The holidays are wonderful, but also bring a lot of stress. Did you know what you eat this holiday season can help reduce that stress and boost brain health? The holidays are a great time to experiment with foods that your brain will enjoy. Instead of opting for high sugar treats, opt for savory and delicious foods that are not only fun to try but also will make your brain happy. During times of high stress, like the holidays, keeping our brain and body’s stress load to a minimum is important. To do that we have to keep our brains happy and satiated with nutrient-dense foods. This holiday season includes some of those nutrient-dense traditional foods and also incorporates some foods that are in season and interesting to your palate. We interviewed Dr. Teralyn Sell, Psychotherapist, and Brain Health Expert, to learn more about how to keep one’s mental and brain health in top shape during this crazy time, it’s essential that we eat the right foods this season. Here are Dr. Teralyn Sell’s top five holiday foods to promote brain and mental health.
Top 5 Holiday Foods to Promote Brain Health and Mental Health
Turkey has long been a forerunner in the brain health game. Turkey is a good source of zinc which is an essential mineral for learning and memory. Turkey is a great protein source that helps to regulate blood sugar which is central to brain health. Turkey is a great choice to improve tryptophan (an amino acid for brain function) which is a precursor to serotonin (the happy chemical) and then melatonin to help you sleep.
2) Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are great for brain health! They are rich in vitamins B6, Folate, A, Fiber, and Niacin which are nutrient cofactors or precursors to your neurotransmitters (mood chemicals). Sweet potatoes are also antioxidants (preventing or slowing the damage to cells caused by free radicals) which are great for your immune function. Though they are a sweet treat, because they are rich in fiber they actually help to control blood sugar which is central to brain health.
Cranberries are known to be neuroprotective (protecting nerve cells against damage). Polyphenols (micronutrients) in cranberries have been found to ultimately protect the gut microbiota, and provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory functions throughout the brain and body. Gut health and inflammation have been linked to mood disorders and brain health making cranberries a great choice at the holiday table.
Pomegranate is not only healthy, but it is unique and interesting. Pomegranates are full of antioxidants and a good source of vitamin C which help reduce oxidative stress. They are nutrient-dense and fiber-rich which help stabilize blood sugar and help in the reduction of inflammation which are all essential to improving the health of your brain.
5) Brussel Sprouts
Leafy greens are rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C, & K as well as folate. All of these nutrients are essential for healthy neurotransmitter production (dopamine and serotonin).