Mental clarity is a crucial component of our daily lives. Our brains are constantly processing information and performing complex tasks, making it the most energy-intensive organ in our bodies. For lifelong learners, brain health can help boost our memory, build discipline, and achieve previously out-of-reach goals. So, it is essential to ensure that our diets include nutrients that support optimal cognitive function.
Let’s explore some of the best foods to improve memory and boost cognitive performance. After that, we’ll survey some of the best supplements for brain health—especially for every high-functioning learner.
Foods for Boosting our Brain
While we’ll get to supplements in a minute, at Mission to Learn, we’re advocates of meeting your nutritional needs with real food to the greatest extent possible. Here are some of the top dietary choices to help boost learning.
Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain health. Omega-3s are critical components of the cell membranes in our brains, which play a role in communication between brain cells. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids can improve memory, mood, and cognitive function. While omega-3s tend to be most bio-available in marine sources like fatty fish, other include walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds. (More on fish as a brain food here.)
Blueberries contain antioxidants, which can protect the brain from stress and inflammation. Clinical trials suggest that treating blueberries as a dietary supplement can improve memory and cognitive function, especially in older adults. And for those who enjoy an occasional fruit salad, other sources of antioxidants include strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries.
Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, collard greens, asparagus, and broccoli are rich in vitamins and minerals. Among their many benefits, these vegetables contain folate, a kind of B vitamin essential for mental clarity. While a folate deficiency has been linked to a variety of illnesses, incorporating these veggies into your diet will be sure to boost mental performance.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds can be a great treat for maintaining a healthy brain. As good sources of vitamin E, they also contain an antioxidant that protects the brain from oxidative stress—a fancy term for cell damage. As such, snacking on almonds, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts can be a great way to improve mental clarity.
Whole grains such as oats, quinoa, and brown rice are a good source of complex carbohydrates, in addition to other nutrients. These carbohydrates provide a steady supply of glucose to the brain, a primary source of energy. A review of numerous studies even revealed the nutrients within whole grains have played a significant role in boosting cognitive performance and protecting against neurological disease.
How About Vitamins for Brain Health?
In addition to a healthy diet, certain vitamins can improve memory and mental clarity and – by extension – boost learning. While there’s mixed evidence that supplements impact our cognitive performance, it’s still helpful to know how they function—and, ideally, aim to get them from the foods we eat.
Vitamin B6 is essential for brain health as it is involved in the production of neurotransmitters, making it acutely fascinating to researchers interested in how to improve memory and mental clarity. As a vitamin responsible for a variety of physiological and neurological health benefits, it plays a crucial role in reducing the risk of cognitive decline.
Vitamin B12 is another essential vitamin for brain health. It is involved in the production of myelin, which is the insulation around nerve fibers and one of the key sources of long-term memory. Research has shown that a deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to cognitive impairment and dementia, making it a crucial component of high-functioning cognition.
Vitamin D is essential for cognitive performance as it helps regulate the absorption of calcium, which is critical for the function of nerve cells. What’s more, the vitamin has been studied for its positive influence on neurological health, especially with the formation of new memories. While we all know that getting some sun on our skin is a great source of Vitamin D, what you may not have considered is that this same vitamin is one of the best supplements for a healthy mind.
Nurturing Our Brains for Lifelong Learning
The research is still evolving on which kinds of nutrition, supplements, and other lifestyle changes are best for brain health. And yet there seems to be conclusive evidence that a few age-old maxims still hold true for staying in peak mental shape: Eat your veggies. Be sure to seek out protein. And whole grain bread is always better than that bleached white Wonder Bread we all see at the grocery store.
The only crucial piece of advice that’s missing here is the other indispensable maxim that exercise plays a crucial role in staying fit – and can also be a powerful aid to learning.