As you munch and graze your way through the day, have you ever stopped to think about which foods are actually good for your grey matter? In the same way that the rest of our body needs nutrients to function well, our brain also gets a boost when we eat the right foods.
Your body needs a steady supply of energy from the glucose in your blood, and your brain is no exception. Wholegrains are your best bet for slow-release energy which sustains you over a longer period of time, helping you avoid that inevitable ‘sugar crash’. Wholegrains can be found in things like:
- Bread made from whole-wheat flour
- Brown rice or wild rice
- Bran flakes
In the UK, there are no official guidelines but most experts recommend at least three servings of wholegrain foods a day. A serving is the equivalent of 1 large slice of multigrain bread, 23g (uncooked weight) brown rice or 1 bowl of wheat-based breakfast cereal.
2. B-rich foods
Certain foods containing B vitamins such as B6, B12 and folic acid are known to reduce levels of a compound called homocysteine in the blood. Higher levels of homocysteine have been shown to impair how well your brain functions. You can increase your intake of B vitamins by consuming foods such as chicken, eggs and leafy greens.
Blueberries are often referred to as a “superfruit” for their health boosting properties. However, consuming blueberries may also be effective against memory loss. In a study at the University of Cincinnati, researchers found that older adults who were given blueberry powder every day for 16 weeks scored higher in memory tests and saw an improvement in brain function compared to those receiving a placebo.
Eating broccoli provides you with a great source of vitamin K, which is known to help boost brain power. This is because broccoli is high in compounds called glucosinolates which slow the breakdown of the neurotransmitters in your brain, helping to keep your memory sharp. Brussel sprouts and leafy greens such as kale are also a good source of vitamin K.
5. Oily fish
Oily fish are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which play an important part in healthy brain function. The NHS website recommends that we consume at least one portion (around 140g when cooked) of oily fish a week. Omega 3 can be found in fish such as salmon, mackerel, kippers and sardines. Good non-animal sources of these fats include soya beans, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and their oils.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet will give you the best chance of boosting your brainpower. However, if you don’t like eating fish or a wide range of fruit and vegetables, this can be more difficult. You may be able to supplement your intake of food with vitamins or Omega-3 tablets. However, before you consider supplementing your diet, seek the advice of your GP or other healthcare professional who will be able to recommend what’s best depending on your circumstances.