Feed your brain
Nutrition

The top healthy foods to feed your brain

Good food doesn’t just provide fuel for your body. Here’s how it can boost your brain power and memory too.

Nutrients that help with brain function

 

The foods that help you stay healthy and achieve your weight-loss goals, can help increase your mental power as well. “There’s no doubt that the right food is important to fuel your brain,” says Program & Nutrition Manager, Nour Nazha. “The right foods can help brain development in the womb, help early-childhood brain development and contribute to better cognitive performance during adulthood.” So what nutrients should you eat to give your brain a boost?

 

1. Carbohydrates


Nazha says: “Carbohydrates – particularly glucose – are the brain’s preferred fuel. Children need nutritious carbohydrates throughout the day, such as fruit or a bowl of wholegrain cereal.” Choose wholegrain carbohydrates (such as porridge or brown rice) rather than refined grains (like white bread or white rice) because the outer layer of the grain contains antioxidants and essential nutrients, plus, they are more filling. “Sometimes people go on very low-carbohydrate diets but they may feel fuzzy-headed or have headaches,” says Nazha. “That’s the brain’s way of signalling that it needs more nutritious carbohydrate fuel.”

Good sources: porridge, wholegrain pasta, brown rice, legumes, grainy breads and fruit.

 

2. Omega-3 fatty acid


A high intake of this Omega-3 fatty acid has been linked to larger total brain volumes, as well as improved working memory. Plus, a study released in 2015, found that omega-3 fatty acids might have a role to play in helping to protect the mental health of people predisposed to psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia.

Good sources: oily fish, such as salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel.

 

3. Antioxidants


These free-radical fighters may help protect your body against the damaging effects of pollutants, such as exhaust fumes and cigarette smoke. One of the most important antioxidants for the brain is vitamin E. An American study of more than 4000 elderly people published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that people who lacked vitamin E had poorer memories than those with higher vitamin E levels.

Good sources: wheatgerm, nuts and seeds, eggs and tuna.

 

4. Water


Your brain is about 70-75 per cent water and you need to replenish your water levels daily. Adults are advised to consume about eight glasses a day. “Drinking the right amount of water each day is important for your brain and is also important for keeping you hydrated.” says Nazha.

Good sources: Apart from H2O itself, other options include herbal teas and foods that have a high-water content, such as watermelon, cucumber, celery and lettuce.

 

Brain-ageing foods

 

Alcohol


Research has linked heavy alcohol use (regularly drinking more than 3.5 standard drinks a day) with faster cognitive decline in early old age. In fact, a study released in 2015 linked consuming an average of 12g of alcohol a day (a standard drink = 10g of alcohol) during midlife, with an increased risk of dementia.

 

Saturated and trans fats


A review paper released in 2014 says that evidence to date does suggest a relationship between saturated and trans fat intake, and a higher risk of cognitive disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and mild cognitive impairment.