Beans are a great source of complex carbohydrates and protein, which helps maintain healthy brain function throughout the day. They also contain omega-3 fatty acids to support brain growth and function. (Go for kidney and pinto beans for the biggest omega-3 fix.) Beans also provide a constant supply of glucose to the brain, which helps keep it energized. Garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas, are one of the best dietary sources of magnesium, which keeps brain cell receptors working as they should and relaxes blood vessels to increase blood flow to the brain.
Tea is often credited with boosting metabolism and helping to prevent cancer, but many scientists believe this hot drink is just as beneficial for the brain. Tea obviously contains caffeine, an instant brain-booster, but it also delivers the more calming amino acid L-Theanine, which relaxes without causing drowsiness. A 2008 study found that tea’s unique combination of caffeine and L-Theanine (in extract form) helps reduce mental fatigue while increasing reaction time and working memory. Preliminary evidence suggests that drinking tea can lower the risk of dementia, such as a 2004 study testing the effect of green tea catechins on mice, which found that they can prevent cognitive dysfunction, improve working memory, and prevent negative changes in the brains of at-risk mice.
A 2004 study found that women with healthy iron levels performed better on mental tasks and completed them faster than women with lower iron levels. Iron is vital for brain health because it is the center of our red blood cells, which allow oxygen to be carried throughout the body and into the brain. Beef also contains B vitamins, which produce neurotransmitters and replace nerve cells. If you don’t eat meat, high-iron foods for vegetarians include wheat bran, cocoa powder, spinach, parsley, radishes, peas, leeks, sesame seeds, pistachio nuts, dried coconut, cashew nuts, muesli, oatmeal, and brown rice.
In South America, yerba mate is just as common as coffee is in the United States. Brewed out of the leaves of the South American holly tree, this hot drink is believed to have a stimulant effect, which enhances short-term brain power. According to yerba mate manufacturer Guayaki, this plant’s leaves contain 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, and an abundance of antioxidants. Besides caffeine, yerba mate contains two related compounds, theobromine and theophylline, which work together to provide unique, mild stimulant effects, similar to that of green tea. Make sure you know the ordinary things that could be messing with your brain.