10 Budget-Friendly Foods That Boost Brain Function
A Guest Post by Nutritionist Sam Gemmell
It seems like every other day a mysterious new super-food emerges as the answer to everything. But more often than not, they come with a hefty price tag. You’re a student, you don’t have time, or money, for that! Luckily, there are budget-friendly foods that can boost your brain function naturally.
Who needs strange-tasting foreign berries when there are plenty of locally-grown options? Fruits like raspberries, blueberries and blackberries have brain-boosting powers.
Berries contain potent antioxidants. They can cross over the blood-brain barrier and accumulate in the areas of the brain associated with intelligence. This protects your brain cells from damage and increases blood flow to the brain.
Fresh berries can be costly, unless they’re in peak season. Instead, grab some frozen berries and add a handful to smoothies or cereals. If you’re lucky enough to live near a berry-picking farm, stock up over summer and freeze them to lock in the nutrients.
2. Green tea
Green tea might not be your first choice when it comes to caffeine. But when it comes to crunch time for study, it might be your best choice.
Green tea combines caffeine with an amino acid called L-theanine. When these two compounds are together, they significantly improve brain function compared to just caffeine. This is because L-theanine affects your neurotransmitters, keeping you balanced and less anxious.
Green tea can be nice and cheap these days, thanks to its popularity. Check out your local Oriental supermarket – they may have green tea cheaper, as they will generally buy it in bulk.
Don’t like the bitter taste of green tea? Try brewing it in hot, not boiling, water, and only brew it for 2-3 minutes maximum. This will greatly reduce the bitterness.
3. Dark chocolate
The good news is – dark chocolate is good for your brain. In fact, you can eat a square or two every day if you want to!
The antioxidants found in dark chocolate increase blood flow to the brain, improving concentration and overall function. It also contains mild stimulants such as theobromine, a feel-good chemical which can give you a bit of an energy boost.
Remember, these health benefits come from the cocoa or cacao portion of the chocolate, so the darker the chocolate, the bigger the benefit.
Dark chocolate may not be super-cheap, but it often goes on special. Stock up when it’s on sale, then hide it somewhere safe from your roommates (or from yourself!)
Most people either love fish or hate it. But if it’s a super-charged brain you want, fish should be on your regular menu.
Regular fish consumption is linked to higher levels of gray matter in the emotion and memory centers of the brain. This is due to omega-3 fatty acids, which can shift your brain waves into a more focused mode and relieve negative emotions such as anxiety. Omega-3s are highest in your oilier fish.
Fresh fish can be pricey, depending on where you live. Luckily, some of the cheapest fish are also the most nutrient-dense. Sardines are a great source of omega-3s, and are much more affordable. Canned fish can help to stretch the budget further – try to get it in oil, as the oil protects the omega-3 content from damage.
You might not think of this simple root vegetable as a ‘super-food’. But when you’re studying, it should be a staple.
Beets are one of the best sources of nitrates. Nitrates help to improve blood circulation by relaxing the blood vessels. This not only keeps you healthier overall, but also boosts the flow to your brain, allowing you to think clearly.
Beets are generally pretty affordable, especially over the winter months. Whether you roast them, steam them, or serve them up fresh, it’s easy to incorporate them into your diet.
It might be a little less obvious than the other options listed. But ginkgo biloba, or ginkgo, has been used to aid the mind for thousands of years.
Research shows that ginkgo increases blood flow to the brain, and helps with retention of memories. It also aids with management of stress, particularly acute stress, by helping you adapt to higher levels of stress hormones.
Ginkgo is another one to check your local Oriental supermarket for. The easiest, and cheapest, form is in a tea. If you’re lucky, you might even find a green tea and ginkgo blend!
Love your spicy food? It loves you back – or at least, the spices love helping your brain to perform at its peak level.
Spices are generally anti-inflammatory and boost circulation. Some also contain potent antioxidants. Others aid in keeping blood sugar levels steady. This combination supports cognitive function and general well-being.
Spices go a long way, so they are generally very affordable. Buy your favorites in bulk to keep the price low. If your budget is tight, ask your parents if you can take some of the spices from home.
Although they are often overlooked as a nutrient source, legumes are actually a powerhouse of goodness.
Legumes such as chickpeas are some of the cheapest sources of minerals essential for brain function such as magnesium. Magnesium is depleted by stress, so there’s a good chance that you could use more while studying.
They are also high in protein and fiber, keeping you satiated and energized. This means you won’t need to stop and snack constantly!
Legumes will either be dried or canned. Either way, they are very cheap – it just depends on what you prefer. Dried legumes take longer to prepare, whereas canned are ideal for quick meals.
Looking for something to munch on that’s good for your mind? Nuts are tasty, portable, and can help boost brain power.
Nuts are an excellent source of good fats, which can help to keep your blood sugar levels steady for a longer period of time. A steady blood sugar level means steady energy to feed the brain while it works.
Some nuts, such as walnuts, are a good option for plant-based omega-3s. So if you’re not big on fish, or are a vegetarian, including nuts daily will boost your memory and improve your focus.
Nuts are another good food to buy in bulk. Pick your favorite nut, and get a big bag of them to keep you in supply of snacks for weeks to come.
Cheap, easy to use, portable, and full of protein? Not only that, but eggs are super-foods when it comes to your brain health. Eggs are one of the top dietary sources for choline, one of the most important nutrients for the brain.
Choline is needed for all cells to be healthy. However, when it comes to the brain, it can actually alter the memory center, enhancing the memory. Research shows people who consume plenty of choline in their diet had better brain function.
Eggs are generally affordable no matter where you go. If you can afford them, go for free-range or cage-free – happier healthier hens means more nutrient-rich eggs.
About the Author:
Sam is an inspired nutritionist (BHSc), health writer and speaker. Her passion lies in sharing her knowledge and helping people to find their own path to a thriving life. You can find her at www.samanthagemmell.com
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