Glucose—a specific type of sugar—is crucial for optimal brain function. It helps produce neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that send signals across synapses from neuron to neuron, and stimulates the plasticity of neurons so that they don’t die off. When your brain doesn’t get the glucose it needs, memory, focus and reasoning decline.
But getting sufficient glucose does not mean eating a diet rich in refined sugar and carbohydrates. The best foods to provide immediate glucose to the brain are root and other vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
To ensure a steady, balanced supply of glucose throughout the day, I often follow the meal plan below or something very similar. You can easily do the same.
My Glucose-Rich Day
BREAKFAST: For a brain-nourishing breakfast, I love avocado toast, which delivers a hearty supply of glucose and brain-healthy monounsaturated fats.
Directions: Toast two slices of whole-grain bread. Cut an avocado in half, remove the pit and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Add lemon juice and sea salt to taste. Mash the ingredients together with a fork, keeping the texture slightly chunky. Spread the mixture onto the toast and garnish with some chili flakes and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
Better bread: I like to use Ezekiel bread, which contains several different kinds of sprouted grains and legumes, typically wheat, millet, barley, spelt, soybeans and lentils. Sprouted grains and legumes make this bread easier to digest and provide a good amount of brain-healthy glucose and other nutrients. It’s also completely free of any added sugars (most breads contain refined sugar and/or corn syrup). Since Ezekiel bread is preservative-free, it’s best stored in the freezer.
LUNCH: For lunch, it’s hard to beat my “Ultimate Brain-Healthy Soup,” which features a wide range of “super-nutrients”—plus plenty of glucose.
The sweet peas in the soup are a good source of glutathione, a master antioxidant that protects the brain from neuron-destroying inflammation. Scallions not only deliver lots of glucose, but also nourish good-gut microbes—essential for mental alertness and emotional balance. Broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse, high in fiber, phytonutrients and vitamins A, C and B-6. And edamame (green soybeans) are a good source of lean vegetable protein, also essential for a healthy brain. Finally, brewer’s yeast is an excellent source of brain-essential choline and vitamin B-12.
I like to cook these vegetables al dente—this helps preserve the brain-supporting nutrients and gives the soup a nice consistency. I also prefer organic produce, for taste and health.
- 1 pound broccoli, finely chopped
- 1 cup red cabbage, finely chopped
- 6 medium carrots, finely chopped
- 6 scallions, finely chopped, white parts only
- 4 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 cups sweet peas (frozen are fine)
- 1 cup shelled edamame (frozen are fine)
- 1 one-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
- 2 quarts vegetable broth (no added salt)
- 2 Tablespoons brewer’s yeast
Directions: Place all the veggies and ginger in a large pot. Add the broth. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the veggies are slightly tender but not hard. Pour into six bowls. Sprinkle one teaspoon of brewer’s yeast over each serving. Feel free to add brown rice for extra texture. (Serves six.)
DINNER: For dinner, try my wild Alaskan salmon recipe—filled with brain-nourishing omega-3 fatty acids. Serve it with a side of glucose-rich wild rice or sweet potatoes.
- 1 pound wild Alaskan salmon fillet (frozen is fine), cut in four pieces
- 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin coconut oil
- 2 Tablespoons tamari (or soy sauce)
- Juice of one-half lemon
Directions: Rinse the fish and steam, skin side down, until cooked through, about eight to 10 minutes on top of the stove. (Note: There are special pots made for steaming, but if you don’t have one, you can arrange the fillets in a small glass baking dish, add a few inches of water to a large pot, set the dish in the pot and cover to steam.)
In a small saucepan, heat the coconut oil, tamari and lemon juice and stir for one minute. Transfer the fish to plates and drizzle the tamari-lemon sauce over it. (Serves four.)
Source: Lisa Mosconi, PhD, associate director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, where she is also associate professor of neuroscience in neurology…and adjunct faculty member in the department of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine, also in New York City. She is author or coauthor of more than 100 scientific papers in peer-reviewed medical journals and author of Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power. LisaMosconi.com