Food for thought: what to eat to boost brain power
The wonderful human brain is the most complex and demanding organ in our body – despite only accounting for two per cent of our total weight, it uses over 20 per cent of our body’s energy and oxygen supply. As the home to our personality, thoughts and memories, it’s not surprising that it’s so fundamental to our sense of self.
Here are a few of our favourite brain-benefiting foods, to keep your mind healthier for longer.
The only fruit specifically included in the MIND diet. Studies have shown that blueberries may improve short-term memory loss and delay the deterioration of cognitive function as we age. It is the antioxidising avonoids in the berries, called anthocyanins (the blue pigment), which research suggests contain brain-protecting properties. One study showed the phytocompounds in blueberries have the ability to lower oxidative stress and in ammation by altering signalling functions in the brain.
Foods high in vitamin K, lutein and beta-carotene – found in the likes of spinach, kale, collards and mustard greens – have been linked with slowing down the process of mind deterioration. In one study the consumption of two vegetable servings per day – leafy greens in particular – slowed the rate of cognitive decline, equivalent to those five years younger in age. More reason to eat your greens!
These nobbly nuts contain a whole host of neuroprotective compounds, including vitamin E, folate, omega-3 fatty acids and melatonin. Their high vitamin E content is perhaps most noteworthy, as research shows it to be an important antioxidant in helping reduce cognitive deterioration and the risk of Alzheimer’s. Interestingly, this positive association wasn’t seen in vitamin E taken in supplement form.
Being a rich source of vitamin K means this bright green brassica is well-equipped to look after our cognitive wellbeing. The brain-protecting qualities of the compounds found in broccoli work to slow the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is needed for the central nervous system to perform properly and keep our memory sharp.
Discovering fish as a food source was a pivotal moment in the history of mankind, with seafood credited by some experts as playing an integral role in the evolution of the human brain and intellect. As essential fatty acids aren’t made in the body, they must be found in our diets. The most beneficial form of omega-3, which contains DHA and EPA, is found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, as well as in grass-fed meat. Low DHA levels have been linked to an increased risk of memory loss, whereas having sufficient levels has been shown to manage stress, reduce inflammation and promote the production of the good- mood hormone serotonin. The MIND diet recommends one portion of oily sh a week. Always try to buy responsibly sourced fish.
An egg a day could help keep Alzheimer’s at bay. The yellow yolk is rich in choline – a vitamin used by the brain to make acetylcholine, a key player in maintaining memory and healthy brain cells. Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine tracked the eating habits of nearly 1,400 healthy adults for ten years and found that those with a diet rich in choline – also found in chicken – performed better in memory tests and were less likely to show changes in the brain that are associated with dementia. What’s more, eggs are also rich in B vitamins, which have been proven to help improve cognitive impairment.
- Studies have shown that blueberries may improve short-term memory loss
- Eggs are also rich in B vitamins, which have been proven to help improve cognitive impairment