Five foods for a healthy brain

When it comes to being fit and healthy, we usually concern ourselves with the body from the neck down, but what about from the neck up?

The human brain is an incredible organ that manages a multitude of tasks – sensation and perception, body movement and awareness, information processing, intellect and memory.  Keeping our brains healthy is just as important as keeping our bodies healthy and the best way to maintain both is with diet and exercise.

You can exercise your brain by doing puzzles or learning something new, and a diet rich in nutrients will ensure a happy, healthy brain.  Here are a few of the best foods for the noodle in your noggin:

Berries

These little fruits are rich in antioxidants, which are widely known to prevent oxidative stress caused by nasty free radicals. Berries have also shown to improve memory function, learning capabilities and motor coordination, as well as slow down the effects of age-related cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.  The best brain berries are blueberries, blackberries and strawberries.

Oily fish

Apart from being high in protein and B vitamins, oily fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain function.  Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, help brain tissue development, improve mood, and ensure a healthy blood supply to the brain.  Oily fish also defend against cognitive conditions like Alzheimer’s.  An easy way to get your oil fish fix is to start with tinned salmon, tuna and sardines.

Nuts and seeds

Disguised as the perfect snack, this brilliant brain food is packed with healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as folate and vitamin E, both of which help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.  Nuts and seeds also help fight insomnia, improve memory and support mental clarity by contributing to neurotransmitters that speed up nerve impulses between brain cells.  You can either munch on them raw or roasted, whole or as a spread or paste like tahini, which is made from ground sesame seeds.  Great choices include brazil nuts, almonds and walnuts.

Eggs

Eggs come in two parts – the egg white, which has no fat or carbohydrates and about 4 grams of protein, and the yellow yolk, which is full of vitamins and minerals.  One of these vitamins is choline, which improves memory, supports nerve function and reduces inflammation.  Eggs also contain vitamin B12, which helps nerve cell development, reduces brain shrinkage and helps your body metabolise nutrients.

Green leafy vegetables

It goes without saying that eating your greens is beneficial for health. They are chockablock full of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, B6 and B12, iron, vitamin K with its anti-inflammatory properties, as well as folate and vitamin E, which are known to help prevent dementia.  The most nutrient dense greens include spinach, kale and broccoli.

Chocolate

Probably the yummiest brain food ever, dark chocolate great for brain health!  The cacao that it’s made from is full of essential vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidant flavenols, which increase blood flow to the brain.  This blood boost improves brain function, memory and concentration, fights fatigue and lowers blood pressure.  Chocolate is also a great mood enhancer by increasing neurotransmitters that are associated with love, happiness and relaxation.  But don’t hurry to buy any old chocolate – choose dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao to reap the full benefits.