The brain works all round the clock – whether you are active or asleep. Yes, even when you are asleep, the brain is as active as it is when you are wide awake. Your brain takes care of the important task of cleansing itself off the day’s tensions and invigorating you for a new day.
It is obvious, therefore, that it needs important nutrients to keep performing well. Most of us are aware of the many foods that help in weight loss and other physical goals. Today, let us delve into the details of a few nutritious foods that are responsible to keep us mentally happy and healthy.
Nutrients important for the brain
A balanced diet is important, not only for the physical health of the body, but also for the health of the brain.Some nutrients, vitamins and minerals that especially contribute towards brain health include:
- Essential fatty acids – omega 3: A study shows that omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids as a possible treatment for depression. Sources include oily fish like salmon, mackerel and herring.
- Amino acids – Amino acids make the neurotransmitters in our brain. Some of the amino acids include tryptophan and tyrosine. A study shows that amino acids like these can help modify the function of the brain and may be the base of drugs in the future. Tryptophan, which makes the neurotransmitter serotonin, can be derived from foods like milk and oats.
- Vitamins and minerals – Like for other bodily functions, vitamins and minerals are responsible for our brain and things like our mood. A few vitamins and minerals important for our brain are folate, B vitamins including B6, B12, thiamine(B1), riboflavin(B2), Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Niacin, Magnesium, calcium and zinc. Take a varied diet to keep vitamin deficiencies and associated problems at bay.
- Polyphenols – Polyphenols are natural compounds that are present in plant-based foods. A study shows that these can aid in cognitive function and help the brain to fight against oxidative stress.
What foods are packed with brain-friendly nutrients?
Are you wondering what foods you can adorn your plate with for a supercharged brain? Read on for a few suggestions.
Harness the Berry Power
Rightly known as ‘brain-berries’ by author, MD, Steven Pratt, blueberries are so full of antioxidants. They help shield the brain form oxidative stress. A study involved people with mild cognitive disorders showed that their condition improved with a daily dose of blueberry powder. Strawberries and cranberries are also rich in antioxidants. Include berries in your diet for improving your memory and other brain functions. Why not try our pancake recipe and top with some fresh blueberries, cranberries and/or strawberries for your daily brain-berrie fix?
Get brainy with Fatty fish
Oily fish like salmon, tuna, and herring are rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids, which are very healthy for the brain and the eyes.
Modern diets, being rich in processed foods and excessive meat, are full of omega 6, the unhealthy fats. It is important to reduce the use of unhealthy fats and include omega 3 – rich foods so the right balance of omega 3: omega 6 (ideally 1:4) is maintained.
Oily fish are one of the main dietary sources of omega 3 fatty acids. Aim to have at least 2 portions in a week. Try our delicious honey glazed salmon this week for that all-important dose of omega 3.
You sure must have heard that whole grains are much better than the refined varieties. Well, their benefits are equally valid for brain health.
Whole grains are good for the heart. Therefore, they enhance blood circulation – even to the brain. As they have a low Glycaemic Index, whole grains release glucose gradually into the blood stream, providing adequate energy to your brain.
Whole grains are nutrient-rich compared to refined grains because they contain fibre, Vitamin E, and antioxidants.
Some good options include brown rice, whole wheat bread, quinoa, and oats. Although wheat germ is not classified as a whole grain, it has the same benefits with Vitamin E and omega 3 in it. Check out our eggs Florentine recipe with wholegrain toast.
Enjoy Buttery Avocados
Although avocados are full of fat, they are rich in mono-saturated fats, which are healthy, and help blood flow. They also help preventing high blood pressure because of their potassium content. They reduce the risk of heart disease and keep cholesterol levels at bay because of their fibre content. All these effects on the health lead to good mental health. Eggs and avocado on toast is a favourite of ours for that morning fix of healthy fats.
Brain-shaped nuts to the rescue
Nuts and seeds are rich in Vitamin E, which is very important for mental health. Walnuts, cashew nuts, almonds, pistachios, peanuts, and Brazil nuts, all are useful in reducing the risk of mental illnesses like Alzheimer’s.
Walnuts, the brain-shaped nuts, are especially good for your brain. Believe in ancient philosophy that sees the clues hidden in shaped foods? Or, do you think it is a sweet coincidence?
Grab a serving of your greens!
Green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, and Swiss chard are full of Vitamins A and K. Their antioxidants protect the brain from free radicals. A study showed that those who had a serving a day of green leafy vegetables were less likely to have dementia when older. Broccoli or “Midget Tree’s”as Joe Wick calls it is another green health-food that is rich in Vitamin K.
So, don’t forget your green-leafy salad – it can make you feel younger!
Don’t forego your Eggy breakfast
Egg yolks are one of the foods rich in the nutrient, choline, which, like amino acids, is responsible for building neurotransmitters, in this case – acetylcholine. Eggs also contain a few B-vitamins and folic acid which have been seen to delay brain shrinkage. Thus, eggs help in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and stroke. Try our feta and tomato omelette for your egg fix.
A few other brain-friendly foods:
Some other foods that are good for the brain include beetroot, celery, pomegranate, blackcurrants, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, rosemary, beans, tomatoes, green tea, turmeric, probiotics (yogurt) and for the chocolate lovers – dark chocolate.
Foods to steer clear of:
The following foods cause harm to health and brain health:
- High-sugar food and drinks
- Processed foods
- Oils rich in omega 6 like sunflower oil and corn oil
- Most things white – white rice, refined flour, white sugar, salt
- Excessive alcohol
The Bottom Line:
It is evident that the food on your plate has a direct impact on your mood. So, feel good with a balanced diet including of lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and modest amounts of lean protein, your brain health and overall health will be in good shape.If, for any reason, you feel you are not able to have a balanced diet, consider supplements like multi-vitamins and omega 3. Check out our eating well to reduce illness article for some other key and important information on foods that help and foods to avoid.