Can what you eat boost your brain power?
Eating well is important for your brain, as well as your body.
Your brain needs fuel and nourishment to perform at its best - now, and in the future. What you eat can make a big difference to your mood, how clearly you think and your memory – quite literally food for thought.
So whether it’s for an exam, an important meeting or simply to stay on top of all the things you need to remember, what foods are best for boosting your brainpower?
There isn’t a single go-to brain food. For a healthy brain it’s all about eating plenty of nutrient rich, high fibre plant foods, while cutting out saturated fats (mainly animal fats). It’s also important to limit caffeine and alcohol.
Basically, what’s good for your body is also good for your brain.
Our dietitians shine the spotlight on plant foods that have been linked to better cognitive performance and memory function – so remember to add these foods to your diet.
Did your parents ever tell you to eat your greens? It turns out they were onto a good thing. These powerful greens are generally rich in vitamin E, folic acid, vitamin K, lutein and beta-carotene, which research suggests may play a role in protecting the brain.
A recent study discovered that older people (average age of 81 years) who ate a serve of leafy greens a day preserved their memory and thinking skills. The results showed those who regularly tucked into their greens had a cognitive age 11 years younger than those who didn’t eat leafy greens.
Try: Stick to lettuce as a simple salad base, roast kale to make ‘chips’ or add a handful of baby spinach to your morning smoothie.
Walnuts are shaped like a brain and full of the nutrients your brain needs including good fats, plant-based omega 3, magnesium, zinc and iron. Walnuts have been shown to protect brain cells that are important for memory. In fact, all tree nuts are great for your body and your brain with studies linking nuts to better learning and memory skills, as well as a lower risk of depression.
Try: Make a creamy walnut-based pesto, bake your walnuts into a loaf or add to an autumnal salad.
A handful of berries is an easy and tasty way to look after your brain health. Bursting with antioxidants and phytonutrients, berries can help boost your cognition, coordination and memory. They also contain vitamin C, which helps with normal mental function.
Try: Whether fresh or frozen, berries are great to blend into a smoothie, sprinkle onto your wholegrain breakfast cereal, or add to muffins.
Broccoli is part of a bunch of veggies called the cruciferous family. This includes cauliflower, cabbage and brussel sprouts. They are rich in vitamins and minerals that may help memory. One of these is vitamin K. It helps regulate calcium in your bones and brain. Vitamin K has anti-aging benefits and is at the heart of emerging research about Alzheimer’s disease.
Try: Whether it’s broccoli or other cruciferous veggies eat them up in stir-fries, add to comfort-food bakes as the weather cools, or blend into a green pasta sauce with olive oil and cheese.
These tiny seeds have some big brain credentials. They are a plant-based source of zinc, which supports everyday learning by helping brain activity and function. They are also a source of magnesium, an essential mineral that helps maintain mental and emotional function. Add to this goods fats, plant-based omega 3 and tryptophan - used by the body to make the good mood chemical serotonin.
Try: Sprinkle some pumpkin seeds onto your morning smashed avocado, bake into homemade granola or add to a trail mix as a ready-to-go snack to keep the brain firing when you hit that afternoon slump.