3 min read + listen
Your brain is always on, it works hard 24/7, even while you’re asleep. This means your brain requires a constant supply of fuel. That fuel comes from the foods you eat and the types of food you eat directly affects the structure and function of your brain. Find out the five science-backed ingredients that will support your brain health.
Food = fuel
Your brain functions best when you eat high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress, which can damage cells. If substances from processed or refined foods get to the brain, it has little ability to get rid of them. Diets high in refined sugars, for example, are harmful to the brain. In addition to worsening your body’s regulation of insulin, they also promote inflammation and oxidative stress.
"Like an expensive car, your brain functions best when it gets only premium fuel." - Harvard Medical School
Diet + lifestyle
Following a healthy diet and lifestyle can provide the nutrients and conditions required for the brain to work to the best of its ability. Eating a wide variety of fruit and vegetables that contain lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants will help to nourish the brain and protect it from oxidative stress, which can potentially damage cells.
Studies by the Brain Research Institute suggest a healthy eating pattern protects brain health. This means eating a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, seeds and healthy oils and fats. Research has correlated this with a slower rate of cognitive decline, lower risk of cognitive impairment and potentially a lower risk of dementia.
"Start paying attention to how eating different foods makes you feel — not just in the moment, but the next day." - Dr Eva Selhub, MD
5 foods to support brain health:
Whole grains: The ability to concentrate and focus comes from an adequate, steady supply of energy (in the form of glucose) in our blood, to the brain. Achieve this by choosing wholegrains which have a low-GI, which means they release their energy slowly into the bloodstream, keeping you mentally alert throughout the day.
Berries: Evidence accumulated at Tufts University in the United States suggests that the consumption of blueberries may be effective in improving or delaying short-term memory loss. They’re widely available, but you can also achieve the same effect with other dark red and purple berries, and veg, like red cabbage. These contain the same protective compounds called anthocyanins.
Tomatoes: There is good evidence to suggest that lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes, could help protect against the kind of free radical damage to cells that occurs in the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s. Other foods supplying this, and similar protective phyto-nutrients, include papaya, watermelon and pink grapefruit.
Seeds & nuts: Nuts and seeds are also rich sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, which protects cells from oxidative stress caused by free radicals. As you age, your brain may be exposed to this form of oxidative stress, and vitamin E may therefore support brain health in older age.
Green + leafy veg: Something as simple as eating more leafy veggies could significantly slow down cognitive decline and keep your brain healthier for a longer period of time. A new study by Rush Medical University discovered that nutrients and vitamins found in plants such as broccoli, spinach, kale, and greens help keep your mental abilities sharp.
Listen with us: We’ve been listening to this podcast via Rich Roll as a team this week and wanted to share it with you. It’s a deep dive into brain health, outlining the role food plays in our brain function hosted with Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai.
Illustrations: Celia Jacobs