Just like the rest of your body, the brain requires nourishment to function at its best. Yet, many people aren’t eating in a way that supports this.
When it comes to brain health—which affects our mood, memory and cognition—our overall eating pattern matters more than consuming one specific food. However, there are some foods that are particularly rich in brain-boosting nutrients that many people aren’t eating regularly. Here are five foods that you might like to consider including, as part of a whole food way of eating:
Oily fish are a key source of two long-chain omega-3 fatty acids called EPA and DHA, which are protective for the brain. These are the fatty acids found in high-quality fish oil supplements, however when we eat fish (rather than just consuming fish oil) we also obtain various other nutrients that are beneficial for the brain. Some examples of oily fish include salmon, sardines, mackerel, and trout.
The brightly coloured pigments in berries have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This means they help to prevent damage to cells, including brain cells. The purple/blue/black pigments, called anthocyanins, are especially protective for the brain. While blueberries are most well-known for this, aiming for a variety is always a good idea. Greater variety in the plant foods we consume helps to support the gut microbiome, which is constantly communicating with the brain. Both fresh and frozen berries are great options.
Walnuts provide a plant source of essential omega-3 fatty acids, along with other nourishing fats, fibre and beneficial phytonutrients. Regular consumption has been associated with better cognitive function so a handful makes a great snack, or they can be sprinkled into salads or used in other recipes—check out my Brain (Bliss) Balls recipe that features walnuts here.
Eggs truly are nutritional powerhouses. Not only do they provide a source of protein and fat which can help with sustained energy, they are one of the richest dietary sources of choline. Choline is a nutrient that can be used to make chemical messengers in the brain, and it plays an important role in supporting cognition and memory. Eggs also contain a range of other nutrients, including iron, zinc and B vitamins.
Green tea is packed full of antioxidants and can have some beneficial effects on cognition and brain function. While it does still contain some caffeine, it also contains a substance called L-theanine. This has a calming effect, helping to buffer the effects of the caffeine so you feel alert but not wired. If you’ve been trying to cut down on your caffeine consumption, switching your coffee to green tea can be a great start.