Not only is nutrition essential for a healthy body, it’s also essential to ensure that your brain is functioning at its best. According to a recent study run by brain-care company Heights, 99% of us aren’t currently getting all the nutrients our brains need. I have had the great pleasure of being art of their tribe and love their Brain Supplements.
Here are five brain-healthy foods to get you on the right track:
While they may seem small, blueberries are mighty when it comes to looking after your brain. The fruit delivers high levels of anthocyanins, compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. This is important for your brain as antioxidants protect against free radicals, which if left to accumulate, can lead to oxidative damage to both your neurons and DNA. High levels of oxidative stress are also linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Heights’ advice? Aim for around 25 blueberries a day to get the full benefits.
Nuts are an excellent source of a wide range of nutrients—and different nuts have different brain-beneficial qualities. Hazelnuts and almonds are rich in antioxidant vitamin E, which helps to defend brain cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Walnuts also provide vitamin E, alongside a high omega 3 ALA content, some of which converts into DHA omega 3—a substance that protects your grey matter.
3. Extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil is a major player for enhancing your cognitive function, as it is the highest quality and has not been purified. It is packed with antioxidants and vitamin E, both of which combat oxidative damage (again fighting those free radicals,) in the brain. This is vital, as oxidative damage is linked to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Heights’ dietitian, Sophie Medlin, recommends using EVOO at least five times a week—and while cooking with it is a great start, drizzling it on salads is even better.
4. Whole grains
Looking for something to mop up your extra virgin olive oil? Whole grains—including certain breads—are essential for brain health thanks to their slow release of energy and B vitamin content. Between 20-30% of our daily food intake goes into energising the brain, so if brain fog is an issue, whole grains such as oats, rye, and quinoa provide a steady supply of energy that may help. B vitamins (in particular riboflavin, thiamine, and niacin) enable the body to process food into energy and help with healthy nerve functioning.
5. Legumes and pulses
Whether you get them from chickpea-filled hummus or delicious dahl, legumes and pulses are packed with B vitamins, magnesium, iron, and other essential minerals, alongside being a great source of fibre. Lentils and chickpeas are high in folic acid (vitamin B9), a deficiency of which has been linked to depression and dementia. Another example is soybeans, which are rich in iron—essential for helping blood cells to carry oxygen, and helps to protect against fatigue, dizziness, compromised immunity, and more.
To find out how hungry your brain is, try Heights’ Brain Nutrition Assessment.