Have you eaten your brain foods today?
Fact is, all the educational apps that teens use for studying are useless if their brains are not in top functioning form. There are certain nutrients that are crucial for brain development—and better brain development means better brain function, concentration, and memory— all of which contribute to better cognitive ability and focus while learning.
To keep your academic performance at optimum levels, we’ve researched seven of the best brain foods to help teens boost their mental power. We also asked Patrick Quinn, a parenting expert at Brainly– the world’s largest online learning and homework help community– for some recommendations and tips on how to incorporate these brain foods into your daily diet. SEE LIST AND TIPS BELOW.
1. Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are packed with nutrients that are essential for brain health including essential fatty acids, protein, zinc, and B-vitamins. They’re also natural mood boosters that are portable and versatile, making them an excellent choice for study snacks.
Parent tip: “Kids aren’t always going to love these. But mixing them in a trail mix with a few chocolate pieces or yogurt chips is a great way to get them munching on healthy nuts and seeds.” Just be careful not to share the mix with kids who have nut allergies.
2. Greek Yogurt
Full-fat Greek yogurt packs a lot more protein (and much less sugar) than other yogurts, and can help keep brain cells in good form for sending and receiving information. Not only is it packed with protein, it’s also full of B-vitamins—essential for the growth of brain tissue, neurotransmitters, and enzymes. Greek yogurt is also a great source of Calcium and Vitamin D.
Parent tip: “Mix in a teaspoon of honey and some cinnamon to turn this healthy option into a delicious one as well. The problem for me at that point is avoiding eating it myself before the kids get it.”
Berries are rich in a variety of compounds that help promote academic performance and protect brain health. Berries (including blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries) are especially high in flavonoid compounds called anthocyanins, believed to improve mental performance by increasing blood flow to the brain. They protect against inflammation and improve certain signaling pathways that promote nerve cell production and cellular processes involved in learning and memory.
Parent tip: “Berries make an easy study snack, but they can cause sticky fingers that can lead to messy keyboards and homework papers. Try putting several different types of berries on kid-friendly skewers for a fun, healthy, and mess-free desk snack.”
Fish is an excellent source of Vitamin D and the Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA— both essential for brain growth and function. Consuming more Omega-3s means kids will have sharper minds and better mental skills.
Parent tip: “Fish can be a tricky one with kids. If you get them accustomed to eating it when they’re young, they’ll be more likely to be open to new fish dishes when they’re pre-teen and teenagers. You can make fish tasty for kids by serving it simply grilled, like fish sticks, or including it in tacos or in tuna sandwiches. Another option is using canned salmon to make delicious salmon salad sandwiches that can be mixed with reduced-fat mayo or non-fat Greek yogurt, raisins, chopped celery, and carrots.”
The versatile egg is a great source of protein, and egg yolks are packed with choline, which helps memory development. Eggs can be served in a variety of ways and can be enjoyed at breakfast, as a mid-afternoon snack, or even at dinner.
Parent tip: “Eggs are great for making grab-and-go breakfasts kids can eat on the road. Scramble eggs into a whole grain tortilla to make a grab-and-go breakfast burrito, or make your own version of an Egg McMuffin at home by putting a fried egg on top of a toasted English muffin and topping it with a slice of low-fat cheese.”
Bonus tip: “Eggs aren’t only a great healthy option that will keep them full thanks to the protein, but it’s also a really great gateway to cooking for the budding chef. Teach them how to make scrambled eggs, a fried egg, or a veggie omelet, and you’re fostering a whole new side of creativity. Plus… you might get the occasional breakfast out of that deal!”
Oats are extremely nutritious and they can provide the energy and fuel for the brain that everyone needs first thing in the morning. Oatmeal is also a fiber-rich food that keeps heart and brain arteries clear. In one study, kids who ate sweetened oatmeal did better on memory-related school tasks than those who ate sugary cereal.
Parent tip: “Delicious AND helps with memory at school? Oatmeal should really be considered a bit of a superfood for our kids. It’s another food option that can be endlessly tweaked to suit the tastes of your individual kiddos. You can dress oatmeal up with applesauce, dried fruit, almonds, and banana to make it tastier and more appealing to kids. Due to its natural compounds, adding cinnamon also gives oatmeal an extra ingredient that will help to protect brain cells.”
7. Apples and Plums
Satisfy your craving for sweets with healthy and fiber-rich apples and plums. Apples and plums also contain quercetin, an antioxidant that helps keep mental skills sharp. Keep them organic to get the best benefits.
Parent tip: “These are some of the few snacks that are on the ‘help yourself’ list in my house. It’s great because kids can grab one when they get home from school while doing homework, or anytime they want a quick bite. For a heartier snack, you can also cut apples into chunky slices and spread them with almond or peanut butter, or you can freeze pitted plums and add them to a favorite nutrient-rich fruit smoothie.”
With the increased focus on overall well-being and health these days, more teens and their parents are realizing how important of a role nutrition plays in physical, mental, and cognitive health. Strive to start eating more of these healthy brain foods today!