17 Mar Feed your brain!
We all know that it is important to eat healthy and varied. There is a growing list of diets that should help us to keep our bodies in shape. But did you know that food can also have a positive effect on your brain? Several nutrients can improve your cognitive functions. Need to prepare for an exam? Make sure you get enough of the following nutrients for optimal results!
Vital brain cells
Various types of vitamin B help to produce neurotransmitters and are important to maintain healthy brain cells. Vitamin B has a positive effect on your memory. It stimulates the production of serotonin, which boosts your mood and self-esteem – who doesn’t want that? This vitamin can be found in citrus fruits, wheat, potatoes, pulses, spinach and animal products.
Vitamins C & E are antioxidants, which are further discussed below. These vitamins are probably protective against dementia. Vitamin D is important for the preservation of cognitive functions as well. Vitamin C improves the quality of your brain cells, and it is present in oranges, lemons, kiwis and strawberries for example. Products like avocados, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils contain vitamin E.
Minerals like iodine, iron and sink are important for the development and functioning of the brain. Meat, fish, grains, nuts and beans are sources of multiple beneficial minerals. So vitamins and minerals are not only useful to boost your immune system, they can boost your brain functions as well!
Optimal neuronal communication
Just like in a good relationship, it is important for brain cells to communicate well. Fatty acids improve the transfer of information in the brain. They are also needed for the generation of brain cells. Therefore, a deficiency of fatty acids can have a negative effect on functions like concentration and memory. Especially omega-3 fatty acids are important, which are found in oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna), but also in a couple of seeds, nuts and oils. These nutrients can help against disorders like depression, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, omega-3 fatty acids contain anti-inflammatory substances.
Protection from dementia
Antioxidants help to protect your brain from damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants can also reduce the development of dementia. Food products like broccoli, spinach, potatoes, apples, oranges and green tea contain these substances. But did you know that dark chocolate contains antioxidants as well? It only holds when there’s at least 72% cacao in it, but it can improve your concentration, reaction speed and the blood flow in your brain. From now on you have a good excuse to take that piece of chocolate!
Some spices have antioxidative functions too, but there are more ways in which they are good for your brain! Cinnamon for example decreases the blood pressure and makes nutrition of brain cells more efficient. Turmeric, a spice that is used a lot in Indian dishes, improves your memory. In addition, it enhances the production of new brain cells, it works anti-inflammatory and it can protect from Alzheimer’s disease.
What can a brain boosting day look like?
Let’s say you are facing an exam, and you want to be both mentally and physically prepared. Then what kind of dishes could you eat to optimize your cognitive functions? Keep in mind: consume all nutrients in moderation. Excessive intake is not beneficial for your health.
You could start your day with yoghurt and blueberries. Blueberries accelerate thinking and learning processes, they improve short and long term memory and reduce stress. For lunch, products with whole grains (like bread) will make you stay alert and positive. Make your sandwich extra tasty by adding some avocado, this will enhance the blood flow to your brain. If you want to snack something in between, take a couple of nuts or a piece of chocolate. These products will stimulate your brain activity and improve your learning performances. For dinner, oily fish like salmon or a piece of meat can support the functioning of your brain. A dish based on pulses like lentils will also give your brain a real boost!
Have you decided yet what to eat during your next week of exams? Try for yourself which food products improve your performances, and let me know what works for you!