We are all familiar with that midday slump that has you reaching for another cup of coffee and a snack as your energy dips. You might have brain fog and it may feel hard to concentrate. Having fatty liver disease makes you more likely to experience grogginess and fatigue during the day.
When we reach for a snack during a busy day, we want it to satiate our hunger without slowing us down. Ideally, a midday snack is energizing and improves mental clarity. The best brain food snacks are those that improve our energy and focus. If you’re feeling that midday haze, feed your brain with the following foods.
Avocado is packed with healthy fats that promote brain health. Healthy fats, particularly polyunsaturated fat, have been shown to reduce brain inflammation, protect against oxidative damage, and enhance brain function. (1)
Plus, avocado is packed with vitamin C, which has been shown to act as an antioxidant in many organ systems throughout the body. Vitamin C may play a role in reducing inflammation in the brain and improving cognitive function. The vitamin E in avocado may also play a role in reducing liver inflammation associated with fatty liver disease.
Snacking on guacamole or a slice of avocado toast is a great way to benefit from avocado’s brain-boosting effects.
Blueberries are chock-full of antioxidants that promote brain health. Blueberries exert protective effects on brain function by helping clear cellular waste from brain cells. When faced with inflammation, pollutants, and other stressors, free radicals build up in brain cells and cause oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a primary culprit in producing unpleasant symptoms of brain fog and fatigue. Eating just a handful of blueberries each day can markedly reduce oxidative stress in the brain and lead to increased mental clarity and energy.
Research also shows that the anthocyanins and flavanols in blueberries may help prevent the death of brain cells while improving cognitive function. (2)
Other berries that support enhanced brain function include strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. You can glean the brain-boosting benefits of berries by adding them to smoothies or simply eating them fresh as a snack.
Grapes make a satisfyingly sweet snack that also improves brain health. They provide lots of fiber and energy that helps your brain wake up from a midday slump. Grapes are also filled with antioxidant nutrients like vitamin C and polyphenols that soothe inflammation and help your brain cells function as efficiently as possible.
Interestingly, the neuroprotective effects of grapes and blueberries may be enhanced when combined. A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science found that administering grape and blueberry extract to aging mice helped promote neuronal growth and protect against memory loss. (3)
Polyphenols from fruits like grapes and blueberries may have clinical implications for protecting against age-related brain conditions, like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
As a snack, bring fresh red grapes and blueberries with you to work or school. Red grapes have greater brain-boosting capacity because they contain more neuroprotective and antioxidant compounds like resveratrol.
The antioxidants and healthy fats in walnuts make them a delicious treat that also fuels the brain. Research shows that walnuts contain brain-friendly phytochemicals that enhance communication among neurons and protect against neurological decline. (4)
When neurons communicate more clearly, you are able to think more clearly, form memories more readily, and problem-solve more effectively.
Walnuts make a tasty and filling snack when paired with dried fruit or incorporated into the trail mix. Or, try pairing walnuts with dark chocolate for an extra dose of antioxidants and brainpower.
Dates are packed with sugar and fiber, making them excellent brain food snacks. The brain is one of the hardest working organs in the body and is responsible for coordinating all of our conscious and subconscious functions. The brain is essentially the command and control center of the body and requires glucose to keep it going. So, how do we get lots of brain fuel without the blood sugar spike that leads to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome? We can accomplish this by eating natural sugars that are paired with fiber and antioxidants.
Try combining dates and walnuts for a tasty, brain-boosting treat. Dates and walnuts also make great on-the-go study snacks because they’re portable and keep well without refrigeration.
Kale is renowned as a superfood, based on its high levels of fiber, manganese, vitamin C, vitamin K, and antioxidants. Kale is rich in potent antioxidants that support optimal brain health. Research also confirms the importance of regularly eating leafy green veggies for brain health. A study conducted by researchers at Rush University and Tufts University found that consuming veggies like kale, lettuce, and collard greens, was associated with better cognitive function and less age-related mental decline. (5)
The phytochemicals in kale, like carotenoids, vitamin K, and tocopherols, may be responsible for reducing oxidative stress on brain tissue, helping to sharpen your mind.
Though less convenient to eat than blueberries or grapes, mango is a delicious and brain-boosting snack. This tropical fruit is packed with polyphenols like mangiferin and gallotannins. Research reveals that these antioxidants may play a role in reducing inflammation and protecting against metabolic and neurological diseases. (6) You can snack on both fresh and dried mangoes to get brain-boosting benefits. Dried mangoes may be easier to bring with you as a snack. Just aim to consume dried mango in moderation, since they have a high concentration of sugar.
Flaxseeds contain lots of healthy polyunsaturated fats in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is the plant form of omega-3 fatty acids that are critical for supporting brain structure and facilitating neurological functions. Plus, flaxseeds have been shown to help decrease blood pressure and improve blood flow.
How can you incorporate flaxseeds into your snacks? It can be difficult to eat flaxseeds plain. The best way to add flaxseeds to your diet is to add ground flaxseed meal to yogurt, smoothies, and oatmeal.
Edamame beans are soybeans and are rich in plant protein. It is one of the only plant sources of protein that provide all nine essential amino acids that are crucial for hormone synthesis, neurotransmitter synthesis, muscle growth, and immune function.
Soybeans are also the raw materials that are used to make soy products like tofu and tempeh. Edamame is also high in vitamin B1 (thiamine), which is a crucial nutrient for maintaining healthy metabolic processes in the brain. In fact, insufficient thiamine intake has been associated with an increased risk of dementia. (7)
You can get fresh edamame beans or dried edamame beans at your grocery store to nosh on as a brain-boosting snack.
Can yogurt really help your brain? Yes! Yogurt packs a powerful probiotic punch that promotes gut health and brain health. Interestingly, gut health is closely tied to brain health. Good bacteria present in our gut produce compounds that influence the immune system and central nervous system. Research has shown that these substances may positively influence mood, behavior, and cognitive function. (8)
Eating foods rich in probiotic bacteria can help ensure that the gut microbiome is filled with beneficial bacteria. On top of that, the protein in yogurt also contains all essential amino acids for optimal function.
When choosing yogurt as a snack, nonfat, low-sugar Greek yogurt is a great choice. Top your yogurt with dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds for flavor and crunch, as well as extra antioxidants and healthy fats.
Beets may be an unconventional snack food item. However, they make the list because beets are revered for their impact on blood flow that’s known to enhance athletic performance. Fewer people realize that beets are equally good for the brain. This vibrant pink vegetable is packed with natural nitrates that your body converts to a compound called nitric oxide, which modulates vascular function.
More nitric oxide allows your blood vessels to dilate, effectively decreasing your blood pressure and increasing blood flow. Increased blood flow improves the function of your muscles, and also your brain. With more blood reaching your brain, blood can deliver more oxygen, vitamins, and antioxidants to brain tissue, which in turn enhances cognitive function.
Beets can be eaten cooked but can also be conveniently eaten as dried chips. Replacing regular processed chips with beet chips is a great way to get nutrients and healthy nitrates without excess carbs and calories. You can also make your own baked beet chips at home.
The foods we eat on a daily basis influence brain health and impact our focus, memory, and mood. Healthy snacks can play a role in both improving our focus and energy while promoting neurological longevity and protecting against cognitive decline. Incorporating foods for brain health will help you improve your focus and increase your energy throughout the day, while also protecting against mental signs of aging.