A French epicurean once said, "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are." But can eating certain foods make you smarter, happier, or more able to constructively respond to stress? Could junk food lead to a junk attitude? Connections are being made all the time between the foods we eat and the way we feel, think, and act.

For instance, did you know that eating fish and seafood may reduce the risks of developing depression, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease? Or that tea may bring on a calm yet alert state of mind?

Memory, alertness, and mood can all be impacted by your nutritional choices. And while intelligence and mental functions are complex and involve many bodily systems and processes, there are a few key nutrients that could help boost your cerebral stamina.

Foods to boost your brain power:

  • antioxidants: Foods and supplements containing antioxidants (e.g., phytochemicals, catechins) could boost your brain health and longevity. Darkly coloured vegetables and fruits contain phytochemicals (blueberries, in particular), and green tea is packed with catechins.
  • omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids found in many kinds of seafood, including salmon, halibut, and scallops, have been linked to nerve cell regeneration and reduced brain inflammation.
  • B vitamins: B is for brain, that's for sure. The B family of vitamins is a rich source of food for the nervous system. The messages our brain sends back and forth between our nerves depend on B-complex vitamins, especially folic acid, vitamin B6, and choline. Finding foods full of B-complex vitamins isn't too hard. Folic acid can be found in dark greens, including spinach, asparagus, romaine lettuce, and turnip or mustard greens. Loads of beans contain folic acid, too. Try black, garbanzo, or pinto for a folic acid feast. Crack an egg for choline, as egg yolks contain this B-vitamin in abundance. Other sources include soybeans, peanut butter, potatoes, and whole-wheat bread.
  • iron: Iron helps our blood to supply oxygen to our body. Deficiencies in iron have been associated with ADHD, learning disabilities, and lowered IQ. It stands to reason, then, that our reasoning skills could benefit from foods that contain iron. Find iron in foods like spinach, blackstrap molasses, lentils, tofu, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
  • vitamin E: Some stave off mental decline with a daily crossword or Sudoku puzzle. Foods with vitamin E could keep you sharp, too! Vitamin E, especially taken along with vitamin C, has been linked to reduced cognitive decline with aging. Take note of foods rich in vitamin E: mustard and turnip greens, spinach, and broccoli. And if green is not your colour, you can snack on sunflower seeds, almonds, or olives for a dose of vitamin E.

Amy Toffelmire