Did you know that there are certain foods that heal the brain after concussion?
Eating the right foods in the days after a concussion can speed up your recovery and help prevent any permanent cognitive deficits that might develop.
Before we dive in, let’s take a look at what happens in the brain after a concussion and what nutrients are needed to combat its effects.
Effects of Concussion on the Brain
When you suffer a concussion, your brain is pushed against the inside of your skull and as a result, becomes bruised. Some of the nerve tissues can also be stretched and even torn.
This tearing activates certain damaging processes in the brain.
First, the balance of ions and chemicals in your brain are altered, which impairs nerve cell function. This imbalance causes production of free radicals (unstable molecules that damage your cells) which causes inflammation of brain tissue and decreased blood flow.
All of this leads to many of the effects of a concussion that you are probably well acquainted with already: headaches, dizziness, cognitive problems, etc…
Foods That Heal the Brain After Concussion
To counter these effects of a concussion, you’re going to need to consume foods that will replenish the nutrients your brain lost during your injury.
One of the best types of food that do this are those that contain high levels of compounds called flavonoids.
Flavonoids are great for concussion patients because not only do they contain antioxidants that help fight the free radicals in your brain and reduce inflammation, they also stimulate the production of BDNF.
BDNF (Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor) is a growth factor that helps trigger the creation of new brain cells and improves brain function!
Your brain is made up of about 60% fat, and nearly half of that fat is omega-3. Omega-3 is crucial for promoting BDNF and rebuilding brain cells.
With all this in mind, here are some foods that heal the brain after concussion.
Blueberries contain lots of flavonoids and have one of the highest antioxidant levels of all common fruits and vegetables.
This makes them great for reducing inflammation and helping your brain heal from a concussion.
They also can help improve communication between brain cells and maintain brain function.
To increase the amount of blueberries you consume, sprinkle them on your daily yogurt or cereal, or add them to a smoothie.
Cranberries are another fruit that is rich in flavonoids. Like blueberries, they help reduce inflammation in your brain and fight off free radicals.
For the most nutritional bang for your buck, try to eat the fresh berries because jellied cranberry sauce and cranberry juice do not contain as many nutrients.
If you are not sure how to incorporate cranberries into your diet, check out these cranberry recipes. Again, try to avoid cranberry jelly if you want the most health benefits.
3. Red Kale
Most people already know kale as one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet, and it is a very rich source of antioxidants.
But the less well-known fact is that red varieties of kale contain nearly twice as many antioxidants as green kale.
This is because red kale contains more flavonoids, which is what gives it a more vibrant color.
4. Green Tea
Just consuming a cup or two of green tea per day while recovering from a concussion can help improve alertness, memory and cognition. It also protects your brain against free radical damage and reduces inflammation.
Besides all that, green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine which, among other things, reduces anxiety and helps you relax without feeling tired.
Since one of the keys to making a good recovery from a concussion is avoiding stress and staying as relaxed as possible, this makes green tea a great drink to add to your diet.
5. Pecans (and other nuts)
Pecans and other nuts such as walnuts are not only high in antioxidants, they are a good source of healthy fat, which helps promote brain function.
Another benefit of pecans for concussion patients is how calorie-rich they are.
Your brain after an injury requires more energy to heal itself, so consuming pecans will help give it the calorie boost it so desperately needs.
6. Olive Oil
Olive oil has many positive benefits for your overall health, but what makes it so good for concussion patients is that it can boost your production of BDNF.
As we said above, BDNF is crucial for promoting brain cell growth, which will help heal your brain after concussion.
To add more olive oil to your diet, try substituting it for butter when baking. You’ll want to use light olive oil instead of extra-virgin because light olive oil has a neutral taste and can withstand high heat.
You can also use olive oil to stir-fry your vegetables or use it as a dressing for your salad.
Broccoli is packed with antioxidants and other compounds that make it a great food for reducing inflammation in the brain after a concussion.
It’s also rich in vitamin K. In fact, a one cup serving of broccoli delivers more than 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K for adults!
Vitamin K helps improve cognition and memory, but what makes it especially great for brain health is that it is vital for the synthesis of sphingolipids.
Sphingolipids are a type of fat that’s densely packed into your central nervous system and helps your brain cells send signals.
8. Dark Chocolate
Yes, you read that right. Dark chocolate has extremely high levels of flavonoids, making it a great snack during your concussion recovery.
It’s also a rich source of magnesium, which is another nutrient that is depleted in the brain after a concussion.
To get the most benefits, you should try to eat chocolate containing at least 70% cocoa. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the healthier it is for your brain.
9. Fatty fish
Some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are in certain types of fatty fish, including:
- Mackerel (4,107 mg of omega-3 per serving)
- Salmon (4,023 mg of omega-3 per serving)
- Sardines (2,205 mg of omega-3 per serving)
More sources of omega-3
If you’re not a seafood fan, you can also get omega-3 in certain seeds and plants. It should be noted that the type of omega-3 found in plants, called alpha-linolenic acid, is inferior to the type found in fatty fish. However, it can still provide vital nutrients to your brain.
Some of the best plant sources of omega-3 are:
- Chia seeds (4,915 mg per serving)
- Walnuts (2,542 mg per serving)
- Soybeans (1,241 mg per serving)
Be sure you don’t remove the skin on walnuts when you eat them, as it also contains lots of those crucial antioxidants we’ve talked so much about.
How to Get Nutritious Foods When Nauseous
What if your concussion makes you too nauseous to eat?
Smoothies are a great way to get all the nutrients you need and are easy on your stomach. Pretty much all the foods listed above can be made into a smoothie.
To get your nausea under control try some ginger gum. Ginger gum is commonly recommended for people suffering from morning sickness or the effects of chemo, and can help reduce nausea after concussions. It’s sold over-the-counter at most pharmacies.
Foods to Avoid While Healing From a Concussion
To help your brain heal from a concussion, you’ll want to avoid foods that are high in saturated fats and processed sugars. These foods decrease BDNF levels in your brain and slow down your recovery process.
Some foods that are high in saturated fats and processed sugars include:
- Candy bars and cakes
- Fried and salty foods
- Processed meats
You also should avoid consuming any alcohol while you recover from a concussion. This is because alcohol damages your brain cells and makes it much harder for your brain to heal from an injury.
Foods That Heal The Brain After Concussion: A Summary
In the end, the foods you should focus on eating during your concussion recovery time need to be high in antioxidants and rich sources of omega-3.
You should also make sure the food you eat has lots of protein and calories to give your brain extra energy to heal.
In addition to the foods listed above, any brightly colored fruits and veggies will be beneficial for you. In general, the brighter the color, the more antioxidants it will contain.
And there you have it! We hope this article has inspired you to try some new foods that will help your brain heal from a concussion.