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5 foods to boost your brainpower

Do you know which foods give your brain a healthy boost?

The brain is an extremely important organ. It acts as the command centre of your body - allowing you to think, move, feel, breathe and more.   

Did you know that your brain represents only 2% of your weight yet uses 20% of the energy produced by the body? You can see why it needs plenty of fuel and nutrients to keep going.  

Following a balanced diet as part of a healthy lifestyle is the best approach to improving brain function and reducing the risk of many conditions, such as heart disease and stroke. Some foods, in particular, seem to be particularly good for our brains when eaten as part of a balanced diet, of course.  

Can foods boost brainpower? 

We know that there is no magic bullet for achieving optimal brain health, but foods can play a role in keeping your brain in top shape and helping to prevent cognitive decline.   

The best brain foods are the same ones that protect your heart and blood vessels. These brainpower foods include blueberries, oily fish, leafy vegetables, dark chocolate, and nuts.   

Vitamins, minerals, and proteins are all vital to the healthy functioning of the body.  

1. Blueberries 

Blueberries.

Blueberries provide numerous health benefits, including helping to keep your brain sharp as you age.   

They are full of vitamins and minerals that may slow rates of cognitive decline and improve memory, including:  

  • Antioxidants 
  • Vitamin C 
  • Vitamin K 
  • Manganese  
  • Phytonutrients   

These nutrients help stimulate the flow of blood and oxygen in the brain, resulting in improved concentration. The same effects can be achieved by eating dark red and purple fruits like blackberries.   

So, why not try adding some blueberries to your smoothie recipe or have it as a snack on its own? 

2. Oily fish 

Oily fish.

A fillet of salmon on a chopping board with other cooking ingredients 

Oily fish are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been connected with better cognition and thinking abilities. Consuming foods rich in omega-3s, such as oily fish, may boost brain function.   

Examples of oily fish include:  

  • Salmon 
  • Tuna 
  • Mackerel  
  • Sardines 

Try to eat fish once or twice per week, but choose fish low in mercury, such as salmon and canned tuna. 

3. Leafy greens 

Leafy greens.

Leafy greens are full of vitamins and disease-fighting nutrients needed for a healthy brain.   

Leafy greens like spinach, kale and lettuce contain nutrients that may protect against cognitive decline, including:  

  • Folate 
  • Vitamin E 
  • Carotenoids  
  • Flavonoids 

One serving of leafy greens a day has been shown to slow brain ageing. You can try adding a handful of greens when preparing your next smoothie or adding a serving of greens to your favourite lunch or dinner recipe. 

4. Dark chocolate 

Dark chocolate.

Dark chocolate, which has 70% or greater cocoa content, contains brain-boosting compounds, such as:  

  • Flavonoids 
  • Caffeine  
  • Antioxidants  

Chocolate has also been shown to be a mood booster, reducing the risk of depression, as it is associated with positive feelings. Make sure you stick with dark chocolate, though, and check it doesn’t have too much sugar. 

5. Nuts

Mixed nuts.

Nuts are nutrient-rich foods that have been linked to sustainable eating and could help reduce our risk of heart and circulatory diseases.  

They contain vitamin E, zinc, folate, iron, and healthy fats and oils, which have been linked to improving: 

  • Cognitive function 
  • Sharper memory 
  • Slower mental decline  

Walnuts, in particular, also contain omega-3 fatty acids to further improve brain function so grab a handful of nuts a few times a week to reap some of these benefits. 

You can check your ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 essential fatty acids in the blood with a simple blood test.  

How important is your diet for brain health? 

There is good evidence to suggest that what you eat can make a difference to your brain health, but a healthy balanced diet is critical to your overall health.   

So, while incorporating the foods listed above into your diet will certainly help provide the nutrients to keep your brain healthy and functioning at its best, please remember to include these brain-boosting foods as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. And limit or avoid foods high in saturated fats and sugar.   


References 

  1. Harvard Health. 2022. Foods linked to better brainpower - Harvard Health. [online] Available at: <https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/foods-linked-to-better-brainpower> [Accessed 4 May 2022]
  2. WebMD. 2022. Foods That Help You Focus. [online] Available at: <https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/ss/slideshow-brain-foods-that-help-you-concentrate> [Accessed 4 May 2022]
  3. Mayo Clinic 2022. [online] Available at: <https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/maximize-memory-function-with-a-nutrient-rich-diet> [Accessed 4 May 2022]
  4. My.clevelandclinic.org. 2022. [online] Available at: <https://my.clevelandclinic.org/-/scassets/files/org/locations/nevada/multiple-sclerosis/2020-cclr-brain-guide-ms.pdf?la=en> [Accessed 4 May 2022]