Updated: May 16
We're constantly reminded to keep our bodies fit and healthy, but the same attention isn't given to our brain health. Keeping our brains active through exercise and study are good steps to take, but what else can we do to keep our brain in peak condition?
The foods you eat play a role in this and they can improve memory and concentration. Here are some ideas to help promote brain health:
FOODS TO PROMOTE BRAIN HEALTH
Made up of amino acids that are used to produce chemical messengers that regulate:
Include protein at every meal - good sources include chicken, turkey, fish, lean meat, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.
2. Omega 3 fats
The brain is 60% fat, predominantly of the type found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies. It can:
Reduce inflammation in conditions such as acne and depression
Protect the neurones in the brain from free radicals.
Aim to have two portions of oily fish per week, limit tuna to once a week due to its mercury content.
Found in different coloured fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts, seeds and whole-grains. These protect our DNA during rapid growth spurts as well as protect our brains from the following:
Damage caused by environmental toxins (including those in processed foods)
Stress, which is crucial in these competitive times
Aim for a minimum of five portions of vegetables of different colours each day, including crudites as snacks, green smoothies and vegetable based pasta sauces.
Adequate hydration is crucial for brain health to:
Improve concentration span
Helping our kidneys and liver eliminate any toxins in the body
Aim for 1.5 litres per day of filtered water and herbal teas, especially green tea which is great for concentration. Add sliced cucumber and mint or sliced strawberries to add flavour to plain water.
FOODS TO AVOID
1. Processed foods
Avoid processed foods, especially those high in sugar, because:
They cause inflammation in the body, contributing to hyper/hypoglycemia, which causes brain fog, affecting attention span and ability to retain information.
They feed harmful bacteria in the gut which reduces the production of mood regulating neurotransmitters, affecting sleep and increasing mood swings.
Switch highly processed snacks for rice cakes with hummus, sliced apples with nut butter, oat cakes with cream cheese and sliced tomatoes.
2. Omega 6 fats
Found in sunflower and other vegetable oils, including crisps, biscuits, snack bars and other processed food.
These increase inflammation in the brain, affecting memory, impacting communication between cells in the brain and the body.
High intake is linked to obesity, skin conditions, depression as well as heart disease in later life.
Make your own snack bars using oats as a base, with either coconut oil, olive oil, butter or avocado oil to bind.
This article was contributed by Nicola Shannon. She is a registered Nutritional Therapist and has a special interest in children and teenagers health, including those with learning and emotional issues. Nutrition plays a major part in enabling the correct developmental processes to occur at the appropriate time, improving cognition, language and sensory development as well as improving a child’s sense of well-being.