My top five brain foods
Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, bluefish, sardines, anchovies contain a blend of nutrients that are perfect for the brain, including omega-3 fats (a brain-must), choline (a B vitamin needed to make memories), vitamins B6 and B12 (needed to support the nervous system), minerals such as iron and magnesium (needed for healthy blood and tissues) and a good amount of protein. Research shows that consuming fish only once a week is associated with a 70% reduced risk of Alzheimer’s in old age. Of all the nutrients present in fish, the omega-3s seem to be particularly protective against dementia. For those who do not eat seafood, alternative sources of omega-3s include flax seeds, olive oil, almonds, avocados and other plant-based foods.
Dark leafy greens such as spinach, swiss chard, kale and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage are all full of vitamins, minerals, fibre and disease-fighting nutrients that are crucial for a healthy nervous system. Large-scale studies show that people who consume one or two servings of these vegetables every day experience fewer memory problems and cognitive decline than people who rarely eat greens. Simply eating a salad every day keeps your brain 11 years younger.
Berries such as blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and also dark cherries, goji berries and mulberries are packed with antioxidants that help keep memory sharp as you age. They are also a great source of fibre and glucose, the main energy source for the brain. They are sweet but have a low glycaemic index so they help regulate sugar levels.
Extra virgin oils, especially olive oil and flaxseed oil. These are loaded with anti-ageing nutrients, such as omega-3s and vitamin E. Olive oil is also rich in monounsaturated fat, a kind of fat that is good for the heart. What is good for the heart is good for the brain.
Complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grains, legumes and sweet potatoes, are packed with brain-supportive nutrients from protein to B vitamins to a bounty of antioxidants and minerals. They are also a good source of glucose combined with a high fibre content to stabilise blood sugar levels. The more fibre, the lower the food’s effects on insulin. As a result, these foods enhance your metabolism, support a healthy digestion and boost the immune system too.
Of note; some people lack the enzymes to break down the nutrients in nuts and legumes. Be sure to soak them overnight to ensure that they are more bioavailable.