You may be surprised to learn that the brain requires more energy than any other organ of the body. Well, maybe that’s not such a surprise when you think that the brain is always on!
It’s not just energy-dense foods that it loves, but specific nutrients too. You can often notice the difference in all aspects of brain function when you feed it correctly.
Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top foods to sharpen the mind.
Salmon, and indeed all oily fish, including mackerel, sardines, trout, and pilchard, are rich in the essential omega-3 fatty acids. The brain contains loads of these fats and therefore they need to be topped up regularly for optimal function.
Importantly, the body can’t make these fats, so they need to be eaten in the diet (or supplemented). If fish is not for you then make sure you’re eating plenty of flaxseeds (they can be sprinkled into yoghurt, cereals or porridge) or go for other nuts and seeds.
Eggs are a great source of many nutrients, but specifically choline, which the brain uses to create a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate memory and mood (amongst other key functions).
Eggs are also a rich source of vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, also needed for many brain functions, but specifically to produce brain neurotransmitters. Protein is key for a sharp and balanced brain, and eggs deliver on this front too. Indeed, starting the day with an egg-based breakfast will tick all the boxes for your brain health.
These beautiful berries are loaded with antioxidants which help protect the brain from damaging free radicals and the aging process. Blueberries are also loaded with vitamin C which helps support blood flow to the brain, which in turn is going to improve memory and general cognitive function.
Blueberries are, of course, very easy to transport, so they make a great snack. However, they are just as easy to throw over your morning oat-based breakfast or added to natural yoghurt, with some seeds, for a great breakfast option. The great news is that all berries love the brain, so with summer berry season approaching, you’ll have plenty of choice.
Dark chocolate is packed with polyphenols, plant compounds that protect the brain from free radical damage but also help memory and overall brain function. And there’s loads of research to support this too. What’s more, dark chocolate contains plenty of magnesium which helps to reduce stress levels; high levels of cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) are known to adversely affect brain function.
Go for dark chocolate (ideally 70% or more of cocoa). Unfortunately, milk chocolate does not provide the same health benefits and will deliver lots of sugar. A couple of squares of dark chocolate daily can satisfy any sweet cravings and keep your brain sharp too.
Dehydration will reduce brain function quicker than nutrient depletion. It’s the often-forgotten piece of the nutritional jigsaw puzzle. Water is essential for maintaining attention and keeping focus, reducing headaches and memory loss, and improving overall cognitive function. Even just 2% dehydration takes a toll on brain function. Whilst it’s not easy to quantify what this means in terms of volume of liquid, the important point is that even a marginal deficiency will have big impact.
If you aim to drink 1.5 – 2 litres of water daily, and you might need more if you’re exercising heavily, then you’ll be amazed at how much sharper your brain function feels. And energy levels will soar too!
So, feed your brain by adding some of these elements into your diet and you should start to notice a difference.
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