by Karey Northington
Whether you are sending the kiddos off to school, attending classes yourself, working long hours at the office, or multitasking a never-ending to-do list, staying sharp is a must. Specific vitamins and minerals help with cognitive function, mental clarity and multitasking. The following foods, vitamins and minerals are the perfect items to add to your grocery list for brain gains.
Oxidative stress is a condition that has been proposed to lead to disease processes in the body, namely Alzheimer’s disease. When food is broken down for energy, a byproduct called free radicals are created. Free radicals are detrimental to your body and brain function. Antioxidants link with free radicals and help eliminate them. Choose bright, colorful foods for the highest concentration of antioxidants, like berries, red grapes, oranges, carrots, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes. Dark leafy veggies are also a great option.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids aid in concentration and memory, and studies have shown improvement in symptoms of depression and anxiety in those regularly consuming enough omega-3. Omega-3s have also shown benefits to brain health during pregnancy, help to fight off age-related mental decline, and reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Fatty fish that include omega-3 are salmon, herring, mackerel, and trout, or throw some sardines on your pizza.
Creatine is often discussed in the fitness community with regards to its ability to increase muscle protein synthesis, but often forgotten when it comes to cognition. Creatine is effective enough to reduce the symptoms of Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s. In one study, sleep-deprived participants were supplemented with creatine. The cognitive deficits caused by sleep deprivation were either reduced or negated. Exhausted parents, rejoice!
Creatine can also be used as an add-on supplement for depression. It reduces the effects of environmental stress – think of your kids smashing their toys while you are trying to compose a work email. Creatine can blunt the effects of the noise on your ability to think clearly.
Creatine is found in red meat, poultry and fish. Steak, tuna, chicken, herring, salmon, venison, and cod are among the foods with the highest concentration.
One of the most popular supplements to date, caffeine stimulates brain chemicals like glutamate and dopamine. The increase in these chemicals positively affects mental clarity, gives you energy, and fights age-related mental decline. Caffeine also increases serotonin, aka the “feel good” chemical. Serotonin enhances your mood. Energy, mental focus, and a good mood. Sounds like a winner!
Tea and coffee are excellent sources of caffeine. Avoid caffeine consumption late in the day to decrease sleep disturbances. Sleep is another crucial factor to boost brain function, so take care to keep your zzz’s as uninterrupted as possible.
B12 is found in meat, fish and milk. B12 boosts cognitive process related to memory, learning, attention, and problem-solving. It also allows you to metabolize protein, carbohydrates, and fats properly. B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning the body cannot store it for long periods. Providing the body with B12 daily is essential.
Once your kitchen is stocked, don’t forget to hydrate! Good old H2O cannot be overlooked. Staying hydrated will allow your body and brain to function optimally through proper digestion and absorption of much-needed nutrition and excretion of waste. Increase your intake through the warmer months in Arizona to at least 10 glasses each day.
With proper nutrition, you won’t only look your best, you’ll think and feel your best, too!