Lately the onus for nutrition has been focussed on the gut, which is absolutely necessary for a healthy body and mind, but let’s not forget to feed that which is the centre of our being, that which controls us – our brain. With over fifty million people in our world living with various forms of dementia it is evident that we need to consider brain function when we look at our lifestyle choices. Scientific studies show that we can in fact reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia and that we have more control over our cognitive futures than previously imagined. We need to focus on hormone balance, energy levels, and gut health when looking at our diet and nutrition as well as our brain health; the brain uses far more calories than you would expect and so our nutrient intake has a huge effect on how we think and feel. In short, to keep mental clarity we need to eat well; the following are five simple yet effective ways to optimise brain health, which are available to everyone…so read on and get stocked up!
Figure out your favourite ‘good fat’ and make sure it is part of your daily diet. Certain nutrients are oil soluble and so need a fat to release them for us to be able to absorb them. As well as this healthy oils are packed with monounsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory polyphenols. My personal favourite, and one of the healthiest fats out there, is a good quality extra-virgin olive oil. During a study on mice, olive oil proved to reverse symptoms of Alzheimer’s – the oil induced the brain cells to get rid of old or damaged parts and replace them with new ones! If you cook with olive oil you are going to destroy a lot of the goodness so be sure to drizzle your already cooked food with the oil, use it in salad dressing, an ingredient for dips, basically raw, in any way you can.
These little gems are awash with anti-inflammatory polyphenols and antioxidants both of which are essential as mentioned for brain health. However, more specifically the antioxidants in blueberries, flavanoids, actually fight brain inflammation and protect it from stress-related damage. Extract of blueberry was shown to reverse the progression of Alzheimer’s in rats during recent studies. They have also been proven to improve our attention span, heighten our short term memory, as well as increase blood flow through the brain, this delivers the oxygen and nutrients needed to function at our best. They are also a great source of fibre so add a cup into your daily diet; add them to smoothies, on top of your muesli, or just as a midday snack. To always have some to hand opt for the frozen ones, they maintain their nutrients as much as the fresh version.
Not everyone’s first choice when it comes to eating fish but to get your omega-3 fatty acids this is an excellent source. If you select high-in-fat fish such as mackerel, sardines, anchovies or salmon for example, you not only promote healthy skin and hair but also brain function. The most relevant omega-3 is DHA when it comes to our brain health with 60% of our brains being made of this! This is what helps us to repair brain cells, and insulate neutrons to keep our signals flowing and make us mentally sharp and on top form. DHA isn’t available in plants so opting for low-mercury fatty fish is the optimal way to get it. Tip: make sure they’re wild-caught fish and keep a good range stocked in the larder.
These are amazing little pods of natural health. An egg is a nutritionally complete food, so dense in all sorts of unusual nutrients which are fantastic for brain health. Within a yolk you’ll come across choline which protects brain cells from oxidative stress, improves continued cognitive performance, as well as B vitamins which also prevent cognitive decline, and the aforementioned omega-3 DHA. This is brain food people! An egg or two per day will really give your brain that boost, improve function and keep you on point. Opt for free range eggs from hormone-free chickens. Find a local organic provider for the best quality and freshness; yolks should be a deep orange colour, not a wishy-washy yellow as caged birds lay – this shows a huge lack in nutrients.
A super super food, turmeric is an amazing source of antioxidants which are proven to fight disease and combat Alzheimer’s. The active compound in turmeric is curcumin, which boosts brain health by increasing production of certain hormones which play an important role in our long-term cognitive function. There are many ways to utilise turmeric, but by far the best is to use the fresh roots grated into foods and drinks. In its powdered form you would need to eat A LOT of it to reap the benefits. I put it in literally everything and have grown really fond of a cup of warm golden milk in the evening. Tip: Always add freshly ground black pepper to activate the absorption of turmeric into the body.
Add these five key ingredients into your daily routine and give your brain the boost it needs to work at its best and stay that way!
Distance Learning Diploma Courses in Nutrition
Here at the School of Natural Health Sciences, Nutrition is an important part of our portfolio. We offer eight distance learning diploma courses in nutrition which are all accredited in 26 countries worldwide:
- Child & Adolescent Nutrition
- Ethical & Sustainable Eating
- Clinical Nutrition
- Advanced Nutrition
- Nutrition for Age 50 Plus
- Plant-Based Nutrition
- Sport & Exercise Nutrition
- Vegetarian & Vegan Nutrition
If you have any questions on the above courses, please contact us, by email or phone. If you’d prefer another subject, check out our course listing page where you will find more than 60 holistic therapies to choose from.