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9 Brain-Boosting Foods for Back-to-School Meals (Slideshow)

9 Brain-Boosting Foods for Back-to-School Meals (Slideshow)

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Cook with these nine ingredients for improved brain function

Avocados are a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E, which helps protect the brain from free radical damage. Use guacamole as a topping for burgers or sandwiches and try adding cubes of avocado to fruit salad in your kid’s lunch box.


Avocados are a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E, which helps protect the brain from free radical damage. Use guacamole as a topping for burgers or sandwiches and try adding cubes of avocado to fruit salad in your kid’s lunch box.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil, which is found in the meat of the coconut, is being studied as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Try using coconut oil in your baking or add fresh coconut meat to breakfast smoothies.


Dark berries are good for the brain and improve memory, learning, and cognitive function. Add fresh blueberries to cereal in the morning or cook them down in a pan to make a sweet glaze for grilled chicken.


Broccoli is full of nutrients and may help remove heavy metals from the body — metals that can damage your brain. Add broccoli to stir-fry dishes or try roasting it in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil for an easy and delicious brain-boosting meal.



Quinoa is a healthy way to get your brain the glucose it needs to perform its best. Use quinoa in place of rice when you’re cooking dinner or try it with milk and honey at breakfast time instead of oatmeal.

Red Cabbage

This crunchy vegetable is rich in polyphenol, an antioxidant that’s good for your brain. Shred cabbage and use it instead of lettuce on your next taco dinner night (added bonus: it's also more authentically Mexican).

Sunflower Seeds

1. Brain Food: Salmon

Fatty fish like salmon are an excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA -- both essential for brain growth and function, says Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD, a Los Angeles nutritionist and ADA spokeswoman.

In fact, recent research has also shown that people who get more of these fatty acids in their diet have sharper minds and do better at mental skills tests.

While tuna is also a source of omega-3s, it's not a rich source like salmon, Giancoli tells WebMD.
"Tuna is definitely a good source of lean protein, but because it's so lean it's not very high in omega-3s like canned salmon is," Giancoli tells WebMD. Also, albacore "white" tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna, so the EPA advises eating no more than 6 ounces of albacore tuna weekly.

Eat more salmon: Instead of tuna sandwiches, make salmon salad for sandwiches -- canned salmon mixed with reduced-fat mayo or non-fat plain yogurt, raisins, chopped celery, and carrots (plus a little Dijon mustard if your child likes the taste). Serve on whole-grain bread -- which is also a brain food.

Soup idea: Add canned salmon to creamy broccoli soup -- plus frozen chopped broccoli for extra nutrition and soft texture. Boxed soups make this an easy meal, and are generally low in fat and calories, Giancoli says. Look for organic boxed soups in the health food section.

Make salmon patties -- using 14 oz. canned salmon, 1 lb. frozen chopped spinach (thawed and drained), 1/2 onion (finely chopped), 2 garlic cloves (pressed), 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste. Combine ingredients. Mix well. Form into small balls. Heat olive oil in pan, flatten spinach balls with spatula. Cook over medium heat. Serve over brown rice (instant or frozen).



DHA—a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in fattier fish like salmon—can actually improve memory and the time it takes to recall a memory. Researchers tested DHA supplements on a group of 176 adults who had low levels of omega-3s in their diets. What they found was that just 1.16 grams of DHA—what you'd find in a 3 1/2 ounce serving of salmon—made a big difference.

10 Best Foods for Your Brain

Healthy food nourishes the whole body, and that includes the brain. Many foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants have been reported to significantly contribute to brain health and the prevention of cognitive decline. Adding some of these delicious brain-boosting foods to your diet is an excellent way to stay healthy.

1. Olive Oil

Olive oil is a favorite fat of many and can make food taste great. It can also help boost brain health. Olive oil is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols that have been found to "reverse age- and disease- related learning and memory deficits" in mice and may even protect against the damage that occurs in the brain related to Alzheimer's disease. Olive oil can vary in polyphenol count, and some don't even report polyphenol content. Purchase your olive oil from a reputable source that states the polyphenol count so you know you are getting the benefits, such as the Drop of Life olive oil.

2. Blueberries

Tufts University claims blueberries are great brain food. These flavorful little berries contain polyphenols known as anthocyanins that reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain will increasing signalling. Studies have found adding blueberries to your diet may slow age-related brain decline. Two or more half-cup servings of blueberries per week have shown beneficial effects.

3. Avocado

The essential fatty acids found in avocados are crucial to brain health and function. Avocados are rich in folate, choline, monounsaturated fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids, among other nutrients. A 2014 study found polyunsaturated fatty acids can aid brain function in the aging population and increase executive brain functions. One fifth of an avocado a day can meet your serving needs.

4. Fatty Fish

Sources of fatty fish are excellent brain-boosting food. Fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, and tuna are high in the nutrient docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). A 2015 study reported that DHA has been found to improve memory in adults. Two three-ounce servings of salmon a week can help boost your brain health.

5. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate helps you feed your sweet tooth, but this treat also feeds your brain. Dark chocolate contains the flavanol epicatechin and antioxidants that a 2013 study reported to improve cognition and mood, help in the areas of learning and memory function, and may lower the risk of Alzheimer's. More research is needed to determine exact amounts needed to promote brain health, but a one-inch square of dark chocolate a day can't hurt and will definitely help your sweet tooth.

6. Almonds and Other Nuts

The Physican's Committee for Responsible Medicine recommends regular consumption of nuts and seeds to help prevent Alzheimer's and protect your brain. Snacking on nuts and seeds, such as hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, almonds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds increases your vitamin E intake, which helps promote a healthy brain. The Physician's Committee recommends a small handful of the above to get a brain boost of vitamin E.

7. Strawberries and Brightly Colored Produce

Brilliantly colored fruits and vegetables tend to have the highest levels of antioxidants. These include cranberries, beets, red bell pepper, blackberries, blueberries, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cherries, eggplant, kale, onion, oranges, plums, prunes, raspberries, red grapes, spinach, and strawberries. Today's Dietitian reports that antioxidants help combat oxidative stress in the brain and can reduce cognitive decline. Two cups of fruits and two and a half cups of vegetables a day can help provide the antioxidants you need.

8. Spinach and Green Leafy Vegetables

A 2016 Today's Dietitian article lists leafy greens as brain food because they are loaded with folate. Folate plays a big part in minimizing age-related depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, folate consumption in the elderly may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's. The exact amount of folate needed to prevent cognitive decline remains debated however, adding at least a cup of spinach to your daily diet can help.

9. Whole Grains and Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates, including whole grains, starchy vegetables (like yams), and legumes, contain loads of B vitamins, antioxidants, trace minerals, fiber, and even some protein. These complex carbs digest slower than simple sugars and keep blood sugar levels steady, which in turn, keeps brain energy high for prolonged periods. MyPlate recommends six ounces of whole grains a day for a healthy diet.

10. Walnuts

Walnuts are a nut high in protein, but they are also an excellent source of anti-inflammatory phytochemicals and polyunsaturated fats. A 2014 study found that walnuts help preserve cognitive function and improve neurotransmitter signaling in the brain. Walnuts are simple to add to the diet, as all you need are one to two per day.

38 Back-to-School Breakfast Recipes and Ideas

Getting kids to eat a healthy breakfast can be a next to impossible task. Depending on their ages and morning moods, we might be lucky to get a glass of instant breakfast drink into our kids before they're out the door. No matter what their ages, it can a real chore to lure kids to the breakfast table!

Kids going to school need breakfast but often balk at the thought of eating in their morning rush out the door.

Kids really want to do their best! Let your kids know why breakfast is important, and how it WILL make a difference in how they do in school. Ask them to take part in grocery shopping or help with the shopping list.

Like adults, kids have different tastes, and they know what they like. Some kids like cold cereal, some like hot, while others turn up their nose at any cereal and choose a donut or muffin. Pre-made breakfast bars are another alternative, but be sure to check the labels for nutritional value and consider making your own.

Kids often crave sweets, especially when they're feeling sluggish. Apples and plums are lunchbox-friendly and contain quercetin, an antioxidant that may fight decline in mental skills.

How to Serve It: The good stuff is often in the skin of fruit, so buy organic, wash well, and put the fruit in a bowl for quick snacks.


Tanya Remer Altmann, MD, FAAP, spokeswoman, American Academy of Pediatrics editor-in-chief, American Academy of Pediatrics parenting book, The Wonder Years, Bantam, 2007.

Drew Ramsey, MD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry, Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons co-author, The Happiness Diet, Rodale, 2012, and Fifty Shades of Kale, HarperWave, 2013.

Laura Lagano, MS, RD, CDN, integrative clinical nutritionist,Laura Lagano Nutrition LLC, New York/New Jersey.

Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC, New York author, Read It Before You Eat It, Plume, 2010.

Beth Satz, MPH, RD, Los Angeles.

University of California Berkeley Guide to Dietary Supplements.

Sabbagh, M. MacMillan, B. The Alzheimer's Prevention Cookbook: 100 Recipes to Boost Brain Health, Ten Speed Press, 2012.

Schaffer, S. Genes & Nutrition, published online, April 2012.

Armstrong, L. TheJournal of Nutrition, published online Dec. 21, 2011.

Zick, S. BMC Complementary Alternative Medicine, published online, Sept 22, 2011.

Peterson, D. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, published online 2009.

Nurk, E. The Journal of Nutrition, published online Dec. 3, 2008.

Francis, S. Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology, published online, 2006.

Environmental Working Group: "2013 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce."

Cornell Chronicle: "An Apple a Day Could Help Protect Against Brain-Cell Damage That Triggers Alzheimer's."

UCLA Magazine: "Food Is Like a Pharmaceutical Compound That Affects the Brain."

What to Pack for Lunch: Crunchy Foods

Snyder's Multi Grain Pretzel Sticks

Serving size: 30 grams (7 sticks)

Pluses: Each serving delivers 3 grams of fiber (2 grams more than regular pretzels) and Snyder's uses canola oil (which is rich in the preferred monounsaturated fats, and a good source of healthy plant omega-3 fatty acids). Molasses is the added sweetener. And if you're going to add a sweetener, molasses is one of the best choices because it contributes lots of flavor along with vitamins and minerals.

Minuses: Unbleached wheat flour (not 100% whole wheat or whole grain) is still the first ingredient.

Nutritional information per serving: 130 calories, 3 g protein, 22 g carbohydrate, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 3 g fiber, 180 mg sodium.

Pepperidge Farm Goldfish -- Made with Whole Grain

Serving size: 30 grams (about 55 pieces)

Pluses: Whole-grain wheat flour is the first ingredient. Each serving has 2 grams of fiber.

Minuses: Each serving also contains 5 grams of total fat, and 1 gram of saturated fat. But the fat mainly comes from cheddar cheese and vegetable oils (canola, sunflower and/or soybean).


Nutritional information per serving: 140 calories, 4 g protein, 19 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 2 g fiber, 250 mg sodium.

NatureValleyFruit Crisps (Cinnamon Apple)

(General Mills also makes a similar product, Fruit Crisps, in Cinnamon flavor)

Serving size: 14-gram individual pouch

Pluses: Most of this product is simply dried apples. Apple juice concentrate is added as the sweetener, but the product contains 2% or less of it.

Minuses: Sodium sulfite is used as a preservative some people may be sensitive to this. And one pouch probably isn't going to be satisfying enough. Most kids will probably want 2 pouches.

Nutritional information per serving:50 calories, 0 g protein, 13 g carbohydrate (10 g sugar), 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 1 g fiber, 75 mg sodium

100-Calorie Sun Chips Mini Bites

Serving size: 100-calorie pouch

Pluses: This product lists whole-wheat and whole-oat flour among its first five ingredients. It contains less fat than most "light" potato chip options. And of the 4.5 grams of total fat it contains per serving, 2.5 grams are the preferable monounsaturated fat.


Minuses: This product doesn't contain enough whole grains to give it more than 1 gram of fiber per serving.

Nutrition informationper serving: 100 calories, 2 g protein, 12 g carbohydrate, 4.5 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 1 g fiber, 110 mg sodium.

17 Back-to-School Breakfast Recipes That Make Going to Class Less Painful

I haven't started school yet, but I'm mentally preparing myself to get back in the grind. During my freshman year of college, I often skipped breakfast because I didn't feel hungry in the morning or didn't want to eat cereal for the fifth time in 24 hours. But now, going into my Sophomore year at UW-Madison, I've made it a goal to have a balanced, healthy breakfast every morning. I've compiled a list of 17 back to school breakfast recipes to make this semester easier so I never skip my morning meal again.

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