Top 10 foods to boost brain power
What we eat can play a role in the proper functioning of our brain, to keep it healthy and working optimally. Food can also help to improve specific functions of the brain, such as concentration, focus and memory. Read on to find out some of our top foods to help boost brain power!
1. Oily fish
Specific fish such as salmon, trout, herring, sardines and mackerel are rich sources in omega 3 fatty acids. You may have heard about these fats before, but what makes them so special? Well firstly, it is essential that we consume these omega-3 containing foods in our diet, as our body cannot produce these fatty acids naturally. The brain utilises omega 3 in a number of areas, including building nerve cells, and aiding in memory. The omega 3 fatty acids may also help regulate specific brain chemical messengers known as dopamine and serotonin. This has been associated with lower rate of depression and anxiety (1,2).
Eating eggs (we mean the whole eggs here, including the nutritious yolk), provides a large host of vitamins & minerals. This includes being a rich source of choline, that is needed to create a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. This is needed to help regulate memory and mood (3). The B vitamins found in eggs (specifically folate and B12), also have a role in reducing age-related mental decline, and helping to create brain chemicals (4).
All nuts provide a range of brain-healthy nutrients such as vitamin E and antioxidants. Though walnuts in particular are a fantastic source of vegetarian omega 3 fats– a great alternative to get in those fatty acids if you do not eat fish. The specific fatty acid is known as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). This can help improve cognition in adults and protect the brain against oxidative stress and inflammation supporting our brain health overall (5).
The deliciously sweet small round fruit is a powerhouse full of nutrients. Including high levels of antioxidants, which can reduce aging neurons, helping cell signalling in the brain. Further human studies have shown that older individuals who consumed blueberries had links in delays in mental ageing – amazing! (6).
5. Pumpkin seeds
These delicious seeds contain a range of nutrients, known to help support brain health. Including magnesium, which is known to be important for memory and learning (7), zinc and copper which are involved in nerve signalling (8) (deficiencies of zinc is linked to Alzheimer’s disease) (9). These seeds are also a good source of antioxidants, which reduce free radical damage (10).
We all know that wholegrains such as oats, quinoa, wholemeal pasta and barley are full of nutrients. Specifically B vitamins, which are known to help reduce inflammation to the brain. This in turn can support memory and cognitive function (11). The B vitamins are also involved in producing neurotransmitters (12). Wholegrains are an overall fantastic source of slow release energy for the body and brain too!
7. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
This superior oil is well researched links for it’s antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, due to the high levels of polyphenols. There is some newer evidence to show EVOO has a neuroprotective effect on memory (13). A link between EVOO and reduction in Alzheimer’s disease has been discovered, as well as improved cognitive function (14).
A great source of potassium, which can help regulate processes in the brain and neurons. Another fantastic source of B vitamins, which play a role in the production of the hormone serotonin (15). Avocados also provide unsaturated fats, which may have a link with reducing blood pressure, which can influence the brain by reducing cognitive decline (16). The fatty acids in avocado also contribute to the protection of certain brain cells called astrocytes (17) – which are known to support the information-carrying nerves.
These red fruits are a great source of lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant. The level of lycopene availability increases when tomatoes are cooked! Lycopene can help reduce oxidative stress, and studies have shown that low levels of lycopene is related to development of dementia (18). Along with lycopene, tomatoes also provide β-carotene, another antioxidant that helps reduce harmful free radicals, therefore boosting the brains’ ability to fight oxidative stress.
Last but not least, broccoli (as well as other green leafy vegetables), are rich in vitamin C and flavonoids – all powerful antioxidants. Broccoli also provides a source of sulforaphane, an antioxidant that can help re-build damaged neurones in the brain (19)! Along with lutein, a pigment found in broccoli and other green veg, which helps protect neurons in the brain, there are plenty of reasons to get in your greens (20)!
Contact one of our dietitians if you wish to find out more about the foods that can boost your brain power!