What does the food you eat have to do with how your brain functions? Turns out an awful lot. While we’ve always known that what we eat affects our bodies and how we look, scientists are also learning more and more that what we eat takes a toll on our brains. Yes, brain foods matter (especially for our gray matter).
See, our bodies don’t like stress. Who does? When we’re stressed out — whether it’s physical, like someone jumps out at you from a dark alley, or mental, like you have a major project due at work — our bodies release inflammatory cytokines. (1)
These little chemicals prompt the immune system to kick in and fight back against the stress through inflammation, as though stress is an infection. While inflammation helps protect us against illnesses and repairs the body when you do something like cut yourself, chronic inflammation is a different animal. It’s been linked to autoimmune diseases like multiple Sclerosis, anxiety, high blood pressure and more. (2)
But what does this all have to do with food? Our gut helps keep our body’s immune responses and inflammation under control. Additionally, gut hormones that enter the brain or are produced in the brain influence cognitive ability, like understanding and processing new information, staying focused on the task at hand and recognizing when we’re full. (3)
Plus, brain foods rich in antioxidants, good fats, vitamins and minerals provide energy and aid in protecting against brain diseases. So when we focus on giving our bodies whole, nutritious foods benefiting both the gut and the brain, we’re actually benefiting our minds and bodies while keeping them both in tip-top shape.
Of course, some foods are better for your brain than others. I’ve rounded up 15 brain foods you should be eating to feed both your mind and body. With a mix of fruits, veggies, oils and even chocolate (yes, chocolate!), there’s something to please everyone!