Food for thought: Can the right foods make you smarter?

Clever food choices make for clever people. Every bite you take can either boost or bust your brainpower. Here’s how to munch your way to more marbles:

Fish out your faculties

Omega oils are optimal brain food and nothing provides a better bucketful of this superb nutrient than fatty fish. There are many fishes in the sea, but salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and sardines fare especially well at waxing your wit. There truly is something fishy about cognitive health…

Nuts about neurological nourishment

Nuts, which are high in fibre, good fats and antioxidants, have many brain benefits. Walnuts, pistachios, almonds and macadamias are particularly powerful to make the nuts and bolts in your skull work well.

Give your brain a fat chance

Apart from fish oils and nuts, other sources of good fats are also brain-worthy nutrition. Low fat diets are actually not ideal for neurological functioning, as your brain operates best as a well-oiled machine. Moreover, fats keep you full and combat those blood sugar spikes and dips that affect concentration and mood. Avocados, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, butter and seeds are good choices. Steer clear of trans fats as found in vegetable oils, margarines, fast foods and pastries.

Go green (and leafy)

Leafy greens (think: broccoli, spinach, kale, cabbage, lettuce, etc.) are packed with the perfect vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to keep you in genius mode.

Do not stop for red or yellow

Although our brains give us the green light when it comes to green (and especially leafy) vegetables, we should be eating the whole traffic light, which includes red and yellow or orange vegetables and fruit too. They also contain specific vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which are essential to a balanced brain diet. Tomatoes, beetroots, carrots and pumpkin should be regulars on your plate.

Beef up your brain

Proteins are the building blocks of the body – which includes the brain – and they therefore play a big role in boosting your brightness. Superb sources include red meat, chicken, seafood, eggs, legumes, dairy and some old favourites: fish, nuts and green veggies.

Dietary fibre builds intellectual fibre

Fibre is essential in cardiovascular health, which translates to neurological health by providing sufficient blood flow to your brain. Some fibre-rich foods are: vegetables, fruit (fresh or dried), whole grains, legumes, seeds and – yet again – our neuro-nourishing, nutty pals.

Add flavour to your thinking

By eating more flavoursome you can spice up your memory! Turmeric is an incredible antioxidant and source of Vitamin E – much needed goodies to up your genius. Freshly chopped garlic is not only useful for warding off unwanted vampires, but also inflammation and oxidation in your body and brain. Rosemary, ginseng, thyme, parsley, oregano and the suitably named sage are well-known herbs in the brain-boosting business. Other fragrant friends with properties to protect or promote cognitive health are black pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Sweet and smart

Love the sweet things in life? Although sugar is a no-no when it comes to cognitive (and overall) health, you do not have to give up all delicious treats. Dark chocolate (the higher and purer the cocoa content, the better) actually boasts multiple brain benefits. Furthermore, many fruits such as berries, pomegranate, figs and citrus fruit are celebrated not only for their sweetness, but also for containing nutrients that increase your intellect. Lastly, when you feel like making a beeline for the sugar pot, honey in moderation has great healing powers – also for your brain.

Drinking to improve your thinking

A lack of water will drain your brain and water down all your mental abilities. Hydrate regularly by drinking clean water. Other drink options on the memory menu are rooibos tea which provides your brain with a much needed antioxidant injection while peppermint tea improves sharpness of mind. And for the great news: moderate and consistent consumption of coffee and black tea not only have the well-known, short-term benefit of augmenting your alertness – it has actually been shown to serve a long-term brain-protecting function, too!

Breast is best for brain

Breast milk is nature’s true superfood. Not all of us might feel like having a scoop of breast milk ice cream (as was sold in a London restaurant!), but we should try our utmost best to give it to our babies for as long as we can. Numerous studies have found a link between breastfeeding (as opposed to formula feeding) and higher IQ scores.

As you can see, food matters when it comes to grey matter. Bon appétit, brain!

Get expert advice on the right nutrition and find the health and fitness professionals to meet your unique needs at www.myhealthandfitness.co.za.

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