Eating the right foods help to promote both mental and physical health. Your brain requires adequate nutrition- just as your heart, lungs and muscles do- in order to function most optimally. Take a look at this list of the foods that a great for your brain;
Vitamin C– Found in blackcurrants, red peppers, citrus fruits and broccoli, Vitamin C has been thought to have the power to improve mental agility and protect against age-related brain degeneration including dementia and Alzheimer’s. Foods high in Vitamin C are a great way to improve memory and concentration.
Broccoli- High in Vitamin K which is known to enhance cognitive function and improve brainpower. Broccoli is also high in compounds called glucosinolates, and it can slow the breakdown of the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which we need for the central nervous system to perform properly and to keep our brains and our memories sharp. FYI- Low levels of acetylcholine are associated with Alzheimer’s.
Omega 3– Essential fatty acids cannot be made by the body which means they must be obtained through your diet. These basic fats are used to build specialised fats called omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
The most effective omega-3 fats occur naturally in oily fish (in the form of EPA and DHA). These fats are important for healthy brain function, the heart, joints and general wellbeing. The main sources of oily fish include salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kippers. Oily fish contains the active form of these fats, EPA and DHA, in a ready-made form, which means the body can use it easily.
If you don’t eat fish, you can find these fats in good plant sources, such as flaxseeds, soya beans, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and their oils.
Low levels of DHA have been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss, whilst having sufficient levels of both EPA and DHA is thought to help us manage stress and helps make the good mood brain chemical- serotonin.
Tomatoes-Lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes, is thought to help protect against the free radical damage to cells which occurs in the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
A study published in the Oxford Journals called ‘Plasma chain-breaking antioxidants in Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and Parkinson’s disease’ states that “the brain is an ideal target for free-radical damage”, and there is much evidence to suggest that “free radical injury may contribute to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease”.
Therefore, by reducing the free radical damage to the brain- which Lycopene can assist with- the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease is also reduced.
Blueberries-This fruit, as well as many other fruits such as blackcurrants, elderberries, strawberries, red and purple grapes, red wine, sweet cherries, eggplants, black plums, blood oranges, and red cabbage, contain a protective compound called anthocyanins.
Laboratory research as well as studies in animals and humans has put forward the idea that anthocyanins may play important roles in helping reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline, and cancer. The role of anthocyanins in the prevention of these diseases has been linked to their antioxidant properties.
Eating foods high in anthocyanins, like blueberries, can help to improve cognitive function, enhance memory and help prevent age-related declines in mental function.
Avocados– Eating avocados is almost as good as eating blueberries for promoting brain health. The avocado is a fatty fruit, but its fats are monounsaturated which contributes to healthy blood flow. Healthy blood flow means a healthy brain.
Avocados also lower blood pressure, and as hypertension is a risk factor for the decline in cognitive function, a lower blood pressure should promote brain health. Avocados are high in calories, though, so aim to add only 1/4 to 1/2 of an avocado to one daily meal.
Caffeine-Not long after you take your first gulp of coffee, caffeine begins to work its magic by causing the release of dopamine.
Dopamine is a brain chemical that stimulates the area of your brain responsible for feeling alert, problem solving and pleasure. You feel more activated, sharp, and on the ball, as well as experiencing a “mild mood-elevating effect”, according to William Lovallo, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the University of Oklahoma.
Carbohydrates- Your brain prefers to use glucose as an energy source. The ability to concentrate and focus comes from an adequate, steady supply of energy – in the form of glucose in our blood to the brain. Glucose is a form of carbohydrate known as a simple sugar/monosaccharide. Glucose is the body’s main form of energy, powering muscles and providing the brain with its only energy source. Plants produce their own glucose through photosynthesis, whereas humans consume it through their foods. Carbohydrates release glucose slowly into the bloodstream, keeping you mentally alert throughout the day. However, if glucose levels are low (from a low carbohydrate diet) your body produces ketones which your brain uses as fuel instead.
B Vitamins- Certain Vitamins – B6, B12 and folic acid – are known to reduce levels of a compound called homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine is a naturally occurring amino acid found in blood plasma. Elevated levels of homocysteine are associated with increased risk of stroke, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
A study of a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment found that after two years of intervention with high doses of B6, B12 and folic acid, there was significantly less brain shrinkage compared to a subset given placebo treatment. Opt for B-rich foods like chicken, fish, eggs and leafy greens.
Dark chocolate– We’ve saved the best till last… Dark chocolate has powerful antioxidant properties, which will help to protect your brain from the damaging effects of free radicals. It also contains natural stimulants, including caffeine, which enhances focus and concentration, as well as stimulating mood improving endorphins.
Unfortunately, though, this food is only to be consumed in moderation as more is not better!
Give these foods a go and be sure to tag us in your pics on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!