What do our brains need to function well?
- Energy – the brain uses glucose as its energy source. This comes from carbohydrates and the best sources are complex carbohydrates – found in wholegrain sources. These starchy carbohydrate sources help release energy slowly, preventing peaks in blood sugar levels.
- The right fats – unsaturated fats are essential for good health. Try to limit the amount of saturated fat in your diet and increase the amount of mono or polyunsaturated fat (good fat) found in olive oil and avocados, nuts and seeds. Omega-3 fats are also very important for brain function – these need to be provided through the diet, good sources include oily fish, flax seeds and walnuts.
- Protein - contains tryptophan, an amino acid linked with healthy brain function.
- Fruits and vegetables such as berries, tomatoes and broccoli are full of antioxidants which can help protect brain cells, so ensure you get your 5 A DAY.
- Vitamin B12 aids the production of myelin, which helps insulate against the brain’s electrical impulses. It’s found in pork, poultry, beef and fish.
- Vitamin C in your diet can help maintain mind health. It’s found in a variety of fruit and vegetables.
- Vitamin E contains antioxidants that can also help protect the brain and is in sweet potatoes, leafy green vegetables, grains and nuts.
- Hydration. Keeping your fluid levels up is important for your body and mind. It assists with cell performance and improves concentration. Dehydration can make you feel tired and irritable.
Food for thought
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day – so why not kick-start your day by eating
a wholegrain cereal high in fibre (watch out for sugar content) to provide energy to improve concentration and help you stay alert. Porridge oats are a great idea as they provide slow release energy, keeping you feeling fuller throughout the morning and powering you through to lunch. Top with a portion of fruit for additional fibre, vitamins and minerals. Alternatively if you have more time opt for a poached egg on wholegrain toast. The protein from the egg will provide will provide satiety and you will obtain energy and fibre from the toast.
Healthy snacking on fruit and natural yogurt or a small portion of unsalted nuts are a great way to fuel the body and mind with nutrients during the day. High sugar and salt snacks are okay as an occasional treat, but try to avoid eating them every day.
For lunch and evening meals opt for a portion lean meat or fish (aim for oily fish at least once a week) alongside a wholegrain carbohydrate such as brown rice or wholewheat pasta or noodles, and choose a couple of steamed vegetables – ‘eat the rainbow’ because the various colours indicate the different health qualities of particular vegetables.
Don’t forget to exercise regularly also, it is thought to aid memory and also reduce stress and anxiety. Try to get 30 minutes a day, at least 5 times a week.
Did you know?
Nearly two thirds of people who report no daily mental health issues eat fresh fruit or drink fruit juice each day, compared with less than half of those who do report daily mental health issues.