If you’re pregnant, you’ve probably experienced “Baby Brain”. You know…
…when your brain just feels a bit fuzzy?
…and sometimes you can’t seem to pay attention,
…and maybe you’re a little forgetful too?
Women have known this was really a “thing” for a long time. But recently research done in Australia confirmed that yes, its real!
The good news is there is something you can do about it, and it’s right there in your kitchen-FOOD!
For the whole story, plus more diet and lifestyle tips to fight Baby Brain, see my post: Baby Brain is Real.
So, can you really fight brain fog with food? Absolutely! You are what you eat, after all. These 15 foods may boost cognitive function, according to the latest brain research.
If you’ve read my other blog posts, you’ll know I’m a big fan of omega-3 fats–whether you’re pregnant or not. While you can get omega-3s from flax seed and walnuts, you can only get DHA and EPA, the fats so useful to the brain, in animal products, or in fortified foods. Cold-water fish like salmon have the most. You can get the DHA/EPA you need by eating just two servings a week. See my post Seafood Sources of DHA for more. You can also find DHA in fortified foods like milk and eggs. Cabot Cheddar Cheese with DHA, Tropicana Healthy Heart Orange Juice and Wegman’s Omega-3 Whole Wheat Bread also have DHA but only about 50 mg per serving.
Flax seeds are a great source of plant-based omega-3s as well as fiber.
Walnuts, like flax, are one of the best sources of omega-3 from plants. They’re also rich in antioxidants.
These are the super-stars of omega-3 in the plant world. Your body can convert a small amount into the long-chain omega-3s DHA and EPA. They are still super healthy, however, and help the brain in other ways since they also contain vitamin E, a potent antioxidant and fiber. Fiber helps slow digestion so your body doesn’t get drastic ups and downs of energy. A constant flow of energy to the brain makes it work better too.
In my opinion, eggs are the perfect food, for many reasons. They contain the perfect blend of amino acids, and a balance of protein and fat, which keeps energy balanced. But their perfection goes beyond macronutrients. Eggs are the best dietary source of choline, a B vitamin that is needed for the development of a baby’s memory center. It’s also been shown to help cognitive function in adults.
Take your pick of the variety of citrus fruits available. Their claim to fame is vitamin C, an antioxidant helpful to the body including the brain. Citrus fruits also contain flavonoids, which protect nerve cells in the brain from damage.
Berries are super stars when it comes to antioxidants and blueberries should be at the top of your eating list. In the winter months, you can use dried blueberries. Besides being rich in vitamin C and fiber, blueberries also contain a flavonoid that is not only neuroprotective, but has been shown to improve some types of memory in lab animals.
Iron is very important to the brain because it’s critical for making red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the brain. And guess, what? Without enough oxygen going to your brain, you are definitely going to feel brain fog! Iron deficiency anemia is very common during pregnancy, which may be one reason brain drain is common during pregnancy. While organ meats, clams, mussels and oysters actually have more iron than lean beef, they may have higher levels of environmental chemicals–which are not good for the brain!
Spinach is rich in iron, but it’s also full of beta carotene,vitamin K, vitamin A, folate, manganese, and magnesium–which all act as antioxidants and protect cell membranes of nerve cells from damage. Folate in particular, is needed for brain function, and a deficiency can lead to depression as well increase cognitive decline.
Let’s count the ways avocado can boost your diet–and brain: Vitamin E, healthy fats and antioxidants. Avocados are also rich in potassium, which can help blood pressure–and thus blood flow to the brain.
Eating just 1 ounce of sunflower seeds gives you 66% of the daily value for vitamin E, an important antioxidant. It’s been shown to reduce cognitive impairment in the elderly.
An ounce of almonds (about 24 nuts) gives you 48% of the Daily Value for vitamin E. Most American’s don’t have enough Vitamin E in the diet.
Imagine getting all the selenium you need in a day by eating bite of something…it’s possible by eating just one Brazil nut! Selenium is a strong antioxidant and a marginal or deficient intake may be associated with cognitive decline with age.
If you’ve read my book Eating Expectantly, you know that I recommend dark chocolate or cocoa on a regular basis during pregnancy. Why? Its flavonols have been shown to help blood pressure and have actually been linked to lower risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy. Those same antioxidants in cocoa also protect the brain for reactive oxygen species or ROS–also called free radicals. It’s important that you eat undutched cocoa or dark chocolate that has at least 60% cocoa.
The darker the better is what’s best for brain function. Dark chocolate and cocoa have flavonols that help blood flow to the brain and heart, among other things. Not all chocolate is alike here. The kind with caramel or creamy filling won’t have the same amount of flavonoids that are found in a plain square of chocolate. Darker chocolate does have more caffeine–1 square of Ghiardelli Intense Dark has 14 mg–about the same as 1 1/2 ounces of brewed coffee. Read more in my post Let Us Eat Chocolate!
Curcumin & Curry
You’re on the path to a brain-healthy diet if you regularly eat foods with curry. The spice “Curry” is actually a mix of spices, including curcumin. Curcumin is all the rage due to it’s potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It’s been studied as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease, showing actual memory improvement.
After soybeans, lentils have the most iron of any legume; close behind are chic peas, lima beans, black eyed peas, kidney beans, navy beans and black beans. To get the most iron from veggie sources of iron, have a vitamin C food with it, such as a citrus fruit or juice, melon, papaya, mango, bell peppers, tomatoes or cabbage.
Lentils are at the top of my bean list for a couple of reasons. They’re cheap. They cook quickly without soaking, meaning you can think of it at the last minute and still have dinner ready in less than an hour! And let’s not forget they’re super rich in iron–one of the top brain nutrients.
If you like hummus, you’re a fan of chicpeas, also called garbanzo beans. Those tiny bulbs are full of manganese, folate and copper–sometimes hard-to-find nutrients good for the brain.
Remember that the brain-boosting foods listed here are not JUST for pregnancy. They can help anyone, so please share!