10 brain foods that will make you smarter

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REUTERS/Tony Gentile Red wine, in moderation, can be brain-boosting. Higher test scores or a more productive workday could be just a bite away - if you know what to load your fork with.

We all have a general idea of what to eat to stay lean and healthy, but there are certain superfoods that are great for memory and attention, processing information, and reducing stress.

To help you start eating smarter, w e compiled a list of super foods from Psychology Today , WebMD , and other sources that have been scientifically proven to boost your brain power.

1. Salmon

Salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids , which are crucial for brain performance. Research finds that omega-3 deficiency can lead to fatigue, poor memory, and mood swings; your body can't make these essential fatty acids, so it is important to get them through food.

Flickr/ImpromptuKitchen The experts recommend wild salmon over farmed salmon, as it has much higher levels of omega-3s. If salmon isn't an option, try tuna or halibut, which will also provide a healthy dose of omega-3s.

2. Avocado

Avocados offer a lot more than flavor; they also significantly strengthen brain function .

Science shows that avocados improve blood supply and oxygen to your brain, and can boost planning and critical-thinking skills. They also contain high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids, which protect nerve cells in the brain.

Flickr / threelayercake A little bit of avocado can go a long way. Since it's high in calories, you only need to add 1/4 or 1/2 of an avocado to one daily meal.

3. Nuts

Nuts are bursting with vitamin E, which is correlated with less cognitive decline as you age. In addition to boosting brain power, an ounce of almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, or Brazil nuts can also stabilize your mood .
Flickr / rusvaplauke While all nuts are great for general health, walnuts in particular will do great things for your productivity . Besides resembling the brain, they are packed with protein, omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and vitamin B6.

4. Spinach, broccoli, and other leafy greens

Dark-hued leafy greens are nutritional powerhouses. Spinach has been found to slow age-related problems and cognitive deficits . Also, its high levels of iron help to restore energy and improve the function of your red blood cells .

Flickr/Glory Foods Broccoli is equally beneficial. It contains vitamin K - which strengthens cognitive abilities - and choline, which improves memory.

5. Blueberries

A research team at Tufts University found that blueberries do more than just improve memory - they may also reverse memory loss .

Flickr/metaphoricalplatypus.com Additionally, The Journal of Neuroscience published a study that found that an extract of blueberries fed to rats every day led to better short-term memory, ability to learn faster, and improved balance.

If blueberries aren't your favorite berry, try raspberries or strawberries. All berries have potent combinations of antioxidants that will improve memory and motor coordination.

6. Red wine

Next time you're out to eat, opt for a dish you can pair with red wine. A study in Norway found that those who didn't drink at all had lower cognitive abilities than those who did. The results were especially significant for women.

Jamal Saidi/Reuters Be sure to drink in moderation, as alcohol slows down the brain's ability to function properly .

8. Beans

Beans are often overlooked, but they can work wonders for your brain (and they're economical). They contain an ideal blend of complex carbohydrates and protein; this allows them to be digested slowly, which ultimately helps stabilize glucose levels and curb fatigue .

cookbookman17/Flickr

The experts recommend 1/2 a cup of lentils or black beans a day.

9. Dark chocolate

Chocoholics can rejoice, because Harvard doctors say dark chocolate makes you smarter . The research team studied the benefits of cocoa - specifically flavanol, a natural compound in cocoa beans - and determined that it can increase memory and thinking abilities.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Some doctors have even started prescribing cocoa to patients to help reduce cardiovascular risk, as chocolate seems to boost the brain's blood supply .

Don't overdo it, though, because this superfood needs to be consumed in moderation to work its wonders. One-half to one ounce a day will do the trick.

10. Cayenne pepper

Hot peppers are rich in capsaicin, a natural fat fighter and pain reliever. According to " The Happiness Diet ," this compound also reduces stress and allows us to focus; the brain has an abundance of capsaicin receptors, which release calming endorphins.

indian spices Flickr / sara marlowe The next time you're preparing a meal, rather than reaching for the salt or black pepper, the smarter choice may be a pinch of cayenne.

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