When you have a traumatic brain injury, knowing which foods you should eat and avoid becomes more very important.
Your body reacts to everything you put into your body so you want everything you eat to to have a positive impact on your brain. Each type of food comes with its particular nutrients and macro-nutrients, some that are beneficial for the brain and others that are bad overall.
In this article, you will discover the 10 best foods to eat for TBI recovery, particularly brain rich foods and others that encourage the healthy regeneration of your brain and boost your general well-being.
What Your Brain Needs
Before you learn the best foods, it’s important to understand the qualities that your brain needs to regenerate. When you suffer a TBI, your brain desperately needs energy and certain vitamins and minerals to help repair it effectively.
Therefore, your brain’s diet should consist of protein-rich foods and foods that are high in favorable vitamins and minerals like magnesium and zinc.
You also want to help protect your brain from further inflammation, free radicals, and you want to boost the communication between brain cells, which is achieved through powerful antioxidants.
And, of course, you want to avoid highly processed foods that generally don’t offer any of these necessary vitamins and minerals.
You’ll also want to avoid sugary drinks, fatty meat cuts such as lamb chops, alcohol, caffeine, and dairy products like cheese and cream. You’ll want to eat some of these very sparingly to get the best improvements.
With that in mind, you can essentially gauge the right foods for you, but here is a list to help get you started.
#1 Fatty Fish
Fish such as salmon, trout, and sardines are great for brain recovery because they are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Did you know that 60% of the brain is made up of fat?
Half of this comprises omega-3, so if fatty fish is the best source of both protein and fat for your brain. But that’s not all – omega-3 also preserves the brain’s plasticity, and since you, the TBI sufferer, needs to virtually rewire the brain, this is crucial. Another benefit of fish is that it is a great source of creatine, which also helps rebuilding brain cells.
If you are someone who absolutely loathes any fish, then you can find omega-3 in other sources such as dark leafy greens, soybeans, and fish oil supplements.
According to Psychology Today, “Eating protein raises the levels of another amino acid called tyrosine, which prompts the brain to manufacture norepinephrine and dopamine… A healthy brain produces hundreds of neurotransmitters needed for regular maintenance of the brain and needs proteins to do so.” Meat is not only nutritious, it is protein dense as well Red meat, in particular, is an excellent source of zinc, which is another nutrient left heavily depleted after a brain injury.
Be sure not to eat too much red meat, though, as that itself can cause other issues. Incorporating some into your diet is ideal for brain improvement, though.
Other red meat alternatives include soybeans and legumes, such as beans and lentils.
#3 – Blueberries
Blueberries are powerful antioxidants and provide a range of health benefits, all positive for the brain. Some studies have even shown blueberries to help improve memory!
There are also other berries you can include in your diet, such as raspberries and blackberries, that also provide a similar effect.
#4 – Dark Chocolate
Yes, you can include some sweet into the diet with dark chocolate! The darker you can eat, the better. Dark chocolate has very high levels of magnesium and antioxidants, but even so, it should be eaten in moderation.
The more cocoa there is, the better it is for you, so always try and eat the darkest chocolate you can manage – at least 70% cocoa.
#5 – Turmeric
Recently, turmeric has exploded in popularity for its famed health effects. It may look familiar because it is one of the key ingredients in curry powder.
Curcumin, which is the active ingredient in turmeric, can cross the blood-brain barrier, therefore meaning it can directly enter the brain.
It is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound, and with its ability to enter the brain, it can provide an enormous range of benefits, including increased memory, promotion of brain cells, and reduced depression symptoms.
Turmeric can be purchased in supplement form or as a spice sprinkled on your food.
Eating nuts is excellent for your health, and each type of nut comes with its own benefits. But most offer healthy fats, vitamin E, and antioxidants that offer excellent brain-health benefits.
Walnuts, in particular, have omega-3 fatty acids, and almonds have high levels of magnesium, so both of these should be considered. In addition to ALA omege-3 fatty acid, walnuts are also one of the best sources for melatonin, the sleep regulating hormone. So if you suffer from insomnia, incorporating walnuts into a balanced diet, and exercise, might benefit you.
#7 – Oranges
Oranges are packed with vitamin C, and you can get your daily dose with just one medium orange. Did you know that vitamin C is a key factor in preventing mental conditions?
You can help boost your brain’s recovery while also protecting it against age-related mental diseases and conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Other vitamin C rich foods include kiwi, tomatoes, and guava.
#8- Dark Leafy Greens
“Make sure you eat your greens” – your parents were right. Eating your dark leafy greens is crucial to an optimal diet because they each contain a great source of fiber, folate, and carotenoids. Most importantly for TBI survivors, however, dark leafy greens are packed with magnesium which can help with TBI related side-effects such as tight muscles, insomnia, and anxiety.
Furthermore, they are rich in vitamins C and K, and the minerals calcium and iron. Many greens provide both an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect for your brain.
Dark leafy greens include kale, rocket, collards, bok choy, spinach, and broccoli is also another powerful vegetable for the brain.
Eggs are a must-have food for TBI sufferers because they contain a good source of choline. This is a nutrient that creates the neurotransmitter “acetylcholine,” which assists with both mood and memory.
When you have a higher choline intake, you have improved cognitive function. Try having eggs as a main part of your diet to boost your brain’s recovery process.
Avocadoes are a source of unsaturated fat. Since high blood pressure is linked with cognitive decline – two possible negative side effects of TBI – eating monounsaturated fats may help to reduce blood pressure, thus protecting against cognitive decline.
Other sources of healthy unsaturated fats include walnuts, cashews, and fish.
Herbal remedies also pose well for positive cognitive functioning, such as sage, chamomile, lemon balm, ginseng, and green tea remedies that have shown to lead to sharper thinking, boosted mood, and improved memory.
To Sum it up
It’s important to remember that everyone is different with their own likes and dislikes. Additionally, you could be allergic to one of the foods mentioned, which you would, of course, avoid in that case.
There are also some supplements that might be beneficial for you, such as multivitamins, probiotics, and antioxidant tablets like vitamins C and E.
Take your personal situation into account when incorporating these foods into your diet. Still, you can ultimately expect your brain to healthily improve over the days and weeks of your recovery with these 10 essential foods.