Like athletes looking to prime their physical performances, diet can help boost the brain’s aptitudes and protect it from aging. Ahead of Brain Awareness Week, March 12 to 18, 2018, here’s a look at some of the most effective dietary choices for boosting brain health.
While exercise, sleep, managing stress and maintaining social relationships are decisive factors in the prevention of brain aging, eating a healthy, balanced diet also plays a key role in maintaining brain health all through life.
Making good nutritional choices can contribute to preventing depression, cognitive disorders and neurodegeneration. Various scientific studies have highlighted connections between the gut — more specifically, gut microbiota, sometimes referred to as the “second brain” — and the nervous system.
Favoring certain foods can also help boost the memory and our ability to learn. Good fats (omega 3) and complex carbohydrates are wise choices if, for example, you are sitting exams, with carbohydrates, in particular, fueling the brain.
Foods with brain-protecting properties include those often associated with the Mediterranean diet, which is also good for heart health. Here, the focus is on seasonal fruit and vegetables, which are rich in antioxidants and vitamins, as well as omega-3-rich oils and oilseeds, and wholegrain cereals (rice, buckwheat, quinoa etc.).
In 2015, an American study found that a diet called the MIND diet was effective in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s. This involves eating foods from 10 brain-healthy food groups every day, including green leafy vegetables (cabbage, rocket, spinach, etc.) and nuts (40/50 grams).
As for fruit, red berries — including strawberries, blackcurrants, blueberries and cranberries — have been found to prevent age-related neurodegenerative disease. These, like white meat (poultry), can be consumed twice a week.
Whole seeds, fish, olive oil and wine also get the green light, while the most harmful food groups include red meat, animal fats, sugary foods, fried food and fast food. These should be eaten occasionally and in moderation. JB