Brain Boosting Nutrition Tips and Myths
If you listen to all the hype about some ‘super foods’ and dietary supplements, you’ll believe they can sharpen focus, enhance memory, increase attention span and optimise brain function, but do they work?
As we move through life our focus and concentration can go through peaks and troughs and there is no denying it, you can increase your chances of maintaining a healthy brain if you add “smart” foods and drinks to your diet.
There’s no magic bullet to boost IQ or make you smarter, but certain substances, like caffeine, can energise you and help you concentrate. Found in coffee, chocolate, energy drinks and some medications, caffeine gives you that unmistakable wake-up buzz. Just remember with caffeine more is often less: Overdo it on caffeine and it can make you jittery and uncomfortable.
Tempted to skip breakfast?
Studies have found that eating breakfast may improve short-term memory and attention. Students who eat it tend to perform better than those who don’t. Foods at the top of researchers’ brain-fuel list include high protein foods like salmon and eggs. Just don’t overeat; researchers also found ultra-high-calorie breakfasts appear to hinder concentration.
A protein source linked to a great brain boost is fish — rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are key for brain health. These healthy fats have amazing brain power: A diet with higher levels of them has been linked to lower dementia and stroke risks and slower mental decline; plus, they may play a vital role in enhancing memory, especially as we get older. For brain and heart health, eat two servings of fish weekly.
Are you going nuts?
Nuts and seeds are good sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, which has been linked in some studies to less cognitive decline as you age. Dark chocolate also has other powerful antioxidant properties and it contains natural stimulants like caffeine, which can enhance focus. Enjoy up to a handful a day of nuts or dark chocolate to get all the benefits you need with a minimum of excess calories, fat, or sugar.
The Green Machine
Broccoli is a source of two crucial nutrients that help improve brain function. Vitamin K helps to strengthen cognitive abilities while Choline has been found to improve memory – people who eat plenty of broccoli perform better on memory tests. Broccoli also includes a sizeable serving of folic acid, which can help ward off Alzheimer’s disease. Studies suggest that a lack of folic acid could lead to depression, so eating plenty of broccoli could also keep you happy.
Avocado may be fatty, but they contain extremely healthy unsaturated fats, which help to keep brain cell membranes flexible. The monounsaturated fatty acids in avocadoes work to protect nerve cells in the brain and have been found to improve the brain’s muscle strength. The same fats lead to healthy blood flow and lower blood pressure and both of these, in turn, help the brain to function at its optimum capacity.
Who says that healthy food can’t be delicious? Cocoa can improve verbal fluency and cognitive function in elderly people, while eating a daily portion of dark chocolate has been found to impove blood flow to the brain. So if you are over 50, don’t feel guilty about that chocolate bar – your brain will thank you.
Research in animals shows that blueberries may help protect the brain from the damage caused by free radicals and may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Studies also show that diets rich in blueberries improved both the learning and muscle function of aging rats, making them mentally equal to much younger rats.
It may sound trite but it’s true: If your diet lacks essential nutrients, it can hurt your ability to concentrate. Eating too much or too little can also interfere with your focus. A heavy meal may make you feel tired, while too few calories can result in distracting hunger pangs. Benefit your brain: Strive for a well-balanced diet full of a wide variety of healthy foods.