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Celery

t’s time to stop skipping celery because it tastes like, well, nothing. (Here are five delicious soup recipes to get you started.) Because what celery lacks in taste it more than makes up for in brain power! It’s a rich source of luteolin, a plant compound believed to reduce inflammation in the brain, thereby protecting it from the aging process. A 2010 study found that luteolin slowed cognitive decline in older mice. You don’t have to chomp down a huge stick of celery to reap it’s benefits: Try chopping some up and adding it to your tuna salad, or tossing a bunch into the next soup you make. Try these mouthwatering recipes for an extra boost in brain power.

Dark chocolate

Great news for dark chocolate lovers! Several studies demonstrate its brain-boosting powers, including enhanced cognitive function, a reduced risk of dementia, and improved performance on challenging brain teasers—along with a slew of other health benefits of dark chocolate. For example, researchers in 2013 found that the flavanols that get absorbed when you consume chocolate penetrate and accumulate in the brain regions involved in learning and memory, especially the hippocampus. Another test, carried out in 2011, found that even single doses of high-flavanol dark chocolate can improve performance on cognitive tests, including memory test, in healthy adults. Chocolate has even been found to improve depression and anxiety symptoms and help enhance feelings of calmness and contentedness, thanks to its mood-enhancing flavanols and methylxanthines.

Walnuts

All nuts are good for brain health, but walnuts are at the top of the list—and here are 10 meals to make with walnuts that will help you get more. Thanks to their high concentration of DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid (one quarter cup of walnuts provides almost 100 percent of the recommended daily intake of DHA), the nuts have been linked to brain health in newborns and improved cognitive performance in adults, and prevent or ameliorate age-related cognitive decline. A 2012 study found that walnut consumption may increase inferential reasoning in young adults.

Carrots

Substances called free radicals float through the bloodstream and try to break down the brain cells, which can lead to memory loss as you age. However, antioxidants merge with free radicals and make them harmless—and carrots are loaded with them, which is why they offer so many surprising health benefits. Carrots can also protect against other types of cognitive decline, according to a study from 2000, thanks to their ability to lower the oxidative stress in the brain that can weaken nerve signaling capacity.

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Oily fish

The brain needs plenty of omega-3 fats to stay healthy, and the best natural source is in oily fish, such as salmon, mackarel, trout, herring, sardines, pilchards and kippers. (Don’t like fish? Here are seven more foods loaded with omega-3 fatty acids.) Oily fish contains the active form of EPA and DHA in ready-made form, meaning the body can use it easily. Having healthy levels of both EPA and DHA is thought to help up manage stress and boost levels of the “happy” brain chemical, serotonin. Recent research carried out in the United States found a possible link between high omega-3 levels and the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

Tomatoes

Another great brain power food you should try to eat every day is tomatoes. Don’t like the mushy supermarket variety? Why not try growing organic tomatoes at home? This fruit contains the powerful antioxidant lycopene, which is believed to help protect against the kind of free radical damage to cells which occurs in the development of dementia. Tomatoes also contain other compounds that can protect the brain’s health and functionality. Research carried out in 2013 suggests that the vitamin B group nutrient choline improves short-term memory, aids in learning, and regulates sleep. Additionally, the alpha-lipoic acid in tomatoes helps preserve brain tissue, and may even delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Eggs

One of the biggest nutrition bangs for your buck, the humble egg is also endlessly versatile—get cooking inspiration from these 55 delicious ways to have eggs. According to Finnish researchers, eating eggs can boost brain power—and it’s all down to choline again. The diets of around 2,500 men in Finland were monitored for a period of up to 22 years and it was found that those who ate roughly the equivalent of one egg a day did not have a higher risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, the opposite turned out to be true. These actually performed better on certain cognitive tests in later life than men who ate eggs less often.

Pumpkin seeds

Seeds are great for the brain, and pumpkin seeds among the best. These little delights are packed with omega-3 fatty acids to improve mental health, help maintain memory and support brain development, and they also contain high levels of magnesium, which is believed to have a calming effect on the brain, and zinc, which increases brain power by enhancing focus and memory. One handful of pumpkin seeds provides you with 50 percent of the recommended levels of zinc (8-11mg per day). Research carried out in 2011 found that zinc played a “critical” role in regulating communication between the brain in respect of memory and cognition.

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Broccoli

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli contain sulforaphane compounds, which can stimulate the renewal and repair of nerve tissue in the brain. In a recent Chinese study, researchers found that sulforaphane may have significant ameliorative properties against underlying pathological disturbances found in common neurodegenerative diseases, including increased inflammation, disconcerted calcium homeostasis, oxidative stress, and neuronal death. Broccoli also contains vitamin K, which helps strengthen cognitive abilities and may even have Alzheimer’s-fighting properties. A 2008 study assessed the dietary intakes of patients with early stage Alzheimer’s and found that the diagnosed patients consumed considerably less vitamin K than the control group, supporting the case for further research into the effects of vitamin K on brain health.

Sage

It’s no longer simply an old wives’ tale: sage really does sharpen the mind. That’s according to clinical trials carried out in 2003 which found that healthy adults who had taken sage oil capsules performed significantly better in memory tests. Researchers split 45 individuals into two groups; one group received a placebo while others received sage essential oil at dosages between 50 and 150 microls. Then, each participant took a memory test. Even those who took the smallest quantity of sage oil demonstrated significant memory improvements. Here’s how to grow sage and other medicinal herbs.

Wine

Your evening glass of wine might make you feel relaxed, but it’s actually giving you a great workout—in your brain, at least. (In fact, you can find wines for every health need.) Neuroscientist Dr. Gordon Shepherd from the Yale School of Medicine claims that drinking wine engages more working parts of the brain than any other human activity. Shepherd says it all comes down to taste, and believes that the process of swirling a glass of wine in our mouths, and the tongue muscles and taste receptors that this triggers, engages more of the brain than listening to music or even solving a math problem.

Turmeric

Some scientists have hailed turmeric a “wonder spice” due to its seemingly endless list of health benefits—including relief from digestive issues such as heartburn and gas. In terms of brain health, a 2014 study found that turmeric may contribute to the regeneration of a “damaged brain” and help with neurological disorders. Another study, also published in 2014, found that turmeric can prevent and even reverse damage from exposure to toxic fluoride. An easy way to incorporate turmeric into your meals is to saute it in about half a teaspoon of oil in a saucepan then add it to whatever you’re cooking.

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Coconut oil

You may be able to use coconut for your hair, skin, teeth, and even as a household cleaning product. Now it looks like it may also be good for your brain. The main reason coconut oil is considered a brain food is its high concentration of MCTs (medium chain triglycerides). The brain is usually fueled by glucose, but in coconut oil the MCTs get broken down into ketones, which feed the brain directly (without the metabolic process glucose goes through). Neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain, includes coconut oil as part of his “anti-Alzheimer’s trio,” along with avocados and omega-3 rich grass-fed beef. Perlmutter’s belief is backed up by 2014 research that found coconut oil reduces the beta-amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. In another study, adults with mild cognitive impairment showed significant improvement in memory recall within 90 minutes of taking a single dose of MCT oil.

Sea vegetables

If your local sushi restaurant is your favorite haunt, you’re feeding your brain as well as your belly. (New to sushi? Check out these sushi eating tips for nori novices.) Sea vegetables like nori, the seaweed sheets used to wrap sushi, is a great source of vitamin B12, which is essential for brain health. Sea vegetables also contain iodine, which isn’t found in many other foods. In fact, iodine is such a rare dietary source it’s added to table salt to prevent widespread deficiency. When it was added to table salt in the United States in the 1920s, there was a noticeable increase in average IQ. Nori also contains taurine, an amino acid that stimulates the release of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), sometimes called “nature’s valium” because it helps us feel relaxed and happy.

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