How we eat can improve how we think, our mood, and our memory. During pregnancy and post-natal, it is important that we eat the right foods to protect our brains as well as helping our foetus grow a healthy brain. Being aware of foods for brain health is important also when feeding your kids.
So, what foods are important for brain health?
Omega 3: this type of fat is shown in many studies to reduce the risk of dementia and improve our mood. Sources include oily fish such as salmon, trout and mackerel as well as linseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds. For vegans and vegetarians, the best source is an algae supplement containing both EPA and DHA.
B vitamins: B6, folate and B12 have all been associated with improved cognitive function. Eating meat is many peoples main source of B vitamins, but as reducing your intake of red meat is also beneficial, try to include a variety of beans, pulses, vegetables and grains as well as fortified foods to boost your intake.
Flavonoids: cocoa, red wine, and green tea all contain flavonoids and may contribute to a healthy brain as they have been found to protect our neurons.
Antioxidants including vitamins A, C and E may protect the brain from oxidative stress. Evidence points towards nuts, especially walnuts and avocadoes for vitamin E, and fruit especially blueberries and green vegetables for a good intake of these vitamins.
The MIND diet was developed in 2015 specifically to help improve brain function and reduce dementia, and is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the blood pressure-lowering DASH diet.
The MIND study found those that stuck closely to the diet were 53% less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s over the 4.5-year study period. The beneficial foods included those already mentioned plus, wholegrains, beans, lentils and soya beans, poultry, olive oil, and green leafy vegetables. Further studies are being conducted to prove whether these foods are responsible and if we should start recommending specific quantities.
The MIND study found a negative association between that the following foods and brain health: red meat, processed meats, fried fast foods, sweets and pastries, butter, margarine and whole-fat cheese.
As approximately 75% of the brain is water, don’t forget to stay hydrated as well!