A vegetarian diet has been linked to many health benefits including a reduced risk of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and obesity. But if that’s not reason enough to eat more animal-friendly fare, here are five vegetarian snacks that will also boost brain power too.
Soybeans are rich in phytoestrogens (estrogen-like compounds derived from plants) such as isoflavones. Isoflavones have been linked to improved function of the frontal lobe, which is responsible for short-term memory, attention, and motivation. If you’re always on the go, a bag of soy nuts is the perfect, portable, protein-packed snack. And contrary to popular belief, a 2010 analysis of fifteen randomized controlled studies found that phytoestrogens do not reduce testosterone or sperm levels. So snack away men!
Hummus, a delicious spread made from mashed chickpeas, contains tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that the body can’t produce on its own. And tryptophan is needed to make serotonin, the neurotransmitter that is famous for its anti-depressive effects. But serotonin is also important in memory and learning. So be sure to smear some hummus over crackers the next time you have a particularly rough day or even a difficult problem to solve.
Eating a banana everyday is a terrific way to keep the body’s potassium levels replete. Not only does a potassium-rich diet reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, but potassium is also essential to keep your brain well-oxygenated. To keep brain function optimal, keep this popular fruit handy.
Walnuts are full of omega-3 fatty acids. Unlike saturated or trans fats, polyunsaturated fats are so-called “good fats” that actually improve cardiovascular health. Two essential polyunsaturated fats that we must consume in our diet are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. A 2012 study at UCLA found that low levels of omega-3 fatty acids are linked to reduced brain size and cognitive function. Walnuts are the perfect way to get a quick dose of your daily essential fats!
Carrots are rich in the plant flavonoid luteolin. Luteolin has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In the brain, luteolin reduces the inflammation from microglial cells. This protects neurons from damage and results in improved memory and cognition. Who would’ve thought a bag of baby carrots could be protecting your brain from degenerating?
Shaan Patel achieved a perfect SAT score in high school. An enthusiastic vegetarian since a child, he is now the author of SAT 2400 in Just 7 Steps, Director of SAT Programs at Veritas Prep, and active vegetarian advocate.