There is a huge connection between diet and brain function, how we eat can literally improve our cognitive function, our thinking, our mood, our memory. Which is fantastic news, as it doesn’t have to be expensive or too complicated.
Here I review some of the evidence on the diets that improve our brain health and give some simple top tips of foods to eat more.
The Brain Positive Diets:
- Mediterannean diet – this is known to be a good way to eat for heart health, but did you know that eating for your heart health will also help your brain function? A study on 447 adults over 4 years looked at mediterranean diet (fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, fish and lean protein with moderate red wine) plus 1 litre a week of olive oil and 30g mixed nuts per day. When compared to a control group there was better performance in cognitive tests.
- Mind Diet – this is a tweaked version on the Med diet, with a greater emphasis on berries and leafy greens. Following the diet has been linked to a reduction in cognitive age of 7.5yrs and a reduction in Alzhiemers risk.
The Brain Positive Foods:
Oily Fish – those all important omega-3’s are key for cognitive function. Studies have shown a link between eat fish slowing cognitve decline. Yes you can get some of these from plant based foods but the conversion rate is not as good so if you do eat fish, this is the better option. Other foods that contain omega 3’s are shellfish, algae and caviar.
Nuts – at least 5 servings of 30g per week seems to be the key. Some research suggests a positive affect with mixed nuts and other research focuses on walnuts.
Wholegrains – these usually have a more beneficial effect on blood sugars giving more consitent glucose levels for the brain. They also contain B vitamins which may help slow brain shrinkage and improve cognitive function.
Beans, pulses and meat – these contain good levels of the B vitamins which are thought to help brain function. Organ meats contain a good level of Vitamin B12 which has been shown to be correlated to a reduced dementia risk.
Fruit and Veggies – oxidative stress is one of the primary mechanisms of age related brain decline. The brain is vulnerable to free radical damage and so eating food with a good mix and level of antioxidants will help. There are numerous studies looking at the correlation between eating more fruit and veg and brain function. Folate is another key nutrient for brain health and is found in those leafy greens. Vitamin E in seeds, nuts and avocado is a key antioxidant.
Berries – Some small scale but interesting studies suggest a link where having berry juice or more berries in the diet may improve your memory. It’s definitely worth a try!
Flavanoids – these powerful micronutrients are found in red wine, green and berries. There is an indication that maybe flavanoids could help reduce dementia and cognitive decline.
Green Tea – again these are small scale studies but 2 cups a day may help your brain function.
Top 10 brain foods to eat:
- Leafy Green and fruit and veg in general.
- Nuts, especially walnuts.
- Beans and Pulses.
- Oily fish, seafood, caviar and seaweed.
- Lean meat, poulty and organ meat.
- Seeds and avocado
- Moderate Red wine and Green Tea.
- Dark chocolate in small amounts.
So you can see that eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, with wholegrains plus some oily fish and lean meat is a positive way to eat for your brain. Add in regular nuts, seeds, beans and pulses then smaller amounts of red wine, green tea and dark chocolate and you are onto a winner. It’s a no-brainer 😉