Eating a healthy breakfast can jump start your brain and help boost your productivity and focus throughout the morning. Try incorporating these seven “brain foods” in your morning meal to give yourself a mental edge.
Choline, a B vitamin found in eggs, has been shown to play a role in brain function and memory. In a study of almost 1,400 men and women published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, those who consumed foods with choline performed better on memory and verbal learning tests than other subjects.
Eggs also provide high-quality protein, a nutrient that helps you concentrate by keeping your blood sugar stabilized and helping you feel fuller, longer. Whether you like your eggs scrambled, in an omelet, or hard-boiled, eggs are a rich source of nutrition to help keep your brain and body charged throughout the morning rush.
Grain products are important in the morning because our body converts the carbs to glucose, which is the brain's preferred fuel. Whole and enriched grain foods also contain B vitamins, which are important for concentration and helping your brain to stay healthy over time. The general recommendation is to make half of your grains whole grains.
Couple your grains with some protein for sustained energy and mental performance. A few quick and easy grain-protein combos to boost your brain power in the morning include toast with almond butter, oatmeal with berries and chia seeds, a toasted English muffin topped with a scrambled egg and slice of turkey bacon or a high-fiber fruit and nut muffin.
Studies indicate that consuming a variety of green, red and black grapes plays a role in improving our antioxidant defenses, which has ramifications for brain health. In preliminary studies, grapes seem to help protect brain health by counteracting oxidative stress and inflammation, or by targeting the actions of certain genes involved in age-related diseases of the brain. Try adding grapes to your morning parfait or smoothie, or enjoy a handful straight off the vine.
All berries are rich in tannins, which protect brain cells and may play a role in improving memory by promoting communication between brain cells. Specifically, blueberries are rich in antioxidants and other phytochemicals that have been linked to improvements in learning, thinking and memory, as well as possible reductions in neurodegenerative oxidative stress. For a smart start to your morning, add blueberries to your yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies or baked goods.
Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E, providing 37 percent of your daily recommended intake in a one-ounce serving (about 23 almonds or a handful). A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that a good intake of vitamin E might help to prevent cognitive decline, particularly in the elderly.
Almonds also provide a healthy combination of protein, fiber and healthful fats to help maintain your blood sugar levels, which can help you stay focused and energized. To start your day bright, go for an almond-rich muesli or slivered almonds in your yogurt or oatmeal.
Oats contains iron, zinc, potassium and B vitamins, nutrients that help brain development and help the brain to function at full capacity. The fiber contained in oats will also help keep hunger at bay until your next meal.
Studies show that children who ate oatmeal for breakfast scored up to 20 percent higher on tests than children who ate sugary cereal, likely due to the fact sugary-foods result in dips in blood sugar that affect memory and concentration. Whether you like your oatmeal topped with berries, nuts, cinnamon or sliced banana, a hearty bowl in the morning will help get your mental juices flowing.
Apples are rich in quercetin, an antioxidant plant chemical that protects brain cells. According to researchers at Cornell University, quercetin defends your brain cells from free radical attacks, which can damage the outer lining of delicate neurons and eventually lead to cognitive decline. Grab an apple in the morning and be sure to eat it with the skin on, since the highest amount of quercetin is found in the skin.
Patricia Bannan is a Los Angeles-based registered dietitian specializing in nutrition and health communications. She is the author of "Eat Right When Time Is Tight: 150 Slim-Down Strategies and No-Cook Food Fixes." Visit her website at http://www.patriciabannan.com/.