Do you find your mental clarity disappearing in a figurative fog, your razor-sharp focus slipping away? When you feel your cognitive engines slowing down, it’s time to return to the basics – the food you’re eating.
What you eat is primarily responsible for providing your entire being with the supply of energy it needs to function, and that includes both the internal magic working to keep your blood pumping and your everyday movements. The brain too requires adequate amounts of nutrients to keep the cogs in your mind in tip-top condition. If we are unable to nourish our ‘think tanks’ well, generating creative ideas, insights and just your daily thoughts in general will prove to be an exhausting and difficult task.
Here are six brain foods to help keep your mind sharp and focused- all day, every day!
Pumpkin / Sunflower Seeds
A handy, crunchy and hard-to-put down snack, seeds are also great for enhancing your mental acuity. Seeds are a great source of plant-based Omega-3 fatty acid, especially alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which acts as an antioxidant and protects the brain cells from inflammation and illnesses associated with mental decline.
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of tryptophan, which is used to synthesise serotonin, the happy hormone, which boosts positive moods and battles depression. Sunflower seeds on the other hand are known to contain thiamine, or Vitamin B1. A deficiency of thiamine will lead to short-term memory loss and a decline in cognitive function. They are also high in Vitamin E, which has antioxidant properties. A study discovered that people who had more Vitamin E in their bodies were 15% less likely to suffer from cognitive impairment.
Popeye’s secret to gaining strength could also be your new trick to enhancing your memory. A study that was conducted showed that the leafy green, packed with Vitamin K, is effective in slowing down the brain’s ageing process. The participants of the study who ate one or two portions of spinach a day had the cognitive abilities of someone 11 years younger! The lutein found in spinach, often associated with eye health, may also have an influence on cognitive function, such as memory retention and rate of learning. Other dark greens, and brassica vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are also Vitamin K superstars.
Ever wondered why your mum insisted that those fish oil supplements are good for you? The oil, derived from the tissues of fatty fish, like salmon, sardines, mackerel and tuna, are valued for its essential Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are a major component of brain cell membranes. DHA and EPA are Omega-3 fatty acids that are important for visual and neurological development, while enriching cognitive abilities and focus too. These fatty acids are also touted to be able to prevent dementia and cognitive decline in women as well. Nothing fishy about this fact!
The general rule is that anything that’s shaped like the brain would be good for the brain - cue the walnuts! Walnuts are rich in a number of neuroprotective compounds, particularly in the Omega-3 fatty acid ALA. Walnuts also help to develop over three dozen neurotransmitters for brain function.
A UCLA study also further reinforced the notion that walnuts are great for the brain – the higher the intake of walnuts, the better they did on a cognitive test. Walnuts are also packed with antioxidants that help to keep free radicals at bay from scavenging your precious brain cells.
Berries - sweet, succulent and great brain food! Berries are not only high in antioxidants; they are also able to alter the way neurons communicate. These ‘signal changes’ prevent inflammation that contributes to neuronal damage, while improving cognition and motor control. Another research also discovered that women who ate berries more frequently showed slower cognitive decline than those who did not. In short- berries are berry, berry good for the brain!
If anyone tries to deny you your dark chocolate fix, tell them this – you’re eating it for your brain! What’s the secret ingredient that makes dark chocolate such a delish health treat? The answer lies within the flavonoids of dark chocolate, a class of antioxidants packed with anti-inflammatory properties. A study found that those who ate chocolate once a week had better cognitive performance – this is due in part to the cocoa flavanols being able to ‘reduce some measures of age-related cognitive dysfunction’. Bonus: flavanols are also able to improve blood vessel function and reduce blood pressure. Go for dark chocolate that has 85% cocoa content.