5 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power: Feed It
In a nutshell, eating for optimum brain functioning is as simple as following a varied diet rich in fresh, unprocessed foods, especially complex carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds. Make mealtimes a time for family and friends. Get everybody together in the kitchen and have fun experimenting with new and exciting types of food. Don't eat in front of the television, it's boring and you eat without really experiencing the textures and flavours on your plate. Here are some top tips for smart nutrition:
Drinking plenty of water, which makes up 85% of the brain, is the smartest thing you can do for your brain. Dehydration causes headaches and concentration problems, and in the long term can do serious damage.
Eating a diet rich in good quality protein and slow-release (low GI) carbohydrates enhances serotonin levels, promoting a sense of contentment and well-being, as well as decreasing appetite. Next time you buy bread, try a yummy seed loaf (which contains slow release carbs as well as protein!) instead of the usual white or brown bread. Other delicious low GI alternatives include brown basmati rice, sweet potato or baby potatoes and whole wheat or durum wheat pasta. Smoothies have lower GI and higher vitamin content than juice. Nuts are a filling and protein-rich snack. Xylitol, a fruit sugar now widely available in health stores and supermarkets, tastes and looks just like cane sugar but has a drastically lower GI.
Omega 3 fatty acids (DHA) comprise approximately 8% of the average human brain and play an important role in repairing damage by promoting growth of neurons. Research has shown an important link between this essential nutrient and mood. Some delicious sources include:
Omega 3 eggs are now widely available and contain the added benefit of choline, another brain building block. Eggs are also believed to lower LDL ("bad" cholesterol), while raising HDL ("good" cholesterol). A tasty egg-breakfast is a fantastic way to start the day.
Oily fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, anchovies and sardines are all excellent sources. Sushi is a fun and appetising way to get your weekly dose.
Walnuts make a healthy and yummy between-meal snack.
Linseeds (flax) can be found in most supermarkets and health stores. Sprinkle some over your breakfast cereal or a salad.
Olive oil and canola oil both contain Omega 3's, but remember that heating canola oil produces free radicals, so it's best not to cook with it.
Soybeans are also rich in Omega 3, which is good news for vegetarians.
Antioxidants neutralise the cell-damaging effects of free radicals, slowing down the aging process of the brain at cellular level. Here are the best sources:
Beta-carotene (Vitamin A) is abundant in carrots, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, apricots and peaches.
Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli, spinach, strawberries and potatoes.
Vitamin E is terrific for the skin, and can be found in nuts, seeds, whole grains such as oats and whole-wheat or rye bread, and cod-liver oil.
Selenium is plentiful in fish, shellfish, meat, eggs, chicken and garlic (a brilliant reason to order the mussels with extra garlic!).
The best source of these nutrients are through food, but taking a good quality multi-vitamin will help ensure that you get enough of everything.
B Vitamins are essential in the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and acetylcholine, and are found in meat, dairy products, potatoes, cereals, eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables. Supplementing with a good quality B- Complex will help to ensure you get enough of all of these on a regular basis.
Lecithin is a brain cell building block, containing choline and B Vitamins. Supplements containing lecithin can be found in health food stores Soybeans are another good source.
Turmeric, a natural anti-inflammatory, and cumin, rich in iron and manganese, are both believed to feed the brain, boost the immune system and protect the body against cancer. Both are common ingredients of spicy, flavourful Indian curry dishes.
Ginkgo Biloba increases blood flow and therefore oxygenation of the brain. It enhances memory and has antioxidative properties.
Coffee increases alertness, attention, executive functions, focus, short term memory, energy and mood. Don't overdo it, though, as too much caffeine has an adverse affect on blood sugar levels (especially if taken with milk and sugar), and acts as a diuretic. Stick to two small cups per day.