Like the body, the brain needs a rich supply of nutrients to keep it healthy – as well as regular exercise and activities which allow it make new connections and store new memories. Certain foods have been found to have a beneficial effect on brain health – and can prolong brain function. It is recommended your food intake comprises around 40% proteins (dairy produce, poultry, meat and fish or Quorn or soya), 20% beneficial fats such as olive oil or flaxseed – and 40% complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, wholemeal bread, wholegrains, cereals, brown rice and pasta and nuts and seeds.
The Mediterranean diet is considered the gold standard diet for healthy arteries, heart and brain, so here are some top tips to keep your brain well-nourished and help prevent loss of brain function as you age.
Avocados are one of the best brain foods as they contain Omega-3 fatty acids which can boost concentration and memory, as well as help stabilise mood. Avocados also contain copious amounts of Vitamin E, which controls hormone function – healthy hormones mean a healthy sex life and a healthy sex life can boost mood and keep your arteries functioning efficiently and your heart beating!
Blueberries are one of the top 10 superfoods – foods which contain large amounts of antioxidants which prevent damage to brain and other cells from free radicals in pollutants and barbecued, fried or grilled meat. Blueberries can also protect bone health, fight off cancers which attack the vital organs (including the brain) and help prevent Type II diabetes, which can cause strokes.
Chocolate made with 70% cocoa can boost the health of arteries, improving blood flow to the brain. Dark chocolate also contains the amino acid tryptophan, which is a natural antidepressant – and the better your mood, the more active you will remain and the happier your brain will be.
Fish like salmon, herring, trout and tuna are full of Omega-3 fatty acids which can help boost concentration and memory, as well as stabilise moods. If you cannot eat fish, try avocados or flaxseed oil or linseed capsules.
Green leafy vegetables are high in folic acid, which helps prevent memory loss. Feast on spinach, asparagus, kale, green beans and peas – or buy bread with folic acid added.
Iron is carried in the red blood cells to nourish the brain and supply it with necessary oxygen, so make sure your diet contains iron-rich foods such as spinach, watercress, liver or red meat like steak and milk and eggs.
Red grapes contain the flavonoid resveratrol in their skins – a powerful antioxidant which protects the heart and arteries and boosts blood flow to the brain. Antioxidants also protect against free radicals which can cause cancers. Red grapes produce a protective chemical when exposed to UV light to protect their skins – and some researchers think they may hold the key to eternal youth! The good news is you can drink a glass of red wine every day to enjoy the benefits of resveratrol.
Oysters – people with low levels of Vitamin B12 have been found to have an increased risk of Alzheimer’s – and Oxford University researchers suggest that eating seafood like oysters, clams, shrimp and mussels can boost your protection against dementia. Oysters are, of course, reputed to be an aphrodisiac, suggesting that a little of what you fancy may indeed keep you and your brain young! If you are vegetarian or a meat eater, try miso or liver to boost Vitamin 12 levels.
Vitamin C and Vitamin E when taken together may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease – some researchers say by as much as 20%. Vitamin C boosts the immune system and Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant which protects cell membranes and prevents free radicals damaging cell DNA and causing cancers. Brightly coloured fruit like peppers, oranges and kiwifruit are a good source of Vitamin C – and Vitamin E is found in wheatgerm, sunflower oil and seeds.
Walnuts are full of Omega-3 fatty acids, Omega-6 fats and polyphenols – and this impressive combination of beneficial nutrients can make walnuts the perfect dementia-preventing snack. Walnuts can also protect against furred up arteries and boost blood flow to the brain as a result. If you are not keen on walnuts, try hazelnuts, pistachios or mix nuts, seeds (sunflower, flaxseed) and dried fruits like sultanas and apricots for a nutrient-rich brain booster on the go.
If you are the type of person who can never get round to changing your diet, try incorporating some of the foods every now and again – and build up your intake of brain boosting foods slowly.
Cooking for yourself or someone else and trying out new recipes can also help stir your interest in healthy eating to prevent dementia – treat yourself or someone special to a dinner of oysters, steak, blueberries stewed with a little honey and poured over low-fat ice cream – and wash it down with your daily glass of red wine and a few squares of dark chocolate with your coffee to boost serotonin levels and protect arteries.
Brain food never tasted so good – but who does the washing up afterwards is up to you.