10 foods to boost your brainpower
Eating well is not only vital for your physical wellbeing, but also your mental health – so what are the best foods for a healthy brain?
We often eat with physical health in mind – whether it’s to fuel muscles, control body weight or improve heart health.
But what we eat is just as important when it comes to fuelling our brain, according to accredited practising dietitian Melanie McGrice.
Melanie says the need for good nutrition for brain health starts at a young age.
“A nutritious diet is essential for brain development in babies and young children,” she says.
“And it is just as important as we get older. A lot of the food we eat is used to fuel our day to-day processes – beating our heart, and making new cells or enzymes – and importantly, helping our brain to work. Our brain actually burns a lot of calories.”
Beat a foggy brain
Eating nutritious food regularly throughout the day can also help to avoid that 3pm “brain fog”.
“Brain fog is usually caused by not eating enough – ideally you want to be eating something every three to five hours, and usually something with carbohydrates in it, such as a slice of multi-grain bread or a tub of yoghurt, because glucose is the primary fuel for our brain,” Melanie says.
Boost your mental health
Food choices can also have a significant impact on mental health conditions, such as depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Research shows a modified Mediterranean diet is particularly beneficial for depression and good mental health – that’s a diet that’s filled with lots of green, leafy vegetables; lots of fish, grains, extra virgin olive oil, nuts and small amounts of lean red meat, while keeping sugary and processed foods to a minimum,” she says.
Melanie says the omega-3 fat found in fish is essential for a healthy brain.
“Most Australians don’t eat nearly enough fish,” she says. “I’d highly recommend including fish two to three times a week in our diet for optimal brain health.”
Never too late
If you’re worried it’s too late for good brain health, think again.
“Our brain can be healed and we can create new neural pathways in our brain through a combination of physical activity, healthy eating and the right types of counselling and social environment,” Melanie says.
“Yes, food can make a difference – it is something that you can modify in weeks rather than years.”
Melanie McGrice’s top 10 foods for a healthy brain
One of the richest sources of omega-3, which has been found to be important for protecting against Alzheimer’s disease and mental health conditions.
Great for our gut microbiome and provides low-GI carbohydrates to help prevent against ‘brain fog’. You only require a small portion (1/2 cup) – not a big pasta bowl full, and it’s best eaten at lunch to help fuel your brain throughout the afternoon.
Research shows that 30g of nuts each day helps to prevent against age-related brain decline.
Among the richest sources of antioxidants, and have been found to reduce oxidative damage to the brain, which causes cognitive decline.
- Extra virgin olive oil
Olive oil is rich in good mono-unsaturated fats, which have been found to be protective against brain conditions such as strokes. They are also an essential part of the Mediterranean diet.
Both dry and fresh parsley is rich in a compound called flavones, which feed the microglia cells in the brain. Microglia cells are the main immune defence cells in our brain and work to keep our brain healthy.
A quick and easy snack to give your brain a glucose boost when you’re running low on concentration.
Research has found dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese increase glutathione concentrations in the brain. Glutathione is a type of antioxidant, which has been found to protect the brain against ageing.
They are rich in antioxidants, have a powerful prebiotic impact on our gut microbiome and have been found to be beneficial for reducing swelling in the brain.
Research suggests that eating figs may help learning and memory.