Eating the right foods for brain health can help our mood, concentration, memory and even prevent some diseases.
Research has shown that some foods rich in antioxidants, healthy fats – such as omega 3s, vitamins and minerals can provide energy and help prevent brain diseases. Of course, some foods are better for your brain than others, and while no one food alone can prevent brain degeneration, eating a diet rich in certain properties can help keep your mind sharper for longer.
Health experts have lauded the health benefits of berries for years and Melbourne-based nutritionist Samantha Gemmell says they’re full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can help protect your brain.
“They’re also lower in sugar and higher in fibre, so will give you steady energy levels throughout the day,” she says. “Research shows that higher intake of blueberries and strawberries are associated with lower rates of cognitive decline.”
Berries are easy to include into your diet and Gemmell suggest adding them to yogurt, oatmeal or smoothies, or simply enjoying them fresh.
“This cup of goodness has a number of compounds that support a healthy brain,” Gemmell says. One of them is L-theanine, an amino acid that can improve performance in alertness and attention.
Gemmell sites recent research which suggests that green tea can improve memory and connectivity in some parts of the brain.
One antioxidant found in green tea, EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate), reduces cortisol production in the body. “Cortisol is a stress hormone that can have many negative impacts on brain health, so that’s another tick for green tea!”
The old wives’ tale is true: eating fish is good for the brain. “Omega-3s can support the function of synapses and improve cognition,” Gemmell says.
Omega-3 oils in fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardine, trout and snapper are ideal. Try adding fish to pasta, snack on sardines on toast, or serve up a tuna steak with a Greek salad.
Great news for chocolate lovers — dark chocolate and cocoa are packed with brain-boosting compounds. This claim is backed up by research that found cocoa can boost blood flow to the brain, and the antioxidants can protect the regions of the brain where learning and memory take place.
“Regular chocolate consumption is also associated with better cognitive performance,” Gemmell adds.
Eggs contain a nutrient called choline, that is essential for the production of brain chemicals. A higher intake of choline is associated with better cognitive performance, Gemmell says, while low plasma choline is associated with poor cognition, speed and executive function.
“Eggs also contain other nutrients that support brain function including zinc and B vitamins,” Gemmell says.
Walnuts have a resemblance to the brain, and are recognised as the top nut for brain health. They contain levels of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, which has been shown to improve cognition and prevent or reduce age-related cognitive decline.