished perform poorly on cognitive tasks. Research shows that fueling your kids with slower-burning carbohydrates (also called low-glycemic-index foods) like oatmeal, instead of faster-burning, or high-glycemic-index, breakfast foods (like sugary cereals) helps them maintain their concentration and attention throughout the morning. Try to eat these healthy carbohydrates to fuel your brain.
1. Oats or oatmeal
2. Bran cereals
3. Whole-wheat bagels
Must-Try Recipes: Almond-Honey Power Bar and More Healthy Oats Recipes »
You can assemble this oatmeal in the slow cooker in the evening and wake up to a bowl of hot, nourishing oatmeal. The slow cooker eliminates the need for constant stirring and ensures an exceptionally creamy consistency. It is important to use steel-cut oats; old-fashioned oats become too soft during slow-cooking.
Get the Recipe: Overnight Oatmeal »
Research shows that being even mildly iron-deficient affects learning, memory and attention. (About 10 percent of young women are anemic because of their monthly loss of iron-rich blood.) Luckily, restoring iron levels to normal also restores cognitive function. Here are some foods that are good sources of iron.
1. Beans 2. Dark leafy greens (kale, chard, spinach) 3. Meat (beef) 4. Chicken or turkey 5. Fish 6. Soy (tofu, edamame/soybeans)
Stirring salsa into versatile canned refried beans makes a quick and healthy bean dip. It also works well as a sandwich spread with your favorite vegetables and a sprinkle of cheese.
Get the Recipe: Zesty Bean Dip & Chips »
Staying hydrated keeps your memory sharp, your mood stable and your motivation intact, says Rachael Moeller Gorman in the July/August 2011 issue of EatingWell Magazine. When you’re well-hydrated, you can think through a problem more easily. Researchers hypothesize that not having enough water could reduce oxygen flow to the brain or temporarily shrink neurons—or being thirsty could simply distract you. While your size and activity level affect your fluid requirements, daily water needs for adults range from about 13 cups for men to about 9 cups for women (pregnant women and nursing mothers need slightly more), accounting for an additional 2 1/2 cups of fluids from foods. Daily water needs for kids range by age: kids 1-3 years need 44 ounces a day, 4-8 years need about 57 ounces, boys 9-13 years need 81 ounces, girls 9-13 years need 71 ounces, boys 14-18 need 111 ounces and girls 14-18 need 77 ounces of fluid a day. In addition to offering water with meals, remember that about 20 percent of our fluid intake comes from food.
4. Salad greens
These were a staff favorite during the development process. The whole blueberries in these pops have the look of watermelon seeds.