10 Brain Boosting Foods
Most of us are aware of the effect food can have on our bodies, but have you stopped to think about the effect of food on your mind? Scientists education and healthcare professionals are becoming increasingly aware of the effects of diet on our brains. It’s unwise to spend time and effort studying and revising only to let yourself down by feeding your mind with low quality food. You wouldn’t put diesel in a Ferrari, so why not give yourself the best chance of success by eating brain boosting foods. Here’s my top ten
Often called a superfood, blueberries (or should I say brainberries) have an enormously beneficial effect on your brain. Rich in antioxidants which protect the brain from the damaging effects of stress, blueberries have also been shown to improve memory, thanks perhaps and increase in blood flow to the brain. A 2009 Reading University study found that participants who drank a blueberry smoothie in the morning performed 15 to 20% better in mental tasks then those who had a different drink. Blueberries are easy to add to your diet, just sprinkle a handful on your morning breakfast or leave out a bowl to snack on during the day.
We all know that we should eat our greens, but brocolli might just be the best of them all. A true nutritional superhero - not only does broccoli help fight cancer and heart disease, it can also boost your brain power. Broccolis contains high levels of vitamin K, a vital nutrient for brain development and choline which has been shown to improve memory. This brain booster also contains sulphoraphane, a sulphur based compound which has been shown to increase neurogenesis (the growth of new brain cells)
It’s a funny coincidence that this brain shaped food is so good for your mind. As well as containing almost twice ant antioxidant levels of other nuts, walnuts are packed full of brain boosting Omega-3. One of the essential building blocks of the brain, the body is unable to produce omega-3 so we have to obtain it from our food. Omega-3 consumption has been linked to a wide range of mental benefits, from a reduction in depression and anxiety to an increase ability to concentrate, particularly in children. Watch out for using fish oil supplements to obtain your omega-3. Unfortunately the toxic chemicals now found in the ocean find their way into fish oil supplements which have been linked with an increased risk of cancer.
Everyone’s heard the rhyme, beans beans they’re good for your heart, eat a bunch and you’ll be smart. Ok, so I might have changed it slightly, but the properties that make beans good for your heart make them good for your brain too. Beans help to increase blood flow which keeps your brain running smoothly. The brain is reliant on a steady flow of glucose to keep you concentrating. Beans are a fantastic brain booster as they release a steady stream of energy helping you to stay focused throughout the day and avoid mid exam energy crashes.
As well as being choc full of iron to help popeye grow his bulging muscles, spinach is another great brain food. Rich in vitamin K and C, this leafy green has been shown to prevent the mental decline that comes with ageing.
Flax seeds (also known as linseeds) are one of the world's oldest superfoods having been consumed for over 6000 years. Rich in omega-3, flax seeds also contain high levels of antioxidants to protect against the damaging effects of stress. Additionally, flaxseeds help to promote a healthy gut. This is essential for mental health and wellbeing as up to 90% of the body’s serotonin (the chemical responsible for mood, memory and sleep) is found in the gut. Flaxseed is incredibly easy to add to your diet, simply add a spoonful of ground flaxseed to your breakfast or any other meal.
Turmeric is having its moment in the sun as the superfood du jour. It boosts an incredible array of benefits, particularly for the brain. Turmeric contains as many as 300 bioactive compounds and is a powerful antioxidant which fights inflammation and can even improve the regeneration of brain stem cells. In India, turmeric is consumed daily by most people, it has been suggested that this is the reason the Alzeimers rate is 4-5 times lower than that of the western world.
As well as being rich in omega-3, pumpkin seeds contain high levels of brain protecting magnesium and brain protecting zinc. Magnesium works to block stress hormones entering the brain, a much needed benefit during high stress exams. Zinc has been shown to protect against depression and anxiety. Pumpkin seeds make a great snack and are easy to sprinkle on to porridge or salads making them a mood boosting no-brainer.
Ok, I’ve cheated just a little. Green tea isn’t a food but its brain boosting benefits mean I had to include it on this list. Unlike normal black tea, green tea is minimally processed helping it to remain rich in anti-oxidants. Incredibly easy to add to your daily diet, green tea has been shown to increase connectivity between seperate areas of the brain and boost working memory. Perfect for helping you to remember your revision!
I’ve saved the best of last. As well as being completely delicious, dark chocolate makes the perfect revision time treat as it can boost your brain power. Dark chocolate contains more antioxidants than any other food. Rich in iron and magnesium, dark chocolate contains a number of other brain boosting compounds. Anandamide (named after the Sanskrit word for bliss) has antidepressant properties as well as increasing the growth of new nerve cells. Dark chocolate also contains tryptophan which helps regulate sleep and mood as well as reducing anxiety. A recent study by chocolate maker iQ Chocolate and the Scottish rugby team showed greater mental performance after eating high quality dark chocolate. Boosting your exam grades has never tasted so good! I hope this blog has been useful and will help you in your studies and exams through eating brain boosting foods. As ever, I’m here to help, do be in touch if there’s anything you need.
Jan Ball - Founder, Basing Tutors