Nourish Your Noggin with These 5 Brain Foods

The human brain is one of our most powerful and valuable organs. Though it accounts for only 2% of our body’s total weight, the brain requires a lot of energy and several key nutrients to function at its best. Last month, I had the opportunity to talk about nutrition for brain health on Local Memphis Live, and of course, I didn’t want you to miss out, so here are 5 brain-boosting foods to help you ensure your noggin stays nourished…

berries, brain food, antioxidantsBerries

Berries contain flavonoids, a specific group of potent antioxidants that give berries their beautiful colors. They also play a role in numerous cognitive skills like learning and decision making all while protecting brain cells from oxidative damage.

Incorporating berries into yogurt, oatmeal, or salads not only adds fresh, natural sweetness. Berries also contain antioxidants that help boost cognition, coordination, and memory.

Think you can only get a brain boost from berries during summer months? Think again…You can get your berry fix year round! Buy them fresh in the summer, frozen in the winter.

Eggs Brain Food

Eggs

If you’ve been avoiding eggs out of concern for the cholesterol and/or fat content, it’s time to add them back in. Research is now suggesting that eggs do not contribute to cardiovascular disease risk. In fact, our brains need cholesterol and fat to function at their best. With the brain being our fattiest organ, made up of 65% fat, including 25% of our body’s total cholesterol, you can be confident eggs are an egg-cellent choice and nutritional powerhouses.

Eggs contain choline, one of the superstar brain nutrients that many Americans are deficient in. Choline is necessary to produce acetylcholine, which plays a critical role in memory. For example, studies have linked acetylcholine deficiencies to memory loss and Alzheimer’s.

Eggs also contain B vitamins, folate, and vitamin D…nutrients that play a crucial role in brain health.

Tempted to ditch the yolk? Don’t do it! Eat the whole egg as the yolk contains most of the nutrients your brain needs. Plus, the protein and fat is likely to keep you satisfied much longer than that morning bagel alone!

Salmon, Brain Food

Salmon

When you’re researching (or googling) “what to eat for brain health,” you’ll begin to notice that DHA or omega-3 fatty acid is one of the single most important elements required for optimal brain health. With the brain being made mostly of fat, our brains need those Omega-3’s!

Omega-3s are strongly anti-inflammatory which is great news as inflammation has been linked to multiple mental health concerns. For example, increased Omega-3 intake may help to alleviate a spectrum of mental health concerns, from anxiety and irritability to depression and even schizophrenia. In contrast, insufficient DHA is a potential factor in depression, bipolar disorder, premature brain aging, age-related cognitive decline, brain shrinkage, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.

Omega-3 fatty acids containing DHA can be found in oily fish like wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, and tuna. These types of fish are also excellent sources of protein which is needed to form mood-boosting neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine as well as B12, an essential vitamin for a healthy brain and nervous system. It’s ideal to include these types of fish twice per week.

Walnut, Brain Food

Walnuts

Well, if you hadn’t noticed yet, the low-fat diet trend has officially been a “big fat failure,” especially when it comes to brain health. So many “brain foods” are loaded with healthy fats, and walnuts are no exception…plus, they look like little brains!

Walnuts contain a number of compounds that protect our neurons from injury or degeneration, including vitamin E, folate, melatonin, omega-3 fats, and antioxidants. Bottom line: Research shows walnut consumption may support brain health.

Snack on walnuts, sprinkle them into your oatmeal, or even try out one of my favorite recipes: Walnut & Rosemary Oven Fried Chicken.

Steak, Vitamin B12, Brain Food

Beef

That’s right…BEEF is a brain food! Meat eaters can get a brain boost from beef, which provides plenty of energizing and balancing B vitamins, specifically B12 which is only found in animal foods.

Low B12 levels have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and age-related memory loss. If your levels are lower than they should be, you may also experience symptoms like poor memory, depression and fatigue, so fire up the grill and enjoy this nutritious and delicious meat!


I recently came across a quote that said, “Essentially, fats build your brain, and proteins unite it. Carbohydrates fuel your brain, and micronutrients defend it.” Even though this post highlights only 5 specific foods, it’s clear that there are many more that give our brains a boost, so So if you want to keep your mind nourished and healthy, getting a variety and balance of nutrients is a no-brainer!

What’s your favorite brain food and how do you incorporate it into your meals or snacks?

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Easy to Make, Exciting to Eat School Lunches

For many families, “Back to School” means back to packing lunches. Though parents have had a summer-long vacation from sorting through the Tupperware containers to find matching tops, and kids have had a break from that same ole turkey sandwich and chips, the idea of packing lunches (and eating them) still leaves much to be desired.

This morning on ABC’s Local Memphis Live, I shared some of my favorite tips for serving up creative, nourishing lunches that are easy to make and exciting to eat. The best part: Though I might pack these lunches for my little boy, you don’t have to be a pro to make lunches children will love! Here’s a clip of the Local Memphis Live segment (and a recap below) in case you missed it…

I packed up all of these lunches in Easy Lunchboxes…order some here and save yourself the nightmare of sorting through tons of tiny plastic containers…with the 3 compartment, single-lid lunchbox, packing lunches is that much faster (who doesn’t love that?)!

Peanut Butter & Banana “Sushi” Served with Greek Yogurt and Raw Veggies

Peanut Butter & Banana

For the “sushi,” take a whole wheat tortilla and spread a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter* over the entire tortilla. Place a whole, peeled banana close to the edge of the tortilla and roll. [Sidenote: This would be such an easy way to get your children involved in packing their own lunches!] Once the banana is all wrapped up, use a serrated knife to slice into 1 – 1.5 inch pieces.

*Many children (including my son) have peanut allergies, and schools are not allowing peanuts or peanut butter in school lunches. If this is the case for your child, no problem! Sunbutter made from sunflower seeds is a nice alternative…it’s still creamy and delicious like peanut butter…no Epipen needed!

Caprese Skewers Served with Sliced Apples and a Hardboiled Egg

Caprese Skewers

To make the caprese skewers, roll up a slice of turkey and cut it into bite-sized pieces. On a 6-inch skewer*, place a small ball of fresh mozzarella, 1 basil leaf, 1 grape or cherry tomato, and 1 piece of the turkey. Repeat if you have room.

*Worried about sending your little one to school with a sharp, pointy object? Me too. Instead of using wooden skewers, try cocktail stirrers (which come in a variety of bright, glittery colors kids will love), skinny straws, or small popsicle sticks.

Greek Pita Pockets with Orange Slices and Cashews/Dark Chocolate Trail Mix

Greek Pita Pockets

These Greek pita pockets provide a way to use leftovers in a way that tastes new and different. Take a whole wheat pita pocket and spread hummus all over the inside of the pocket. Next, sprinkle the inside with feta cheese. Add a few cucumber slices, shredded carrots, or raw veggies of your child’s choice along with bite-sized pieces of last night’s chicken, pork, or beef. Better yet, go ahead and pack this lunch before you clean up dinner so it’s ready to go for the next morning.

Bonus Tip!

Do you have leftovers that wouldn’t be appetizing in a pita but would be excellent simply rewarmed? Did you know thermoses are good for more than just soups and hot chocolate? I didn’t either until recently! Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Take a small thermos and fill it up with hot water for about 5 minutes while you’re making your breakfast.
  • Then, heat up the leftovers you need for lunch that day until they are piping hot.
  • Pour the water out of the thermos, add your leftovers, and screw the top back on tightly.
  • When lunchtime comes, no microwave needed…just a fork or spoon!

Remember: You don’t have to be a pro to pack an awesome lunch…Guess what? You also don’t have to be a child to enjoy one of these balanced and “non-boring” lunches. Go ahead and get 2 of those Easy Lunchboxes out of the cabinet! One for your little one, and one for you! Enjoy!

Back To School Lunches