Ever wondered about the connection between emotional wellbeing and nutrition? Sandrine Olmi of Savoir Fayre Nutrition explore this issue in a her fascinating guest post -
Did you know that foods high in refined sugar contain substances that are harmful for the brain? While some foods can affect your body in negative way, others can positively influence your body’s functions. I am pleased to share with you my top 5 favourite foods which are known to boost and maintain brain functions.
Our brain works 24/7. It consumes a huge amount of energy. So, it is essential to provide our body with the quality fuel it requires to function well.
If, from time to time, you experience signs and symptoms such as poor concentration, poor memory, anxiety, depression or stressful thoughts, your body may be telling you that it is lacking in vital nutrients. To stay sharp and focused throughout the day, here are 5 nutrient-dense foods you should aim to include in your diet.
1. Good fats - The brain is made up of 60% fat including saturated and monounsaturated fat, cholesterol and some Omega 3 and Omega 6. My favourite Omega 3 rich foods include Omega 3 rich eggs, flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds and oily fish. Olive oil and avocado are a great source of oleic acid, an unsaturated fatty acid which protects the neurons. And don’t be afraid of saturated fat. Consumed in moderation, saturated fat keeps the cell membranes in the brain healthy.
2. Turmeric - Curcumin is the active ingredient found in the spice turmeric and it is known to improve brain functions. Add this distinctive yellow spice (be careful as it can stain surfaces) to your favourite curries, rice dishes, salad dressings, soups and even to scrambled eggs. To improve the absorption of curcumin, combine turmeric powder with freshly ground black pepper.
3. Green leafy vegetables - Vitamin B6 found in spinach, Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, romaine lettuce and kale is needed for the brain development and function and it helps the body make specific hormones which influence mood. Aim to eat a portion of green leafy vegetables at least once a day.
4. Walnut - This nut is a powerhouse of nutrients including polyphenols which can help reduce inflammation in the brain and increase the production of neurons. Add a few walnut pieces to your morning porridge, salads or smoothies.
5. Dark chocolate - Cocoa flavanols contained in chocolate are knows to improve blood flow to the brain. Make sure you go for a high percentage of cocoa when you buy chocolate (70% minimum) otherwise you will be eating a high proportion of sugar which has a detrimental effect on the brain. Always read the list of ingredients to check the quality of the product you are buying.
As a nutritional therapist, I always encourage my clients to include exercise in their brain health regime. Research shows that physical activity can enhance learning and memory capabilities as well as mental agility which tends to decline with age.
Diet, exercise and daily activities have the potential to affect our brain health and mental functions. By making small changes, you can give your body a boost and enhance your quality of life. Why not try to incorporate one of these foods on a weekly basis as part of your regular meals. Once you are comfortable with one new ingredient, include another one and so on. If you wish to find out more about the power of food on the body and how it could help you feel better, get in touch for a free chat.
Gómez-Pinilla, F. (2008). Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, 9(7), 568–578. http://doi.org/10.1038/nrn2421
UMMC (2015). Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine). http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-b6-pyridoxine
Poulose SM, Miller MG, Shukitt-Hale B. Role of walnuts in maintaining brain health with age. J Nutr. 2014;144:561S–66S.
Scholey, A. Lauren Owen, L. (2013). Effects of chocolate on cognitive function and mood: a systematic review. Nutrition Reviews. Vol. 71(10):665–681