Did you know that the foods we eat can support our brain health? Now unfortunately this does not mean the foods we eat can make us the next Albert Einstein (sorry) BUT research has shown that including specific foods in your diet may help to optimise our brain health, improve memory and reduce risk of cognitive decline as we age.
Key nutrients to focus on when it comes to brain health include: antioxidants, Omega 3 fatty acids such as EPA & DHA, low GI (glycaemic index or slow release) carbohydrates as well as specific vitamins and minerals. See below for our list of foods that contain these key nutrients so you can include them in your diet and help nourish and maximise your brain health.
Vegetables contain many different beneficial micronutrients with the main brain health benefiting ones being Vitamins E & K, folate, B vitamins and antioxidants. A study by Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago found that just 2.8 serves of vegetables per day was associated with a decreased rate of mental decline! So imagine what will happen when you consistently hit your 5 serves per day. See our article on 2 & 5 for tips on how to achieve this number of serves consistently
2. Antioxidant Rich Foods
Foods such as berries and other fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, these assist in preventing oxidative stress in the body which in turn can reduce inflammation. Some studies have shown that antioxidants also help reduce or delay cognitive decline.
3. Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA are mainly found in oily fish such as salmon, trout and mackerel. These fatty acids play a role in brain development and have an anti-inflammatory effect which may help improve memory and reduce the risk of brain conditions such as dementia.
4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Another great healthy fat, extra virgin olive oil is a monounsaturated fatty acid that also contains an abundance of polyphenols and bioactive compounds. As with EPA and DHA this also has anti-inflammatory effects in the body however, it’s the polyphenols that shine here! They are potent antioxidants which have been shown to enhance cognitive function as well as protect against cognitive decline as we age.
5. Low GI Foods
Carbohydrates are the brains preferred source of energy however some carbs are more beneficial than others for brain health. High fibre wholegrain rich carbohydrates such as oats, lentils, quinoa, some fruit & vegetables are low GI which means they are broken down slower in the body which gives you and your brain longer lasting energy!
Once again, following a Mediterranean style diet has been shown to be beneficial for brain health as it includes all of the foods mentioned above. However, these nutrients are optimal when consumed in food form, supplemental forms may not have these same effects in the body. So, as always food comes first!