If you struggle to remember what day it is or what you had for dinner an hour ago, consider stocking up on the ultimate brain food, oily fish. Omega-3 fatty acids – found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines – are invaluable for just about every part of our body, and it seems our brains are no different. Researchers from the University of Kuopio in Finland found that eating oily fish three times a week reduces the risk of brain problems by 26 per cent and prevents against memory loss.
Dark, leafy greens
Dark, leafy greens such as spinach, kale and broccoli are packed with antioxidants, including vitamin C and beta-carotene, which are essential to keep your body and brain in good health. They are also a good source of folate, which can help to speed up information processing and memory recall. Research results published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also indicated that the folate found in leafy green vegetables can help to protect against cognitive decline in old age.
Egg yolks are nutritional powerhouses packed with many vitamins and minerals essential for good brain function. This cheap and versatile ingredient is a good source of iron, which is essential for creating red blood cells which carry oxygen to the brain, helping to keep your mental faculties sharp and to keep you alert and focused. Eggs are also a good source of vitamin B12 – a deficiency of which can lead to memory loss and confusion – and iodine, which has been shown to improve problem-solving abilities even in only mildly deficient children.
As your brain is made up of around 80 percent water, keeping it properly hydrated is vital for helping it to function at optimum levels. However, if you’re not a fan of regular water, swapping it for a cup of green tea could have added benefits for your brain. A Korean study has found that green tea can help to increase mental alertness and enhance your memory. Researchers have also found that the antioxidants found in green tea can help to protect the brain and reduce risk of dementia.
No, it’s not just wishful thinking – chocolate really is good for you! While chomping on bars of milk chocolate is unlikely to improve your IQ score, dark chocolate is rich in brain-boosting chemicals, called flavonoids, which can enhance your cognitive skills. Research has found that flavonoids induce the creation of new neurons in the brain and also improve their ability to form new memories. Studies also show that flavonoids improve blood flow to the brain. One study of adult women found that when given flavonoid-rich chocolate drinks, the blood flow to participants' brains increased within two hours and they performed better on a complex mental task.
Choose fruit that are high in antioxidants, as these really contribute to brain chemistry. Some great example are strawberries, blueberries, kiwis and cherries. These also happen to be great ingredients for a smoothie, so why not mix it up with some healthy fats from yogurt and calcium rich milk?
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see that drinking plenty will keep the brain hydrated so that it can function at optimum levels. Not surprisingly, many schools are heeding this advice and providing their pupils with water bottles to keep them topped up throughout the day so that they remain alert. Water consumption varies from person to person but the average daily intake sits at around 1.5 to 2 litres a day (50.71 - 67.62 fl oz).