Did you know that March is National Nutrition Month? Well, this annual campaign from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is dedicated to helping families make informed food choices and develop healthy eating habits. One of these healthy eating habits includes cooking more food items that help with brain development and overall cognition, and this can be especially important for parents and their kids.
If you’d like to start eating more brain foods as a family, here are 11 great brain foods to work into your family’s diet, according to licensed clinical social worker Paula Holmes with Nobu, a comprehensive wellness app.
11 Fermented Foods
While many people don’t always think about foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, or pickles as being “brain foods,” fermented foods actually offer many benefits to the brain. In fact, the medical experts with Nobu say eating fermented foods as a regular part of your diet increases levels of norepinephrine, dopamine and other neurotransmitters within your brain, which helps your overall mood and decision-making abilities.
Most of the time, fermented foods like sauerkraut are great and easy enough to whip up as part of a traditional dinner. If your kid isn’t a fan of the “sourer” fermented foods, though, don’t worry. You can still find ways to work fermented foods into your family’s diet through fun recipes like this berry kefir smoothie recipe from Eating Well.
10 Nuts & Seeds
Items like walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseed, and pumpkin seeds all contain essential fatty acids (EFAs) like alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid). These specific acids serve as “building blocks for the brain” and are essential for concentration and focus — which kids desperately need.
Luckily, many of these nuts and seeds can easily go into many dishes you already make, like pasta sauces, pizza, or even rice crispy treats. They also blend well into oatmeal or sweet snack breads, like banana bread.
9 Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy greens like kale, spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard, and even cabbage are packed with nutrients like vitamin K, beta-carotene and folate. While these greens can help with other health concerns like high blood pressure and heart health, they also help slow the brain’s aging while enhancing your mood as a sort of natural antidepressant.
Leafy greens are easy to work into dinners as a side item, but you can also throw them into appetizers like this cheesy spinach dip. Or, if you have an especially picky eater, there are always creative ways to sneak leafy greens into popular dishes like pastas, sweet treats, and smoothies.
8 Fish & Other Seafood
Most of us already know that fish and other seafood are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, but not everyone knows all the benefits these proteins offer. In addition to the metabolic and heart health benefits, omega-3 fatty acids from fish and other seafood protect against dementia, anxiety, depression, and other cognitive conditions. Furthermore, the team at Healthline says omega-3 promotes brain health during pregnancy and child development.
If you’re looking for an easy (but fun) way to work fish into your next family dinner, try your hand at making some fish tacos or lobster mac and cheese. These popular dishes will absolutely please your home crowd.
We all know that eating plenty of fruit and vegetables is important. However, berries offer specific benefits for the brain, including better communication between brain cells, increased memory, and improved cognitive function. According to Maria Masters with What To Expect, berries that offer these benefits include strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries.
Luckily, berries pair well with dishes families commonly served during every meal, and can even be used to make glazes or sauces for your proteins like salmon or chicken.
Although turmeric is a spice, its active ingredient of curcumin offers many brain benefits. It helps promote new brain cell growth, improve memory function, and even lessen symptoms of depression.
Not sure how to add turmeric into your next family meal? Well, this flavorful spice mixes well with everything from eggs to rice. It also fits in with many soup recipes and makes a tasty topping for roasted vegetables.
5 Beans & Other Legumes
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the vitamin B found within legumes helps your body make neurotransmitters, which is what passes signals between nerves within your body. Furthermore, the zinc and copper found within many legumes can help decrease anxiety symptoms, which are more prevalent than ever before. It doesn’t matter what types of beans you pick, what matters is that you incorporate them into your family’s diet regularly since vitamin B and other minerals don’t stay within the body for long.
4 Dark Chocolate
Although some people find dark chocolate a little more bitter than the sweeter milk chocolate we all love, dark chocolate is actually much better for the brain. In fact, the powerful antioxidants found in dark chocolate improve your neuroplasticity, mental processing, and learning. As you can imagine, these benefits aren’t just good for parents — they’re good for children, too!
3 Whole-Grain Foods
Whole grains are great for your overall health, and they reduce brain inflammation, which can help preserve memory and brain function as you age. These whole grains include barley, oats, quinoa, and others. All of these are easy enough to whip into breakfasts or dinners, especially if your kids like overnight oats or soups. Furthermore, you can even work whole grains into foods your kids love, like chicken nuggets.
Eggs are a tasty way to get your daily amounts of vitamin B-12, choline, and protein in, all of which help your brain with learning and memory retention. Furthermore, the vitamins and nutrients in eggs can also help your body produce increased amounts of serotonin, which helps improve your mood. You can make eggs in lots of different ways, including quiches and frittatas.
The vitamin C within oranges helps prevent mental decline over time, not to mention it improves your attention, ability to focus, memory, and decision-making capabilities. In fact, you only need to eat one medium orange per day to receive all of these amazing benefits.
While oranges make a great side item for lunch, they also taste great in many dessert dishes or alongside a healthy breakfast. Or, if you want to mix in oranges with some other brain foods on this list, you can easily bake up this cranberry orange walnut bread recipe from Taste of Home.
Sources: Nobu, Eating Well, What To Expect, The Spruce Eats, Healthline, Cleveland Clinic, Food Network, Taste of Home
Turns out you can freeze more than you’d think. In fact, this list includes 10 foods that you can store in your freezer for months (or even a year).
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