When it comes to powering the body, we know that our diet is an important consideration. After all, how we fuel our bodies has a direct effect on what it’s capable of. Better fuel equates to better output. But what about the brain?
It’s one of our most powerful organs, but we aren’t able to exercise our brains quite like we’re able to condition our legs, arms, or torsos. In fact, when it comes to caring for the brain, one of the most robust options a person has is their diet. The foods we eat have a direct effect on how the brain works, including the health of our synapses, which are highways our neurons use to process the world.
Along with exercises like puzzles and word games, eating a well-rounded diet can help condition the brain to learn new tricks—literally and metaphorically. If you’re interested in developing a certain aspect of your mind, then keep reading for a few tips on which foods can help you ‘hack’ into a better brain.
Eating for Concentration & Memory
Above, we mentioned that food correlates to our brain’s neural pathways. To generalize greatly, certain foods help in the creation of new neurons and synapses, which are responsible for our brain’s ‘bandwidth’. In other words, if you want to boost your brain’s ability to concentrate and memorize new material, then zero in on your diet.
This doesn’t just go for students learning a new topic. It’s good for those taking on a new project at work or even those with brainy hobbies. For example, poker players regularly tinker with their diet to prioritize foods that boost brain function. Even casual players have to think quickly and logically as a game unfolds. They also need to memorize hand rankings, strategies, and rules of different variations. It’s a fun game—but it takes a bit of mental gymnastics.
Poker players often eat leafy vegetables, which are high in vitamins K and E, along with foods high in omega-3 acids. Walnuts and fish are both high in omega-3 acids, which offer the brain healthy fats. These fats are used by the brain to think faster and more accurately—which makes sense since nearly 60% of the brain is made up of fatty tissue.
Eating for Curiosity & Creativity
Eating fatty foods and leafy greens helps the brain function at a high level and for longer periods of time. But what about those who want to train their brain to think more creatively and with more curiosity? Is it possible to ‘target’ a specific area of the brain with certain foods?
As it happens, this is entirely possible. Boosting creativity and curiosity isn’t necessarily about building new neural pathways. Instead, it’s about getting the blood moving in certain parts of the brain by targeting certain foods that get the blood flowing. Fruits and vegetables are high in flavonoids, which is a great way to get the brain activated.
Vegetables, in particular, that are high in iron will help facilitate healthy blood flow to the brain. Aside from leafy vegetables, iron can be found in quinoa, broccoli, and spinach. Additionally, kale is known to help improve oxygen levels in the blood, which will also get the brain moving more freely.
Eating for a Sense of Balance & Happiness
Anyone who has struggled with their diet and mood has probably heard the phrase ‘your stomach is your second brain’. In reality, that’s more like the gastrointestinal tract rather than the stomach—and it can have a huge effect on our mood.
If you want to tweak your diet to restore a sense of balance and happiness in your life, then you want to avoid foods that inflame your GI tract. That’s because this is where our bodies transform food into energy, and our GI sends direct messages to the brain through chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. If something is awry in the gut, our body will send a direct signal to the brain that something is off.
If you want to improve your mood, then take a more well-rounded approach to your diet. Doctors recommend eating plenty of fiber, nutrient-dense foods, folate, and vitamin D.