Eating well is good for your mental as well as your physical health. The brain requires nutrients just like your heart, lungs or muscles do. But which foods are particularly important to keep our grey matter happy?
Like everything else in your body, the brain cannot work without energy. The ability to concentrate and focus comes from the adequate, steady supply of energy – in the form of glucose in our blood to the brain. Achieve this by choosing wholegrains with a low-GI, which release glucose slowly into the bloodstream, keeping you mentally alert throughout the day. Opt for ‘brown’ cereals, wheatbran, granary bread and brown pasta.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) cannot be made by the body and must be obtained through diet. The most effective omega-3 fats occur naturally in oily fish. The main sources of oily fish include salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kippers. Good sources include flaxseed oil, soya bean oil, pumpkin seeds, walnut oil and soya beans.
Evidence suggests that the consumption of blueberries may be effective in improving or delaying short term memory loss. Widely available, so there’s no excuse.
Vitamin C has long been thought to have the power to increase mental agility. One of the best sources of this vital vitamin are blackcurrants.
A great source of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function and improve brainpower.
Just a handful of pumpkin seeds a day is all you need to get your recommended daily amount of zinc, vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills.
There is good evidence to suggest that lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes, could help protect against the kind of free radical damage to cells which occurs in the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s.
Certain B vitamins – B6, B12 and folic acid – are known to reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Elevated levels of homocysteine are associated with increased risk of stroke, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
Sage has long had a reputation for improving memory and although most studies focus on sage as an essential oil, it could be worth adding fresh sage to your diet too.
Good intake of vitamin E might help to prevent cognitive decline, particularly in the elderly. Nuts are a great source of vitamin E along with leafy green vegetables, asparagus, olives, seeds, eggs, brown rice and wholegrains.
If your diet is unbalanced for whatever reason, you may want to consider a multivitamin and mineral complex and an omega-3 fatty acid supplement to help make up a few of the essentials. If you are considering taking a supplement it is best to discuss this with a doctor or qualified healthcare professional.
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