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Foods that boost brain health, Q&A with Teresa Mitchell-Paterson

August 2017 Print
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Our brain is arguably the most important organ in our body. It controls and coordinates actions and reactions; manages how we walk, talk and learn; is responsible for our feelings; regulates breathing, sleep and hormonal balance; and even determines the mates we choose. So eating well to support brain health really is a no brainer!

But which foods are most important to keep our grey matter happy and give us a boost in brain power? We caught up with Naturopath, Nutritionist and Educator, Teresa Mitchell-Paterson for a Q&A session to find out.

Which foods support good brain health?

  • Fruit and vegetables: Flavonoids found in brightly coloured fruit and vegetables are notably the best foods for protecting our brain from toxins and oxidative damage. Flavonoid-rich foods are found in high amounts in cocoa, and all berries. They help to heal brain damage, promote memory and thinking processes and impact the way we learn. [1]
  • Other unrefined foods: Foods such as those found in the Mediterranean diet, fish, nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains and small amounts of meat are also very beneficial. [2] Fish, nuts and seeds contain varying amounts of omega-3s, which stabilise the way we think, making us calmer, and are vital for brain development.[3] Whole grains and meat contain vitamin E and B-vitamin groups, both of which help to stop the brain ‘rusting’, protecting brain cells from oxidative damage and preserving brain longevity. [4,5]

If we can’t get all those nutrients from food, what supplements can we take to make up for it?

Whilst it is quite easy to eat plenty of cocoa and berries to obtain flavonoids, it is not quite as easy to get optimal levels of Omega-3s, vitamin E and B vitamins from a modern western diet. A review of guidelines for intake of these nutrients suggests that we may need much more than the current Recommended Daily Intake (RDI), so consider fish oil – for omega-3s – vitamin E and B-vitamin supplements to support brain health.[3,4,5]

Always talk to your healthcare professional to determine which supplements are suitable for you.

What other ways can we boost brain health naturally?

  1. Physical exercise – it can actually help us grow new brain cells and protects the brain against disease.[6]
  2. Challenge your brain – learning a new language or participating in an educational course is like exercise for the brain – it keeps the brain supple and fast thinking. Couple this with the social aspect of interacting with others and you have a great way of boosting brainpower.[6]
  3. Overnight 6pm- 6am fast or intermittent fast – we all love food but from an evolutionary stand point the brain works better and heals quicker in a fasted state.[6]
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