When we think about improving brain health, we often reach for the Times crossword or Google the latest online solutions to keep us in peak cognitive health.
But there’s something much more powerful at our fingertips that will help brain function, and it doesn’t involve logging onto a daily app or doing Sudoku games – it’s our diet.
More and more studies show that the food we consume not only affects our physical wellbeing but also plays a vital role in shaping our cognitive function both for today and for our future selves.
Here are some of the things that you can do to eat a healthy diet whilst also transforming your brain.
Eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods is crucial for your brain to function at its best. So what are the key nutrients to watch out for?
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and trout, as well as in walnuts and flaxseeds. They contribute to the structural integrity of brain cells and promote healthy communication between brain cells, improving memory, concentration, and overall cognitive performance.
- Antioxidants: Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and flavonoids, are found in abundance in fruits and vegetables, dark chocolate and even wine. These powerful compounds protect the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation, reducing the risk of cognitive decline and supporting long-term brain health.
- B Vitamins: B vitamins, including folate, B6, and B12, play a crucial role in maintaining brain health and preventing cognitive decline. They support the production of neurotransmitters, enhance memory, and reduce the risk of age-related brain disorders. Good sources of B vitamins include leafy greens, legumes, whole grains, and lean meats.
What is the connection between the brain and gut?
Did you know that your gut and brain are in constant two-way communication? Emerging research suggests that there is a complex network of nerve cells, chemicals, and microbes known as the Gut-Brain axis is what causes our stomach juices to flow when we think about food and why when we’re anxious or feeling emotional, we can often feel that sensation in our stomach. So it’s hardly surprising that keeping the gut healthy is good for the brain.
There are trillions of bacteria residing in the gut, collectively known as the gut microbiota. These produce a wide range of chemical messengers that influence brain health and thrive on a diverse and balanced diet rich in fibre and fermented foods like yoghurt and sauerkraut. Research suggests that including these in your diet can positively impact mood, memory, and cognitive function.
Can the Mediterranean diet improve your wellbeing?
According to Age UK, one diet that appears to support brain health is the Mediterranean diet. Whilst research is still ongoing there is some evidence that having a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats such as olive oil but low in dairy and meat could be associated with better cognitive functioning in old age and lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Mindful eating and brain health
It’s not just about what you eat, but also how you eat.
Eating mindfully can lead to greater wellbeing, and increased pleasure whilst also allowing you to feel fuller. By slowing down and taking pleasure in each bite your brain is said to engage in the eating experience fully. This mindful approach helps with the appreciation of food whilst improving digestion and better enabling the full signals, preventing overeating and promoting healthy weight management.
What’s more, chronic stress can impair cognitive function and hinder your ability to focus and remember information. Eating mindfully can help reduce stress levels, enhance awareness, and improve your brain’s attention and memory retrieval capacity.
Hey Fresto! Brings the flavour of the Med to your door
Your brain deserves the right fuel to function at its best. By making healthy food choices and adopting a mindful approach to eating, you can support your brain health and unlock your cognitive potential. Incorporate nutrient-rich foods, prioritise a diverse gut microbiota, and practise mindful eating to optimise your brain’s performance. Remember, small changes in your diet can make all the difference to your brain health and overall wellbeing.
So whether you’re looking for a Mediterranean-inspired Catalan Style Chicken Stew an olive oil-soaked snack or an Omega-packed fish supper Fish Pie With Smoked Applewood Mash Hey Fresto’s got you and your healthy eating choices covered.
Want to read more about how food impacts the mind? Check out our blog on how food can nourish the mind.