By Ashlyn Hlafka and Kassandra Emery
Occupational Therapy is a health care profession that focuses on the meaningful activities that each of us does every day. We can’t function on a daily basis if we don’t feel like our normal selves.
So, if you’re feeling hungry, stressed or tired, here are five suggested brain foods to get you back on track!
But, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about just what brain foods are exactly. According to Be Brain Fit, brain foods are the types of foods that contain all of the building blocks to properly and adequately nourish your brain to keep you alert, aware, and at ease. Specifically, these foods will be:
- High in nutrients to create, protect, and repair damaged brain cells,
- Provide a supply of chemical building blocks that translate messages within the brain, and
- Are rich in essential nutrients that affect susceptibility to mental disorders today and degenerative brain diseases down the road.
1. Sea Vegetables
This forgotten food commonly enjoyed as sushi has quite a few benefits for the body and mind, but the top two benefits for memory and mood are the content of taurine and inositol.
- “Nature’s Valium,” also known as the neurotransmitter GABA, is released by taurine. This inhibits anxious feelings during times of stress, like midterms or major life changes.
- Inositol acts like the Blackboard of the brain – it connects the dots between information just as Bb connects students to teachers. Neurotransmitters, the chemical Gmail of the brain, rely upon inositol to relay important messages.
Feeling nutty for trying brain foods? Well, walnuts are just the snack for you!
A specific study has found that eating walnuts improves reflex reactions as well as your ability to learn new things and remember old knowledge. This can be especially helpful when trying to remember what you learned the first week of the semester before taking a final.
Walnuts also are one of the few foods that contain a natural supply of serotonin, which can elevate your mood on a rainy day.
This spice can be added as extra flavoring to anything you decide to cook, and if you still live at home, your mom probably has some turmeric in the spice cabinet.
One of the amazing properties of turmeric is that it is often described as a natural version of Prozac, a common anti-depressant. So if you feel overwhelmed but are concerned about the side effects of most anti-depressant medications, you might try adding turmeric to a few meals a week. Turmeric is a safe spice that will not have negative effects on the body when used for long periods of time, even indefinitely.
Originating from India, we see that Indian seniors display some of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s in the world – possibly due to a regular intake of turmeric in their diets. Curcumin, an active compound within turmeric, increases the brain’s production of BDNF, which can break up brain plaques that are thought to be related or even cause Alzheimer’s.
4. Olive Oil
Olive oil, while seemingly a fatty substance, actually contains monounsaturated fats as well as vitamins E and K, all of which are known to support memory. Olive oil also increases the levels of BDNF in the brain, which inhibits depressive tendencies as well as the feelings of stress.
So by using extra virgin olive oil (instead of canola oil or vegetable oil, which contain trans fats), you can lower the risk of depression by nearly 50 percent just by how you cook a meal.
5. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil from the “tree of life” has been previously put down for its high content of saturated fats, but people who incorporate this into their eating habits are typically quite healthy. Coconut oil is also known for its ability to inhibit depressive tendencies as well as feelings of stress, and can also postpone the aging process in the brain. Specifically, coconut oil is known to reduce the abundance of plaques related to Alzheimer’s disease.
So next time you have frizzy hair, rough skin, and a frazzled mind before finals or a big day at work, use some coconut oil for your hair, skin, and brain to make you feel confident and focused!
What are some of your favorite brain foods for chaotic, stressful times in your own lives? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!