These 6 fall superfoods will benefit your brain

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For those who are the Autumn’s biggest fans, it’s never too early to start dipping into the flavors, scents, and spices of the season. Even if sweater-weather, pumpkin picking, flannel shirts, apple ciders, and leaf-peeping isn’t your thing, you can tap into the resources of fall by implementing seasonally-fresh superfoods into your diet.

By definition, this category is only given to those goodies from Mother Nature that overflow with nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants. By stopping by your local farmer’s market, you can source everything from walnuts and beets to broccoli and more during this special time of the year.

No matter if you incorporate them into a breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack, these bad boys will work overtime for your brain, increasing cognition and helping you to focus. Time to nibble.

Pumpkin seeds

Sure, you may need to Instagram the infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte (or the new guy in town this year, the Pumpkin Spice Cold Brew) — but the beverage won’t do much for your health. Instead, keep those seeds to the side when you carve a pumpkin with friends or family. Dr. Judy Ho, Ph.D., a triple board-certified clinical and forensic neuropsychologist and author says these little guys contain powerful antioxidants that protect our body (and mind!) from free-radical damage.

They are also considered a reliable source of zinc, which help to signal our nerves, as well as magnesium, which is essential for learning and memory. You’ll also get a dose of iron, which Dr. Ho says is essential to brain function since a deficiency in this nutrient will have you dragging.

Broccoli

It may have been your arch-nemesis as a child, but these days, it can be served in countless delicious ways. And it turns out your mom was right: it’s green and great for you, so you probably should chomp on it this fall.

Registered nutritionist and dietitian and professor Keith-Thomas Ayoob says broccoli has antioxidants that help protect our hippocampus, which is the area of our brain responds to stress. If you have a generous serving at lunch or dinner, you will receive the nutrients you need to combat any blunders that pop up during your day.

Walnuts

Good news if you can’t get enough of nuts! In the fall, walnuts are in season, and Dr. Ho says they serve as an excellent source of tons of essential nutrients. These include plant-based omega-3 fats, phytosterols, and antioxidants, all of which have been shown to help reverse age-related cognitive decline.

This means if you’re having trouble remembering every-last-detail of a meeting or keeping up with your list of deliverables, a handful of these on a salad or as a standalone snack will serve you well.

Beets

Whether bright red or a muted, mustard yellow, these root veggies are nutrient superstars. As Dr. Ho explains, they serve as a source of folate and potassium, and they contain natural nitrates that boost blood flow throughout our bodies.

When this happens, Dr. Ho says we will see a difference in our natural sharpness, performance, and energy. If you’re feeling blue or seasonal depression hits you hard, beets are an even better idea.

“Beetroot may significantly impact and reduce stress-induced anxiety and depression by reducing and preventing oxidative stress in the body,” she shares.

Turmeric

Common in many Indian and Southeast Asian dishes, this unbelievably yellow spice isn’t just shocking in tint but in flavor. Dr. Ho says it makes the list of fall superfoods since it’s been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, and directly enter our brain to benefit cells. Pretty cool right?

“It’s antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties that may improve memory and mood by boosting serotonin and dopamine,” she continues. “It may also help new brain cells grow through boosting brain-derived neurotrophic factors.”

So if you were looking for an excuse to add a dash into your smoothie, this is it.

Coffee

Okay, okay, coffee is appropriate (and um, necessary) no matter the season but because many harvests happen in Autumn and temperatures drop, it’s a great time to think deeply about your morning brew. As Dr. Ho explains, java has two components: caffeine and antioxidants.

Both of these can have a number of positive effects on our brain — from making us more alert to helping us concentrate. If you aren’t really ‘awake’ until you’ve finished cup number one, there’s a reason for that, since Dr. Ho says coffee has been shown to boost serotonin, a neurotransmitter that’s associated with mood and feelings of self-being.

Don’t just stop at fall either, since Dr. Ho adds drinking coffee over the long-term may also be linked to reduced risks of neurological diseases.