If you want to play your best game, there are a few things you can do: study the rules, practice your winning strategy, and get a good night’s rest. But what about your brain? It’s doing most of the work, so you should do everything you can to make sure your brain gets all the food it needs to keep you focused and on top of your game. Did you know that just like with muscles in your body, certain foods you eat can help increase your brain’s strength and cognitive function? Listed below are some brain boosting foods that can give you the edge you need to play a fierce game and finally defeat your opponents.

Blueberries

blueberriesBlueberries are the perfect snack food to get you up and going before a tough game. Chock full of a type of antioxidants called flavonoids, blueberries protect your brain cells from oxidative damage. Flavonoids are also known to help improve certain cognitive skills, such as making decisions, learning, and memorizing things. There are also protein components which stimulate the production of new brain cells. Aside from helping you maintain the learning and memory skills to master the rules of a new game, blueberries also contains resveratrol, a polyphenol also found in red wine –  the reason some people drink a few glasses a week for “their health.” Resveratrol only further improves these brain functions. And believe it or not, berries are a healthier and better source than wine. So, if you find yourself on a quest for the best brain food, start with blueberries. When in doubt, drop them in a blender with some ice and yogurt, and make a sweet smoothie bowl topped with granola and chia seeds. Your brain (and your colon) will thank you.

Egg Yolks

egg yolksA staple in the diet of starving college students everywhere, whole eggs are surprisingly nutritious. Recently, eggs have earned the title of being one of the best foods for brain health, and deservedly so. Eggs are super rich in choline, a building block of acetylcholine, which your brain uses as a neurotransmitter which has been found to help you keep a sharp memory and maintain good communication between your brain cells. If that isn’t enough to convince you, studies have found that people who consume greater amounts of choline perform better on memory tests than those who do not. Choline is also necessary for the production of citicoline, which helps maximize the flow of blood to your brain and helps your brain break down blood glucose for fuel. If you’re feeling like you need a little pick me up before a game against fierce opponents, eating eggs is a must. Full of protein for your muscles and fuel for your brain, you’ll be able to keep going until your foes fold before you. Treat yourself to a mouthwatering dish of eggs benedict topped with spinach for extra nutrition. The creamy sauce with the best brain food will have you belting out a victory song in no time.

Salmon

salmon filletsYou have definitely heard of the craze surrounding salmon. Not only is it a healthy source of animal protein, it’s a goldmine of omega-3 fatty acids. Don’t worry if you don’t know the science behind it; the important thing is that these OFAs help your brain run at top notch speed. One of the main proponents of this brain booster is that it is anti-inflammatory. That’s right, it can help you think clearly and maintain intense focus by reducing chronic brain inflammation! This kind of brain inflammation gone unrecognized can contribute to exacerbated emotional states like depression and anxiety. It is also notoriously detrimental to productive cognitive function, lending itself to things like brain fog and ADHD. But have no fear, salmon’s here and it is considered one of the best foods for your brain. Studies show that young adults who started consuming more omega-3 fatty acids over a six month period demonstrated a stronger working memory and produced better test scores. So, what’s stopping you? Start eating some salmon, pronto. You can make an Alaskan, wild-caught salmon poke bowl for some traditional Japanese-style protein and top it off with Sriracha for a little kick in the pants.  I can see clearly now, the rain – I mean the brain fog – is gone!

Avocados

avocadosThis fruit is so rich in nutritious content that promotes cognitive function that it’s regarded as some of the best food for your brain. The main difference between avocados and other fruits is its extremely high fat content. If you remember high school biology, there are good fats and bad fats. Avocados have a ton of monounsaturated fats (the good kind), which keeps your blood sugar levels at a stasis and supports the production of acetylcholine. This is the same chemical mentioned in the eggs section, so you can recall just how important it is to promoting your memory and ability to learn. Avocados are also a great source of other vitamins your brain can’t get enough of, such as B-complex vitamins, C, E, and K. They are rich in tyrosine (the amino acid), which is a building block for brain chemicals like dopamine. You want your brain to have all the dopamine it needs because it boosts your concentration and motivation – not to mention it keeps you in a good mood and helps you enjoy the task at hand. So, before attempting to master a difficult game like poker, put together some avocado toast, topped with tomatoes and a spritz of lemon juice. Not only is it quick and easy to make, it’ll have your brain running nonstop until you’re ready to take on the pros.

Dark Chocolate

dark chocolateWhat’s good, sweet, and oh, so delicious to eat? Dark chocolate! It isn’t so common for coveted candy treats to be a great source of brain food, but dark chocolate is the whole package. It contains flavanols which, like flavonoids, are antioxidants. They can lower your blood pressure and ensure that your blood flows smoothly to your brain and heart, help lengthen your attention span, and increase your ability to problem solve. Another nifty fact about dark chocolate is that it is a source of the fatty acid neurotransmitter called anandamide. This special chemical, also known as the “bliss molecule,” binds to the same receptors as THC, a component of marijuana. So, all of those movies that depict chocolate mending a broken heart are actually spot on, due to its chemical properties. It’s important to note that not all chocolate has the same healthy quality. Usually, the chocolates you find in the candy aisle are highly processed, meaning they are mixed with sugar and lose a lot of what makes them so valuable as brain food. But if you can get your hands on some very dark chocolate (the darker, the better) then you can also look forward to all the above benefits, plus its caffeine content. Chocolate can caffeinate you just enough to feel a boost in concentration, mood, and memory, but it won’t leave you with a racing heart and afternoon crash like coffee does. If you’re feeling a little drowsy and lethargic, make a batch of berries dipped in dark chocolate. It’ll heighten your energy levels and help you maintain the focus you need to see a game from beginning to end – and leave with more chips than you know what to do with.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

olive oilExtra virgin olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet, considered one of the healthiest diets in the world. It is well deserving of its title as a brain food. It contains a type of antioxidant called polyphenols, as well as high amounts of vitamins E and K which are known to help your ability to learn and your memory. They also help maintain a healthy brain, and help offset brain degeneration caused by aging (leading to things such as Alzheimer’s and dementia). Consuming olive oil also helps relieve symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety by raising levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor. It’s a long name, but it can help you keep your cool during a stressful situation. Minimizing the effects of stress on your brain means that you can perfect the ultimate poker face. Olive oil is also a great way to feed your brain some energy. A good source of monounsaturated fats, your brain can burn this healthy kind of fat instead of breaking down blood glucose. You just have to be careful how you consume it. Olive oil is often used for cooking, but at high temperatures it starts to hydrogenate and its risks start to outweigh its benefits. So if you’re feeling the need for a fix, use olive oil as a dressing for your salad or as an ingredient in your pasta sauce. The possibilities are endless!

Walnuts

walnutsWhen searching for the all-powerful brain food, it’s important to consider short term improvements in cognitive function. But don’t forget about the long term benefits as well! The vitamins and antioxidants found in walnuts have the ability to increase mental alertness. Walnuts also contain enough vitamin E to help stave off Alzheimer’s. Studies show that those who ate foods with a higher vitamin E content were at a significantly smaller risk of getting the brain-boggling disease. Salmon is so beneficial because of its omega-3 fatty acids, and walnuts are no different. They contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is basically the plant version of OFAs. ALA reduces inflammation of the brain which can help dissipate brain fog and improve your reaction time and your memory recall. If you’re feeling like you could use a little brain blast, take your walnuts in a kale quinoa salad. Mix in cranberries, walnut halves, and feta cheese and you’ve got a well-rounded, nutritional powerhouse of a salad – and a delicious one at that!

Coconut Oil

coconut oilA sweet and aromatic alternative to olive oil, coconut oil is an extremely versatile substance. It can be used to style and moisturize the hair on top of your head, but really its shining glory is what it can do to the brain inside that noggin. It contains a high concentration of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). This is the same compound found in breast milk that human babies need for a well-developed brain. What’s more, the MCTs found in coconut oil act like a super fuel for your brain. A huge consumer of energy, usually your brain has to go through a chemical process to break down the glucose found in blood for enough energy to function smoothly. But MCTs can be broken down and fed to your brain directly, and whatever energy has been saved on the production of usable energy is redirected to cognitive function. This being said, studies show that consuming coconut oil can also help delay and alleviate the effects of aging on your brain. Make a light snack of yogurt topped with granola, golden berries, with a drizzle of honey and coconut oil on top. It’ll make for a sweet treat with an exotic flavor. Taking on  game like roulette – and learning all of its betting possibilities – can seem like a daunting task, but after a good dose of coconut oil, nothing will be able to stop you!

Turmeric

turmericA tried and true brain food is actually the ancient spice, turmeric. The list of health benefits associated with turmeric is almost endless, but some big points are its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and its ability to improve the oxygen intake in your brain. This is a big deal because your brain needs oxygen to feel awake, alert, and capable of thinking clearly. Turmeric has been used in cooking for over 5,000 years! Way back when, people understood that as well as the mental sharpness associated with its anti-inflammatory characteristics, turmeric also acts as a powerful anti-depressant. Its strength is considered to be in line with lower potency pharmaceutical anti-depressants. The spice also contains turmerone which has been found to stimulate new brain cells and can help aid the brain in the healing process. Turmeric is a versatile spice, and can be consumed in a myriad of ways. But if you’re looking for a quick and dirty way to gulp it down, try making a spiced turmeric tea. Toss some turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and hot water in a cup and add some honey and coconut milk for added sweetness. If you’re feeling down after a couple losses, this food can boost you up and take you where you need to go.

Champagne

champagneLast but not least, a surprising brain boosting food is champagne. Yes, you read that correctly – drinking alcoholic beverages doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure anymore. It’s been recently discovered that drinking a moderate amount of champagne over the course of many weeks can help improve your spatial memory – an important factor in your ability to navigate easily and perform complex tasks like difficult calculations. So, if you’re attempting to become a master card counter in the game of blackjack, then break out a glass of bubbly and start counting! A study was done where rats were given a dose of champagne, and it was found that they indeed performed significantly better in maze tests than rats who did not have any champagne. The substance contains phenolic compounds, which has been shown to help promote communication between cells and encourage neuron regeneration. So if you’ve been looking for a good excuse to pop that cork and enjoy a refreshing glass, you can now claim that you’re feeding your brain in order to reach peak performance.

Now that you have a list of all of the best foods for your brain, it’s time to start cooking. And to test out exactly how much your cognitive function has improved, log onto Planet 7 online casino and play a few rounds. If you want to check to make sure your memory and learning skills are now up to par, play in practice mode. After a hefty meal filled with the best brain food, you’ll be betting and winning real money in a jiffy.

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Janae Johnson is a staff writer who loves old movies, meeting new people, exploring the great outdoors, and learning with her hands. After graduating from the College of William and Mary, she applied her degree in English to an ever-expanding industry. She has spent years searching for thrills and fulfillment in her work, until she finally found her home at Planet 7.
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