YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT. You bet! Research shows that rounding out your meals with key nutrients (along with regular exercise and sudoku) sharpens your memory and attention span.
Nourish your neurons with these top brain boosting foods. Each has a unique nutrient profile that supports different aspects of your cognitive function, such as learning and memory.
Your brain is fat, really fat. In fact, 60 percent of it is composed of fatty acids, the long chain-like fat molecules required for proper brain structure, so it’s essential that we feed our bodies the right types fat to support its function. While I advocate eating a wide variety of nuts, walnuts and almonds are especially good sources of brain food because they are brimming with anti-inflammatory nutrients. Walnuts in particular provide us with omega-3 fatty acids and other antioxidants, which boost brain function. Have a handful of raw nuts as a snack, add them to your smoothie in the morning, or sprinkle on your salad or soothing soup for extra crunch.
Fatty acids come in many varieties, yet the brain has a specific favourite — and salmon is packed with it. More than two-thirds of the brain’s fatty acids are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid found primarily in oily fish. Vegetarian sources like flaxseeds and chia seeds hav sample amounts. Metabolically incapable of making DHA on our own, so it’s essential we obtain them in our diet.
Blueberries are chock full with vitamins, fibre, and antioxidants that are particularly supportive of brain function. Several studies have shown that the high antioxidant component of blueberries can decrease inflammation, improve cell signalling ability within the brain, and prevent cognitive decline. You can use frozen blueberries during the colder months on your porridge, or opt for fresh and simply eat as a snack on their own.
4. Green Leafy
Here’s another reason to load up on those delicious leafy vegetables: a 2015 study found that participants who consumed one to two cups of spinach, kale, or other greens had the cognitive ability of someone 11 years younger compared to participants who ate none. Having improved cognitive function means better thinking skills, improved learning, and memory consolidation.
However, variety is key! Vary the types of green vegetables you eat as each has a unique micronutrient profile, which will help reduce systemic inflammation in the body and aid brain function. Although green smoothies are all the rage, my favourite way to get more greens is a big salad with a yummy olive oil dressing. You can also sneak them into casseroles and pasta bakes for extra goodness that the kids won’t even notice.
5. Pumpkin seeds
Brain cells need magnesium and zinc for growth and formation, of which pumpkin seeds are a fantastic source. Adequate zinc intake (8mg/day for women and 14mg/day for men) is associated with improved learning ability, concentration, and reduced fatigue. A 30g serve has roughly 2.1mg of zinc, but you can top up your stores with a small serve of beef or lamb at main meals. Couscous with raisins and pumpkin seeds served with lamb koftas is a family favourite that’s full of zinc.
I know it’s technically not a food, but staying hydrated is essential for your body to function it at its best. It allows cells to perform their chemical reactions and get rid of waste products. Too much caffeine and alcohol can quickly dehydrate the body and brain, leading to poor concentration and fatigue. Aim for at least 8 glasses of water spread throughout the day, and more on days where you’re active.