Back to School Brain Boosters

It’s upon us…the back-to-school season.  And what better way to start a new school year than with a little brain boost?  With spending long hours learning in the classroom, coming home to finish up homework and the after-school extracurricular activities, having optimal brain health is vital.  After all, we all like getting good grades, right?  Here are my top three brain boosters for not only the students in your family but for you as well.

Fish oil

Omega-3 fatty acids provide a wide range of health benefits and there is no exception when it comes to brain health.  Multiple studies have shown omega-3’s to be beneficial for preventing brain shrinkage and cognitive decline in older adults as well as supporting brain development in children.  Evolution of higher order brain function in humans can be attributed to intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids, with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) having special significance.  EPA and DHA are found in higher concentrations in certain species of fish like trout and salmon but to get a therapeutic dose, a fish oil supplement is a great option. 

Choline

Choline is an essential nutrient that all humans require for proper mental function.  Choline is involved in the formation of healthy neurons as well as in the production of an important neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which is responsible for memory and mental clarity.  Studies have shown that even in the first weeks of life, choline is important for supporting brain changes that provide lifelong memory enhancement.  Foods highest in choline are beef liver, chicken liver and eggs.  It’s important to make sure you’re getting a daily dose of choline.  Try scrambled eggs for breakfast or be adventurous and serve up some chicken liver pate!

Healthy snacking

To beat brain fog and the typical midday slump, regulating blood glucose levels can be a lifesaver.  It’s not uncommon for many of my high-school aged patients to skip lunch or not eat during the school day.  The result is lowered brain function and a lack of concentration into the afternoon.  Regular snacking is important to help prevent any blood glucose crashes and what you snack on is equally important.  Opt for high protein snacks such as a tablespoon of almond or sunflower seed butter on a banana or ¼ cup fresh hummus with celery and bell pepper slices.  Higher protein snacks ensure blood glucose stability to help get our bodies and minds through the day.

Boosting brainpower can be a simple feat that provides an abundance of positive results.  Starting to support brain health at a younger age can even be preventative for age-related conditions such as dementia and cognitive decline.  Start early and reap the rewards of an excellent memory.  And have a happy school year!

References:

DiSalvo, D. (2014 Jul 18). Study: Fish Oil Prevents Brain Shrinkage And Cognitive Decline In Older Adults. Forbes. Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2014/07/18/study-fish-oil-prevents-brain-shrinkage-and-cognitive-decline-in-older-adults/

Gharami, K; Das, M; Das, S. (2015). Essential role of docosahexaenoic acid towards development of a smarter brain. Neurochem Int. PMID: 26321578

Zeisel, SH. (2004). Nutritional importance of choline for brain development. J Am Coll Nutr. 23(6 Suppl):621S-626S. PMID: 15640516