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August 14, 2012

Eat to Excel: 5 Top Brain-Boosting Foods

The Hood Answer Mom, Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

As summer vacation winds down, we need to get our brains back into high gear to tackle a new school year, and projects at work, and at home.    

No food is the magic bullet that helps you focus, learn, or get more done. As always, balance is key. Overeating distracts you from the task at hand and saps your energy, and so do hunger pangs.  

This collection of brain-boosting foods offers a mix of the most essential nutrients to help you excel in the classroom and in the boardroom. 

Blueberries.Animal research suggests that blueberries help to protect brain cells from everyday damage, and may reduce the risk of dementia in older people.   While we're waiting for confirmation of the same effects in humans, it never hurts to load up on the delicious gems for their vitamin C, fiber, and potassium.   
How to include:Use in fruit smoothies and green salads, as a topping for cereal, pancakes and waffles, and in blueberry crisp and fruit salad.

Water. Mild dehydration affects concentration and may cause headaches.   There's no need for most people to drink 8 glasses of water every day, however. Milk, juice, and even coffee and tea are mostly water, and count toward your fluid needs.How to include:Offer children water and low-fat and fat-free Hood milk . Fruits and vegetables are also brimming with water, so include about five servings (combined) daily. 

Fish.Fish truly is brain food: It harbors protein to build brain cells, vitamins and minerals to foster communication, and an omega-3 fat called DHA that supports brain function and promotes healthy vision to help transmit images to the brain.In older people, higherlevels of omega 3 fats have been linked to lower dementia and stroke risks and a slower rate of mental decline. Aim for at least 8 ounces of seafood weekly.  
How to include:Add canned light tuna to salads and pack tuna sandwiches for lunch, grill salmon or make salmon burgers or fish stew, prepare mild fish, such as haddock, tilapia or cod for dinner. 

Eggs.Eggs are rich in choline, the raw material for a brain chemical that supports memory. Plus, protein-rich foods like eggs, milk, Hood cottage cheese , soy foods, meat, and fish support brain function. How to include:Most healthy people can eat at least one egg every day. Enjoy them hard-cooked as snacks, egg salad, and in green salads, scrambled, in omelets with vegetables and cheese, and in French toast and pancakes.

Iron-fortified oatmeal.Oatmeal is a whole grain. Whole grains help keep blood vessels clear so that your brain gets the blood it needs. Oatmeal also supplies fiber that allows for a more steady supply of fuel to the brain, and fiber keeps you fuller for longer. Added iron prevents anemia, which can leave you and your child fatigued and unproductive.   
How to include:Make instant oatmeal in the microwave with milk for breakfast or as a snack.


Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., is a writer, nutrition consultant, and mother of three. She is the author of several books, including MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better and Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, & After Pregnancy . Ward is also a contributing writer for Muscle & Fitness Hers and Men's Fitness magazines.

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