Found on RunnersWorld.com and written by Liz Applegate
Your noggin is not only responsible for memory and cognition—it also plays a critical role in dictating fatigue levels during a run. And just as fueling the muscles is critical to performance, nourishing the brain with key nutrients boosts its overall function. The result? You feel more alert at your desk—and on a run. Moreover, certain foods can also help ward off age-related memory loss. Here’s a short list of the top brain foods.
As one of the richest sources of vitamin E, almonds make for a smart snack. Researchers have found that vitamin E combats oxidative stress in the brain caused by a diet rich in refined carbs (sugar and white flour) and fat. Vitamin E also acts as a potent protector for the brain’s omega-3-rich cell membranes.
Eat It: Use to top yogurt or hot cereal, or add to trail mix.
Choline, a nutrient that’s rarely talked about, helps keep your brain’s messengers (called neurotransmitters) signaling properly. While our bodies make choline, scientists believe that production is spotty at best for some individuals, particularly pregnant women, so include it in your diet.
Eat It: Make eggs part of recovery meals, or hard-boil them for salads—but be sure to use the whole egg; the choline is in the yolk.
Kale is loaded with lutein, which protects neurons from oxidative damage caused by pollution and heavy breathing (i.e., hard running). Scientists believe oxidative damage is linked to poor cognitive function, early memory loss, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Eat It: Add to soups and casseroles, or serve in salad.
The membrane of brain cells is made primarily of omega-3 fats—the same fat in salmon. Studies show that consuming omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) makes these cells more supple, optimizing your processing power. Omega-3s may also delay memory loss as you age and boost IQ in kids.
Eat It: Salmon and other fatty fish contain the most omega-3s, but all seafood has it; aim for two 3.5-ounce servings a week. You can also try walnuts, ground flaxseed, or omega-3-enriched eggs, or put flaxseed oil on salads or pasta.
One of the main proteins in milk and other dairy foods, whey may save the brain. Scientists found that when mice consumed whey, their brain cells were better able to process oxygen, a sign of optimal brain function.
Eat It: Make a protein recovery drink: Mix a scoop of whey powder (20 grams of protein) with water, or mix in a blender with a banana and cocoa for added flavor, potassium, and antioxidant power.
Research suggests probiotics—beneficial bacteria found in some yogurts—may affect brain function. Subjects in a study at the University of California, Los Angeles, who ate yogurt with probiotics twice daily for four weeks showed better connectivity between brain regions than a control group.
Eat It: Aim for several servings of yogurt weekly (look for “live cultures” on the label). Probiotics are also in kefir, kimchi, and other foods with live bacteria.