What Are Superfoods and Can They Improve Brain Function and Cognitive Thinking?
What is a Superfood?
What exactly is a Superfood? This term started popping up in the media referring to foods that have an increase in health-related properties. It is important to understand that though this is a term used to describe specific group of foods, it is not a medical term. Though the foods listed in this category have some very impressive properties such as high levels of antioxidants, vitamins or nutrients, there is no true medical term categorizing these foods (medicinenet.com). Some of these foods offer an improvement of brain functionality and cognitive abilities among other beneficial aspects. This article is going to explore those foods.
A Line of Defense
When researching superfoods, most times the term will be encased in quotes. This is to make clear to the reader encouraging understanding that although “superfoods” is a term used widely by media and the common person, it is not a term that medical professionals support. Some of these foods include fruits, berries, vegetables, grains, and fish. One paying attention will notice that these food types are also important for a healthy diet, superfood or not. That is something that medical professionals will support, a healthy diet.
The first of these foods is blueberries. Blueberries can be consumed either fresh, frozen, or freeze-dried. Whichever form they are consumed, a cup a day of blueberries will not lose its superfood power. The berries are high in antioxidants and aid in protecting the brain from aging, such as with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia (webmd.com). By reducing unavoidable DNA damage, these berries can protect against Cancer as well as aging. Blueberries are at the top of the “superfood” chain.
Another very important superfood is going to be oily fish. Fish high in Omega-3s help to build membranes around all cells in the body, including the brain. This will improve and protect the structure of the brain and increase blood flow. An example of some oily fish are salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines (medicalnewstoday.com). One would not need to eat fish every day to wreak the benefits of the all-important Omega-3. A 4-ounce serving two to three times a week would be sufficient. Fish is not the only food that has Omega-3. Soybeans, walnuts, and flaxseed also contain Omega-3 if a person does not care for the flavor of fish.
Avocado, though as unattractive as it looks, is an incredibly nutritious superfood. Though high in calories and fat, the fat is considered a healthy fat. What healthy fat means is that it absorbs the nutrients and vitamins from other vegetables that would not normally be absorbed by the body on their own, the avocado then moves the vitamins and nutrients from the digestive tract to the body (healthline.com). This fruit contributes to healthy blood flow, and lower blood pressure, which in turn promotes a healthy brain. A healthy brain means that it will function properly.
Chocolate. But not just any chocolate. Dark chocolate. Chocolate lovers around the world all just smiled and internally celebrated this small victory! Dark chocolate contains cocoa, or cacao as it is also known. Cacao is a type of antioxidant that helps to defend the brain against aging and stress. Dark chocolate may even be responsible for improving brain plasticity. This is a crucial component for learning (medicalnewstoday.com). Though considered a superfood, this is one food that should be consumed in moderation.
Another high antioxidant superfood is pomegranate. Generally speaking, to benefit from this fruit, consuming pomegranate in juice form is the most preferred and convenient way to take advantage of its beneficial properties. Eating the fruit on its own is not easy with all the seeds. Pomegranates do have a high sugar content, so when drinking this juice, 2 ounces a day diluted by water is recommended (webmd.com).
When thinking of a healthy choice of food, coffee is not one that people typically consider. However, the caffeine rich drink also contains antioxidants. These antioxidants serve as a barrier to adenosine which increases sleepiness and muscle relaxation. By blocking adenosine, caffeine increases the brains alertness and reaction time. Caffeine is also believed to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and cognitive decline (medicalnewstoday.com). Like chocolate, coffee is another one of these superfoods that should be consumed in moderation.
Kale visits this list as another great source as an antioxidant. Kale is not only packed with vitamins such as A, C and Vitamin K, but also contains a significant amount of Vitamin E which is an important antioxidant. This antioxidant has been proven as a good source of slowing down cognitive decline for older adults (copemanhealthcare.com). Beets join kale, but as a root vegetable that contains nitrates that assist in dilating blood vessels allowing oxygen to the blood and brain.
Improving memory can be as simple as changing the type of oil used in cooking. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) contains healthy monounsaturated fats and can be used in place of saturated and trans fats. Again, in moderation. These fats aid in optimizing blood cholesterol levels. Another memory enhancer is sesame seeds. The seeds aid in the production of dopamine simply due to their high tyrosine content. Dopamine also helps to keep the brain alert (copemanhealthcare.com).
A common theme among these superfoods is most are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are an important factor in the brains war against stress and free radicals. Free radicals are produced when the body breaks down food, or if it is exposed to radiation and smoke. Free radicals play a role in heart disease, cancer, and other diseases, which makes it very important to have a healthy diet rich with antioxidants (mayoclinic.org). Flavonoids such as blueberries and avocado are an impressive weapon against these free radicals. These antioxidants aid in preventing and or slowing down the damage the free radicals cause.
Free radicals can occur in nearly any area of the body, but when it comes to the brain, the powerhouse of the body, it is doubly important to protect and shield it. The stress the brain is put through simply from functioning and keeping the body working is undeniable. Add onto that the damage these free radicals can potentially do to the brain, antioxidants are the best form of defense. Including these superfoods to a healthy diet is a great start to building that defense.
Superfoods are Powerful
The term “superfoods” is not a true medical term used by the medical community, but instead a term created by the media to draw attention to these foods that contain healthy elements. This group of foods referred to as superfoods contain the highest amount of nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants, etc. that a person should include in their daily diet to lead a healthy life. Superfoods aid in the healthiness of the brain and assist in increasing memory and cognition. A healthy brain means healthy functionality of the entire body. The earlier a person begins to consume these superfoods, the better their chances are of having a strong defense against Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease and memory loss. It goes without saying that in addition to a person’s memory and knowledge, the brain is responsible for the body’s proper functionality. From breathing to swallowing, from walking to sleeping, the brain has the most important roll of all the internal organs. It is imperative that it is protected and provided with healthy oxygenated blood to keep the body from deteriorating too soon and to prevent memory loss.
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