Food for Thought

Ever wondered if the food you eat affects how well your brain works?  Well, time and time again science has shown that it does.

1. Choose wholegrain carbohydrates.

Glucose provides fuel for the brain. The ability to concentrate and focus comes from an adequate, steady supply of energy.  Stay mentally alert throughout the day by choosing wholegrain carbs. Wholegrains with a low glyceamic index provide a slow release of glucose into the bloodstream. Opt for oats, wholegrain cereals, granary bread, brown rice and pasta. Experts recommend that you have 3 serving of wholegrains a day. One serving is 1 slice of bread, 3 tablespoons of cereal, 2 tablespoons cooked rice or 3 tablespoons cooked pasta.

2. Oil your thinking.

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) cannot be made by the body and must be obtained through diet. In the brain there are millions of neurones - responsible for carrying messages within the brain. 50% of the weight of the neuron’s cell membrane is composed of omega-3 fats. The most effective omega-3 fats occur naturally in oily fish as EPA and DHA . Oily fish include salmon, mackerel, sardines, pilchards, fresh tuna and kippers. Other good sources include walnuts, linseed (flaxseed) oil, pumpkin seeds, walnut oil.  A healthy diet should include at least two portions of fish a week, including one of oily fish. A portion of oily fish is around 140g.

3. Perk up with protein.

Protein rich foods are digested into amino acids. Amino acids directly affect how alert you feel and your mood. It is recommended that you include a source of protein at every meal to ensure a continuous supply of the amino acids to the brain. High protein foods include fish, lean meat, chicken, eggs, low fat dairy products, pulses or a meat substitute such as textured vegetable protein as well as nuts and seeds. You should consume protein with every meal and snack.  One typical portion size equates to 100g of lean boneless meat (red and poultry), 140g of fish, 2 medium eggs four tablespoons of pulses, 3 tablespoons of seeds or nuts or 125ml greek yogurt.

4. Go nuts. 

Nuts contain vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant. We make antioxidants in our bodies and we also extract them from food.  Their purpose is to protect us from harmful bodies called free radicals. We get free radicals in the food we eat. We generate free radicals when we turn food into energy. Antioxidants help protect the brain from damage caused by free radicals. Animal studies have shown that diets rich in antioxidants result in improved learning capacity. Aim for a closed handful of unsalted nuts ( such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and brazil nuts) each day.

5. Think fluid.

Dehydration leads to fatigue, irritability, and most importantly lack of concentration. To boost brain function is important that children drink regularly throughout the day to stay properly hydrated. Current guidelines indicate that men should drink 2L a fluid a day and women 1.5L a day, however this will vary depending on your activity level. A good way to assess your hydration status is to look at your urine colour. Aim for urine that is a pale straw colour.