Food can be stressful for many people. While we know it’s vital to prioritize nutrition, it often takes a back seat to busy schedules, budgets, and stress. Naturally, no one wants to police themselves in the kitchen after a tough day.
With fad diets and a constant influx of new health-related information, it’s easy to lose track of what really matters when it comes down to diet: feeling good in tangible ways. A diet will have a clear influence on sleep quality, energy levels, and ability to concentrate.
Though sleeping well and having extra vitality are important aspects of a well-rounded life, brainpower is often what people lack most. It can be hard to stay motivated at a job that doesn’t inspire—but even those who do what they love for a living will find diet is essential for peak performance.
For example, poker pros are known for spending long stretches (up to a day) sitting at a table and tallying card value, bluffs, and probabilities. It’s tough on the body and the mind, which means many big tournaments prioritize healthy food options. Some even include organic coffee on the menu alongside varied meals, from blackened salmon to Caesar salad.
All three are actually brain superfoods—and they won’t break the bank or require long stretches in the kitchen. Ready to feed your mind? Keep reading for five simple solutions.
Neurologically speaking, eggs are one of the biggest power-hitters when it comes to cognitive function. They’re high in B vitamins, which have been shown to slow cognitive decline, as well as combat dementia and depression.
Eggs are also high in choline, which the body uses to create neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters literally ‘connect’ our thoughts, facilitating memory and reasoning.
Both coffee and tea are great sources of caffeine, which will help kickstart brain function and get the wheels rolling. However, similar to fatty fish, green tea is also an excellent source of essential acids.
Amino acid L-theanine is used by the brain to streamline neurotransmitter activity and help boost reasoning skills. Even better, green tea is an antioxidant, which also protects the brain by fighting aging.
Though not always first on shopping lists, leafy greens like spinach, collards, broccoli, kale, cabbage, and beet greens are incredible resources for the brain. They’re high in a range of vital nutrients, including lutein, folate, beta carotene, and Vitamin K.
Similar to the acids mentioned above, Vitamin K helps regulate the brain’s fat content, which is important for cognitive function. Leafy greens have also been linked to improved memory—and, unfortunately, high costs.
Those looking to incorporate more leafy greens into their diet can skip the expensive items like kale, spinach, and, in some cases, broccoli. Cheap alternatives include collards and turnip and beet greens. Even better, there’s no need to stay raw with leafy greens. Many choose to sauté their leafy greens with garlic to get rid of an overly bitter taste.
The blackened salmon mentioned above from poker tournaments is a crucial choice for brainpower. Fatty fish like salmon, trout, and sardines are high in omega-3 acids—many have likely heard this touted before.
However, not many realize that the brain is composed of 60% fat, and much of that contains omega-3 acids. Want to keep the brain healthy and firing on all cylinders? Opt for fatty fish at breakfast.
Similar to green tea, turmeric is an antioxidant that can also enter the brain like amino acid L-theanine. Aside from antioxidants (and plenty of anti-inflammatory properties), turmeric has been linked to improved memory and brain cell stimulation.
Turmeric is often found in South Asian cuisines such as curry. However, those looking to incorporate this spice into their diet can find affordable options in capsule pill form, teas, or even buying the powder raw to mix in with foods and drinks. Pro tip: be careful handling turmeric, as it stains clothing and surfaces.