According to the Mintel Global Food & Drink Trends 2023 report, the number of people actively looking for food that influences cognitive capacity, manages stress levels and optimises brain function is steadily increasing.
So what are these magical foods, and why should we eat them? We hear you ask. Let’s take a look.
The power of phytonutrients
The best way to begin feeding your brain is to add plants to your diet.
Fruits, vegetables, pulses, grains and even tea contain phytonutrients – ‘phyto’ meaning ‘plant’ – and research suggests these are positively associated with happiness, life satisfaction, and well-being, as well as reducing the risk of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Phytonutrients are the chemical compounds produced by plants allowing them to resist pests, fungi, bacteria and viruses. Still, we see them as the often vibrant colours that make our summer salads and winter stews even more tantalising to the eyes and the tastebuds.
From lusciously purple aubergines to the sunshine brightness of peppers, more than 25,000 phytonutrients are packed into the plants we eat that actively support our brain health daily.
The vibrant yellows, reds and oranges of corn, peppers, tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit and carrots are packed full of Carotenoids. These act as antioxidants whilst some even convert to vitamin A, essential for healthy vision, growth, a robust immune system and good reproductive health.
Ellagic acid is found in berries, particularly strawberries, raspberries and pomegranates. Research suggests that having more Ellagic acid in your diet could prevent the growth of cancer cells and improve the safety and efficacy of some cancer drugs and prevent and treat Alzheimers
Tea, citrus fruits, apples, berries, grapes, aubergine, onions and even dark chocolate are all full of flavonoids. Flavonols may help to reduce the risk of asthma, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes as well as help to stop specific cancer cells from multiplying. They are also best known for their potent effects on mental health. Grapes have been shown to modulate brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that supports neural plasticity. Meanwhile, blueberries are shown to be one of the most effective ways to improve concentration because of their flavonoid content.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of Resveratrol are found in grapes. Research suggests that it might play a role in reducing the risk of heart disease and certain cancers whilst also increasing blood flow in the brain during cognitively demanding tasks.
The Glucosinolates that give Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and broccoli their strong flavour and pungent smell may hold back the development and growth of cancer whilst also improving cognition and improving anxiety and depression.
Phytoestrogens mimic your body’s oestrogen, so a plant-based diet that contains soy, flaxseeds and sesame seeds could serve as a type of natural hormone replacement therapy and potentially lower the risk of endometrial cancer and bone loss in women.
Why is oily fish so good for the brain?
The rise in Tik Tok trends, such as #tinnedfish and #tinnedfishdatenight, is bringing oily fish back on the menu as people look for a cost-effective way to add this little Omega-3, fatty acid-filled brain food to their everyday diets.
Whether it’s a peppery taste or old-school tomato sauce accompanying your fish, these cans are full of healthy communication tools to get those brain cells working while enhancing learning and memory. What’s more, they may even help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and depression.
Salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds also fall into this camp of nutritious deliciousness for the brain, as do broccoli, blueberries, tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, and whole grains.
What’s a healthy brain food diet?
You don’t have to eat vast amounts of blueberries, snack on handfuls of spinach or gorge on tins of mackerel every day; simply look to increase the amount of these foods by introducing them as additions to your meals rather than drastically changing your diet. Simple and regular inclusions can make all the difference.
Supercharge your brain with Hey Fresto!
At Hey Fresto!, we’ve done all of the food thinking for you with dishes like spinach and lentil pie with Kale Mash, Squash with cranberry and red onion tagine and Fish pie with smoked applewood mash which are brimming with nutrients and delivered to your door ready for you to enjoy.
Blast frozen on the day our chefs prepare them; our nutrient-filled dishes offer a healthy and easy way to enjoy frozen ready meals for all the family straight from the freezer to your table.
Want to learn more about the link between food and the mind, check out How Eating Healthy Can Transform Your Brain.