Foods That’ll Make You Smarter
Believe it or not, you can eat your way to greater brainpower. It takes a prescribed daily intake of five nutrients to keep that mind of yours sharp. Audrey McKernan, a registered dietician at NCH Healthcare, describes how those five work to help you—and we offer the following sampling of foods containing the nutrients, along with their nutritional value numbers.
This antioxidant is fat soluble, meaning it’s excellent at protecting cell membranes (which are fatty in composition) from free-radical damage. The brain is especially rich in lipids, which are at extreme risk of damage from free radicals. "It promotes good circulation to the brain, which helps maximize brain function," McKernan says. Vitamin E-rich foods can slow the rate of cognitive decline by years according to a study done in Chicago in 2002. Food sources are vegetables, nuts, seeds, kiwi, green leafy vegetables and fish.
Recommended Daily Intake: 15 milligrams (mg)
Red Bell Peppers
In a single cup, this veggie can supply 190 mg of vitamin C and 2.4 mg of vitamin E.
A great source of protein, one cup gives your brain 35.8 mg of vitamin E and 17,477 mg of omega-3.
Packed with nutrients, one avocado has 52.9 mg of vitamin C, 8.1 mg of vitamin E and 4,804 mg of omega-3.
This vitamin is naturally present only in foods that come from animals, such as meats and eggs. McKernan says B-12 can help boost memory and brainpower. It’s vital for many critical functions in the body; it helps to form myelin, the insulation that protects nerve endings, and helps nerves to "talk" to each other. Foods rich in B-12: clams, beef, liver, eggs, milk, chicken, fish and fortified cereals.
Recommended Daily Intake: 2.4 micrograms (mcg)
A seven-ounce grass-fed steak will supply your body with 2.7 mcg of vitamin B-12 and 44.9 mg of omega-3.
A cup of fortified 1 percent milk will give your body 1.1 mcg of vitamin B-12, 3 mg of vitamin C, 98.4 IU of vitamin D and 41.8 mg of omega-3.
If you eat an extra large egg you’ll receive 0.7 mcg of vitamin B-12, 19.6 IU of vitamin D, 0.5 mg of vitamin E and 41.4 mg of omega-3.
A great source of several vitamins, three ounces of red salmon provides 4.9 mcg of vitamin B-12, 0.7 mg of vitamin E and 1210 mg of omega-3.
In the body, vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and helps to prevent damage from free radicals, McKernan says. (Free radicals cause degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.) The water soluble nutrient influences your fight-or-flight response, attention and mood. It can be found in most vegetables and fruits, citrus in particular.
Recommended Daily Intake: 90 mg (men), 75 mg (women)
The most well-known vitamin C provider, one cup of Florida oranges will give your brain 83.2 mg.
One cup of this tasty summer treat provides 45.7 mg of vitamin C.
A great source of vitamin C, one cup of this mega-fruit provides 89.4 mg or more than 100 percent of your daily value.
Your brain will function and process faster when the proper amount of vitamin D is in your system. "Low vitamin D levels are linked to higher cognitive impairment in many studies," McKernan says. In addition to helping neurotransmitters send messages to and from the brain, vitamin D also promotes nerve growth. Good sources of vitamin D include salmon, mackerel, milk and fortified cereals.
Recommended Daily Intake: 600 International Units (ages 19-70); 800 IU (ages 70+)
In just one cup, these fish pack a powerful nutrient punch; they have 405 IU of vitamin D, 3 mg of vitamin E and 2,205 mg of omega-3.
According to McKernan, the omega-3 fatty acid known as DHA is optimal for brain health. It is found in synapses, which suggests that this nutrient is involved in signal transmission along neurons. DHA plays an important role in brain development and maintenance. Some good sources are cold water fish, salmon, herring and cod.
Recommended Daily Intake: 4,000 mg
A cup of this vegetable will boost your brain with 46.4 mg of vitamin C and 37 mg of omega-3.
A rich source of omega-3, one cup of this nut will provide 10,623 mg of the nutrient.
This fruit isn’t just a good source of vitamin C, giving 32.2 mg in every cup, but it offers 306 mg of Omega-3 nutrients as an added bonus.