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 what you eat plays an important role in how your brain functions,” says Dietitian and WW Program Developer, Nicole Stride. “Getting the right nutrients helps with brain development in the womb, early-childhood brain development and contributes to better cognitive function during adulthood.” So what nutrients should you eat to give your brain a boost? Check out our list of brain healthy food groups and nutrients below.
Stride says: “Glucose found in carbohydrates is the brain’s preferred source of fuel.” 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 or try to cut out carbs altogether but they often feel fuzzy-headed or start to have headaches,” says Stride. “That’s the brain’s way of signalling that it needs more nutritious carbohydrates in order to function properly.”
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.
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.
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 enough water each day is important for brain function and also for keeping you hydrated.” says Stride.
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.
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.