Can Food Make You Smarter? Here Are 11 Foods That Will Boost Your Brain Health

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Playing Max Lugavere's Genius Foods: 11 Foods For Better Brain Health
Max Lugavere's Genius Foods: 11 Foods For Better Brain Health Aired July 09, 2018

Everybody grows older, but just as you can be "young at heart," you can also strive to be cognitively young by being *mindful* (get it?!) of what you eat.

Just ask brain health expert and author of Genius Foods, Max Lugavere, who gave us the lowdown on four food staples that he considers "genius."

"It's the Mediterranean-style diet," he explains of the first four foods on the list, "which has been shown to reduce risk for cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease and actually improve the way your brain ages and functions in the here and now."

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When it comes to food for thought, Max literally wrote the book on it — so we couldn't think of anyone better to share his fresh produce picks for boosting brain health.

Tag along with Max on his recent trip to GrowNYC's Union Square Greenmarket in the video above, and get the full list of his favorite brain-boosting picks below.

RELATED: 8 Foods To Eat To Get a Better Night's Sleep

1. OLIVE OIL

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"This should be the primary oil used in your kitchen," Max stresses. "It's so good for you."

And he suggests taste-testing different types for quality.

"Olive oil quality is judged in terms of coughs," the brain health guru jokes. "You should notice that it gets really spicy after a while."

"That spiciness is owed to a compound in it that's profoundly anti-inflammatory," he continues.

Because of that compound, olive oil has been shown to have some of the same anti-inflammatory effects as low-dose ibuprofen, though it may not be as effective.

And contrary to popular belief, you can cook with it!

"If you can see through the oil," Rach says, "you can cook with it."

2. KALE + OTHER DARK LEAFY GREENS

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"Dark leafy greens are loaded with compounds called carotenoids that serve as the plant's pigment — but in us they actually help protect our brain health, making our brains work better," Max says. They're also good for your eyes, especially as you get older, he explains.

GET THIS: "People that eat a bowl of dark leafy greens a day have been shown to have brains that looks 11 years younger on scans," Max reveals.

*JAW ON GROUND*

With that said, Max stresses that you should pair dark leafy greens (such as spinach or kale) with fat (like olive oil!), because some of the most important compounds in the leafy greens (i.e. carotenoids) aren't absorbed in your body unless consumed with fat.

3. EGGS

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Eggs are great for brain health. "They're loaded with vitamin B12 and packed with an important, vitamin-like compound called choline, which is crucial for brain chemicals that are important for learning and memory," according to Max. Eggs provide one quarter of your daily recommended intake, he says.

"An egg yolk is literally designed by nature to have all of the ingredients required for a healthy brain," the Genius Foods author explains. "But the problem is, all eggs are not created equally."

In fact, when Rach and Max cracked both a pastured egg and a conventional factory-farm chicken egg, the yolk of the pastured egg was significantly more orange — which means it contains more brain-boosting compounds, Max says.

More brain-boosting compounds sounds EGG-cellent to us!

4. BROCCOLINI + OTHER CRUCIFEROUS VEGETABLES

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Broccolini, broccoli, cabbage, radishes and brussels sprouts are all cruciferous vegetables, which are some of the most detoxifying veggies you can find at a farmers market.

These veggies may not be everybody's favorites (though we really do like them!). Just pretend that eating them is as fun as pronouncing their name!

"When you consume foods like this," Max says, "it basically turns on the machinery in your liver to go through its own detox process."

Worth convincing yourself to like them, wouldn't you say?!

5. GRASS-FED BEEF

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Grass-fed beef also contains tons of vitamin B12 and choline, plus high levels of a compound called creatine — which supports brain energy metabolism.

6. ROSEMARY

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Max says that a small study in college students found that rosemary might actually boost your memory function — just by the scent alone.

7. BEETS

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"Beets are a great source of naturally occurring nitrate compounds that can actually boost blood flow to the brain," according to Max. 

8. ARUGULA

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Arugula is delicious and spicy, and it's another great source of nitrates. "When it comes to your produce, bitter is better," the Genius Foods author says. "Research shows that one single high nitrate meal can actually boost cognitive function."

9. GARLIC

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Just like leeks and onions, garlic is an allium, which means it's very good for gut health. "And what's good for the gut is good for the brain," Max adds.

10. PURPLE CARROTS OR CAULIFLOWER

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Both carrots and cauliflower are really good for you, but if you can find them purple, there are even more benefits. The purple coloring comes from compounds called anthocyanins that are shown to be very beneficial to brain health, Max says.

11. BLUEBERRIES

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"Studies have shown that people who regularly consume blueberries have more youthful brains by up to two-and-a-half years," Max says.

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