To eat or not to eat in the morning – this is a much-debated issue, as most people simply ignore breakfast due to their unwillingness to cook before heading to the office or simple laziness.
However, food is body’s fuel, and it shouldn’t be ignored to kickstart your day.
Recent studies identified that switching to the Western diet plan and lifestyle changes increase the risk of suffering from brain conditions, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
The consumption of alcohol, diabetes mellitus, elevated cholesterol, dietary fat, and obesity are associated with an increased risk of AD, while exercise and a healthy diet are associated with a reduced risk.
Certain brain food snacks, especially in the morning, will not only give a boost to your brain and productivity for the rest of the day but keep it and the whole body healthy for years to come.
So, what’s the best brain food for breakfast? Let’s find it out.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (1) strongly recommends starting your day with whole-grain oatmeal to optimize brainpower.
It provides your body with glucose which is the basic fuel for the brain.
Besides, it can boast of a low glycemic index which provides a steady, slow and long-lasting rise in blood sugar that sustains brain power for hours.
Researchers from the University of Toronto claim that oatmeal is like a shot of glucose injected into the brain.
Moreover, this nutrient-rich food contains more fat and protein than most other grains and is a good source of fiber and carbs.
Among the vital minerals, vitamins and antioxidants are the following:
- Thiamin (vitamin B1);
- Niacin (vitamin B3);
- Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5);
- Pyridoxine (vitamin B6);
This amazing list of compounds means that it is the most nutrient-dense food you can feed to your brain.
Fact: A study published in Nutrition in February 2012 revealed that a mixed-grain diet was better in preventing mental fatigue in high school students than the regular one.
If you aren’t a fan of oats or other whole grains, there is a perfect way to incorporate them into your brain function diet (2) and get benefits for the brain health and the whole organism.
Consider adding some fruits like banana or berries to your oatmeal or topping it with nuts, cinnamon, raisins or some honey and feel the hearty and nutritious bowl gets your mental juices flowing, helping your brain work at its full capacity.
Eggs can be definitely classified as superfoods due to the big amounts of nutrients which are important for health. In fact, they contain all the elements which are required for a cell to grow into a baby chicken.
Among the useful nutrients, a boiled egg eaten for breakfast contains are the following: folate, vitamin A (3), vitamin B2 (4), vitamin B5 (5), vitamin B12 (6), vitamin D (7) , vitamin K (8), vitamin E (9) , selenium, phosphorus, zinc, and calcium.
The most important ‘brain nutrient’ contained in egg yolks is choline, the incredible substance which produces signaling molecules to the brain and takes part in the building of cell membranes.
Cottage cheese has been the most favorite and for some people, traditional food is eaten first thing in the morning due to its high-protein content and versatility.
Moreover, it contains a wide range of vitamins and elements essential for brain health, such as the following:
- Vitamin A;
- Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, B12;
- Vitamin C;
- Vitamin D;
- Vitamin E;
- Vitamin K.
Scientists believe that these are phosphorous and magnesium that are responsible for normal functioning of the brain.
A study that tried to determine how food affects your brain published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease concluded that patients suffering from this condition severely lacked the above-mentioned minerals.
Cottage cheese is also known to increase the concentrations of glutathione, the antioxidant which has brain-protective qualities.
Researchers explained that regular consumption of dairy products was associated with a greater concentration of this antioxidant in the brain of older adults.
There is another benefit of this product: when eaten for breakfast, cottage cheese improves your mood.
This is possible due to tyrosine, a precursor for dopamine (10).
It means the more cottage cheese you eat, the greater your dopamine levels become, thus, making you feel happy and motivated.
When someone says yogurt is good for your health, it doesn’t sound surprising.
That’s quite a new fact that probiotics found in yogurt are good for the brain.
Though all yogurts are the sources of probiotics, Greek yogurt contains more gut bacteria able to alter and sharpen your mind and lots of protein.
Try this brain food recipe for your morning meal – Greek yogurt with a handful of walnuts.
To add some flavor put some sweetened dried coconut, which will also serve as a good source of fiber.
Green tea is supposed to be the healthiest drink in the world as it is full of nutrients and antioxidants that have great effects not only on your body but the brain as well.
Did you know that green tea not only keeps you awake during the day but makes you smarter?
Its important ingredient is caffeine, however, compared to coffee, the amount of this stimulant is smaller.
Caffeine blocks Adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, increasing the concentration of norepinephrine and dopamine.
Green tea also contains L-theanine, the amino acid that can cross the blood-brain barrier, increase the production of alpha waves and provide anti-anxiety effects (13).
To keep the brain healthy, nuts must be definitely included in the everyday diet as this is the food that improves memory.
Walnuts are the best nuts for brain health as they have a large amount of DHA, which improves cognitive performance and prevents age-related decline in cognition.
Hazelnuts and almonds are the sources of vitamin E. A study showed that the participants who received big amounts of vitamin E showed better results in verbal and memory tests compared to the placebo group;
Peanuts contain high concentrations of niacin, the element which deficiency was connected with Alzheimer’s disease and general cognitive decline;
Other nuts, such as cashews, pecans, and chestnuts, are believed to provide brain health benefits, but there is too little research and almost no published studies that could prove this fact.
Tip: Crush or chop some walnuts and add them to your morning cereal or salad, or try home-made peanut butter with a whole-grain toast.
There are big amounts of tannins, the elements that protect brain cells from harmful elements and improve memory, in all berries, but blueberries can be proudly named “brainberries”.
They are the right brain food for memory and concentration, rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals which were linked with improvements in thinking and learning, reducing neurodegenerative oxidative stress.
Blueberries are rich in a plethora of useful elements for health, among which are zinc, calcium, manganese, iron, vitamin K (14), vitamin A, magnesium (15) , vitamin C, potassium (16), vitamin B6 (17) , fiber (18) , copper (19) , choline (20) , beta-carotene (21) , and folate (22) .
Fact: A study on aging rats showed that both their learning capacity and motor skills were improved, and their brain power was boosted just like in much younger species.
Also, studies have found that despite reducing the risk of cognitive damage, “brainberries” advance motor coordination and short-term memory.
Quick tips on including blueberries into your breakfast:
Make fresh toppings to enjoy pancakes, cereal, yogurt, and oatmeal to get extra flavor;
Make a smoothie mixing blueberries with other fruits and some water, milk or yogurt to drink on the go or blend them to top your breakfast;
Use blueberries in homemade whole-grain muffins.
Protein is an important component responsible for proper functioning of cells, organs, and tissues in the body. Except for such usual benefits as stabilizing blood sugar levels, speeding up weight loss and decreasing cravings, protein can have a range of influences on the brain:
Improve focus and concentration;
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition claimed that whey protein, which includes high levels of alpha-lactalbumin, helped with cognitive performance in participants who were vulnerable to stressful situations
Protein shake lovers insist this is the morning food they are ready to die for.
Some set aside other foods and products just because protein powders contain all the essential amino acids in sufficient quantities, which are needed to give the body and mind the necessary boost.
Tip: Make sure you choose protein powders with adequate amounts of fiber and go for plant-based ones.
The reason flaxseeds gained such a popularity in the past several years is an extensive content of linolenic and linoleic fatty acids (23).
These are essential for the body because they play a vital role and cannot be synthesized by the organism.
Brain nutrition facts state that American diet is low in Omega 3 and Omega 6, the elements found in walnuts, cold-water fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds and some other products.
The fatty acids are responsible for protecting the brain cells from the effects of stress, reducing the risk of brain damage and dementia and having a range of other benefits.
Chia seeds have become popular due to their ability to help cope with depression and ADHD symptoms (24) , improve memory and keep the brain cells communicating just because this brain enhancer food makes cell membranes flexible.
Two tablespoons of chia seeds provide you with the following nutrients:
41% of your daily fiber;
32% of your daily magnesium;
64% more potassium than in a banana;
Two times more antioxidants than in blueberries;
Six times more calcium than in milk;
Six times more iron than spinach;
100% more Omega 3 than in salmon.
One study claims that chia seeds also increase brain volume which would definitely be helpful when memorizing things, while antioxidants fight bad cholesterol and increase the blood flow to the brain.
Caffeine has been studied dozens of times, and the results showed that its regular intake led to improvements in brain function, as well as memory power, reaction time and mood.
That is why coffee has been falsely accused of being harmful.
Moreover, it contains CGAs (25), which are responsible for lowering high blood pressure and blood sugar metabolism, trigonelline, kahweol and cafestol, the compounds which are good for the body.
A Florida study concluded that older people with mild cognitive issues who drank two-three cups of coffee every day were less likely to have Alzheimer’s disease.
A bigger study with 400,000 participants found that those who had 2 cups of coffee regularly lived 10% longer than those who didn’t include coffee in their daily diets.
Animal studies found that caffeine is able to reduce the risk of dementia greatly.
You know an apple a day keeps a doctor away.
However, a range of fruits consumed in the morning may make you reluctant to pay your monthly premium to your health insurance company.
Just because such words as “doctor”, “disease”, and “medication” won’t appear in your vocabulary anymore.
Eating citrus fruits which are the best sources of vitamin C is highly recommended.
As stated by Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University (26), lack of vitamin C affects communication between the brain cells and norepinephrine (27), which may affect the transfer of information.
Whole fruits are claimed to be better sources of the vitamin than juices, which contain loads of sugar and may lead to an energy crash.
Mix them with berries and add a big portion of them to your cereal to get the double dose of brain-boosting power.
Did you know that fatigue, confusion and foggy thinking are all the signs of dehydration?
To prevent them, it’s highly recommended to start your day with a glass of water on an empty stomach.
Make this your habit as drinking lukewarm water increases the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain giving it an instant mental boost.
Moreover, this small morning routine will help clear any waste from the body, flush the bowels and colon, prevent headaches, increase appetite, give energy and raise the metabolic rate by 20%.
Typically, Japanese people have four glasses of water in the morning and wait at least 30 minutes before having breakfast.
Such a therapy helps them stay active throughout the day and healthy.
Fact: According to the statistics, total life expectancy at birth is ranked 4th in Japan and equals to 82.59, which is 5% more than in the USA.
Try not to skip breakfast even if you are in a hurry.
Eating smart in the morning will make you better at problem-solving and more creative in your everyday activities.
If you realize you don’t have enough time in the morning, prepare everything in advance.
It may be a hard-boiled egg, whole-grain sandwich with cheese and nuts, or overnight oatmeal in a jar with fruit slices which can be taken with you and eaten on the go.
Keep in mind that healthy brain nutrition food is imperative for good cognition.