How can what we eat turbo boost memory and concentration, aid learning and preserve our cognitive abilities? Melbourne Naturopath, Annika Harris talks us through her top five brain boosters.
Fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids which are important for normal brain function and development. Preparing home-made fish-fingers or fishcakes can be a great way to give the kids a healthy serve of Omega-3s.
Delicious in a salad or served with eggs, avocados are high in fatty acids and protein. The good fats in avocados help blood flow through the body especially to the brain, allowing the mind to function at its optimal level.
‘Brainberries’ as some people call them are rich in antioxidants that protect the brain from oxidative stress, inflammation and early degeneration. A dose served with breakfast will kick-start your day.
Eggs are another rich source of protein and B vitamins, including choline, which is involved in memory and helps in foetal brain development for pregnant women. They also contain beneficial fatty acids and vitamin D. And keep in mind that free-range eggs taste better and come from happy hens!.
Nuts and seeds
Flaxseeds and hemp seeds can be added to cereal or eaten with natural or Greek yoghurt and berries for breakfast or eaten as a snack along with a selection of nuts. Walnuts are especially high in Omega-3 and have high levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals meaning a handful of these can enhance mental alertness.
Snacks on-the-go to improve concentration
Focus on protein-rich foods as they will satisfy you for longer and stabilise blood sugar levels, preventing any afternoon slumps. Suggestions include:
- a handful of nuts and seeds (such as almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds)
- a mug of miso soup
- avocado and hummus on rice crackers
- for the sweet tooth, protein balls or bars – but make sure they have added protein or at least a good dose of nuts.
It’s worth noting that many products on the market are filled with dates or other dried fruit, which taste great but they raise blood sugar levels before crashing down. Avoid these if you can. Instead, make your own snack bars or slice in big batches as most will keep in the fridge or freezer quite well.
Is there such a thing as a ‘superfood’?
While foods such as broccoli, kale and salmon have a high nutritional profile and mineral content and can be thought of as superfoods, more exotic suggestions continue to grab the headlines. It’s vital to keep in mind that we are all have different requirements, so what may be beneficial for one person may not be right for you.
Often, people will include three to four different superfoods to their day but not eat any fresh vegetables. Including a superfood in your diet should not replace a balanced diet.