Certain foods are better at boosting your brainpower than others. Add these to your diet for improved memory and concentration.
Our brain uses up about 20 per cent of the calories we consume – and for good reason. It’s the control centre of our body, and keeps our heart beating, lungs pumping, and allows us to move, think and feel. Therefore, it requires good fuel to keep it in optimal condition.
The food we eat plays a vital role in keeping our brain healthy and sharp, as well as guarding against cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases, especially as we grow old. While there is no miracle food that can completely ward off age-related diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, there are foods that can help to improve our memory and concentration.
These are what a healthy and balanced brain-friendly diet should include.
Typically found in curry powder, turmeric contains a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin, which is able to improve memory (particularly in Alzheimer cases), boost serotonin and dopamine levels (both of which improve mood and alleviate depression), and help new brain cells grow and delay mental decline.
Reap the benefits of curcumin by adding turmeric to your dishes, cooking with curry powder, or even drinking turmeric tea.
2. Fatty Fish
When it comes to brain foods, fatty fish often tops the list.
Approximately 60 per cent of our brain is made of fat, and half of that fat is the omega-3 type. These omega-3 fats are used to build brain and nerve cells, and are essential for memory and learning.
As a rich source of omega-3, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and trout help to sharpen memory, improve one’s mood, and protect the brain from declining.
Studies have also shown that eating baked or broiled fish increases the grey matter in our brain, which contains most of the nerve cells that control and impact our memory, emotions and decision-making abilities.
This garden herb has had a long reputation for improving concentration memory and concentration. This is because of its antioxidative, oestrogenic and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as its ability to inhibit an enzyme that causes Alzheimer’s disease.
Sage may be mostly used as an essential oil, but you can also add it to your diet for an extra flavour and health benefits.
Like dark chocolate, dark-coloured berries contain flavonoids, catechins, caffeic acid and anthocyanin (plant compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties).
Antioxidants reduce inflammation and prevent oxidation, thus delaying age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases. They also help to improve communication between brain cells and increase plasticity, which boosts learning and memory by allowing brain cells to form new connections.
Antioxidant-rich brain-boosting berries include blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and mulberries, so toss a handful of them into your breakfast yoghurt, cereal or smoothie daily to enjoy their benefits.
5. Dark Chocolate
You don’t have to feel guilty for enjoying this sweet treat. Dark chocolate (and cocoa powder) contain brain-boosting components such as antioxidants, caffeine, and flavonoids, which gather in the parts of the brain that control learning and memory.
Plus, studies have shown that not only is dark chocolate a memory-booster, it is also a legitimate mood-lifter, thanks to the flavonoids that protect our brain. Here are other mood-boosting foods.
6. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds not only contain antioxidants that protect the brain (and body) from free radical damage, they are also high in micronutrients such as magnesium, iron, copper and zinc.
Magnesium is essential for learning and memory. Iron helps to improve brain function, while copper and zinc are essential for nerve signals. All of these help to keep neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and depression at bay.
We know that nuts contain heart-healthy fats, but they also contain antioxidants and vitamin E that improve cognition and help stave off neurodegenerative diseases. Vitamin E protects cell membranes from free radical damage, thus helping to waylay mental decline.
Pick any nut for neuro and cardio benefits, but almonds are particularly high in vitamin E and walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, so reach for those when you’re craving for a midday snack.
Broccoli is chock-full of antioxidants and vitamin K (one cup of it provides more than 100 per cent of the recommended daily intake), which is essential for forming a type of fat in our brain cells, leading to better memory.
Broccoli also contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, protecting the brain against age-related damage and decline.
If you can’t live without your daily cup of java, here’s some good news. Coffee contains two main components — caffeine and antioxidants — that have positive effects on your brain. Caffeine improves alertness by blocking the chemical messenger that makes you feel sleepy, improves mood by boosting ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitters such as serotonin, and sharpens concentration.
Due to the high concentration of antioxidants in coffee, long-term consumption of it may also reduce the risk of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, so go ahead and grab that cuppa (but keep away from the sugar packets).
Eggs contain several nutrients related to brain health, such as choline, folate, and vitamins B6 and B12.
Many people don’t get enough choline in their diet, but it is a crucial micronutrient that our body uses to produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and memory, resulting in improved memory and mental function.
Egg yolks have a high concentration of choline. A single yolk contains 112mg, providing more than a quarter of the recommended daily intake for women and more than a fifth for that of men.
Plus, folic acid and B vitamins can help to delay mental decline and keep depression at bay.