There are stacks of evidence linking the Western diet to negatively impacting the health of the brain by causing many diseases and disorders as well as depression (1). A balanced diet nourishes your entire body, including your mind. Your brain uses a massive 20% of the energy you consume – meaning we need to ensure we are fuelling the right sources to maximise our brain health (2). Nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids, vitamin D, vitamin E and are linked to maintenance of brain health as they allow the cells in our brain to communicate. (3)
- Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid which means are body is not able to make them so we must get them through our diet. Examples include: Salmon, walnuts, flax seed, chia seeds, kiwi’s.
- Flavonoids help with cell signalling pathways to get message from the brain around the body. These are found in: Cacao, citrus fruits and dark leafy greens.
- Vitamin D activates and deactivates enzymes in the brain which involve neurotransmitter synthesis and nerve growth (4): found in eggs, oily fish, plant-based sources found in algae, chlorophyl, mushrooms.
- Vitamin E is an important antioxidant which helps to protect the brain from oxidative stress. Which is found in almonds, seeds, what germ and olive oil.
The Mediterranean diet has been shown to prevent a decline in brain health. This diet consists of high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole-grains and legumes, low-to-moderate intake of dairy products, low intake of meat (red and poultry), a high intake of unsaturated fats vs saturated, moderate intake of alcohol. (5, 6)
Foods to include to boost your brain: Wide range of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, beans, pulses, legumes, nuts, seeds, oily fish and lean protein sources such as white fish, eggs, tofu.
Foods to avoid for brain health: high sugary foods and drinks, refined / white carbohydrates, products high in trans fats, highly processed foods, red meat, artificial sweeteners, products high in saturated fats, high consumptions of alcohol.
- González Olmo, B., Butler, M., & Barrientos, R. (2021). Evolution of the Human Diet and Its Impact on Gut Microbiota, Immune Responses, and Brain Health. Nutrients, 13(1), 196. doi: 10.3390/nu13010196
- Richardson, M. (2021). How Much Energy Does the Brain Use?. Retrieved 17 March 2021, from https://www.brainfacts.org/brain-anatomy-and-function/anatomy/2019/how-much-energy-does-the-brain-use-020119#:~:text=How%20much%20energy%20does%20the%20brain%20require%3F,in%20terms%20of%20energy%20use.
- (2021). Retrieved 17 March 2021, from https://www.ageuk.org.uk/information-advice/health-wellbeing/mind-body/staying-sharp/looking-after-your-thinking-skills/diet-and-brain-health/
- Welland, D. (2009). Does D Make a Difference?. Scientific American Mind, 20(6), 14-14. doi: 10.1038/scientificamericanmind1109-14
- Gauci, S., Young, L., Macpherson, H., White, D., Benson, S., Pipingas, A., & Scholey, A. (2021). Mediterranean diet and its components. Nutraceuticals In Brain Health And Beyond, 293-306. doi: 10.1016/b978-0-12-820593-8.00020-3
- Petersson, S., & Philippou, E. (2016). Mediterranean Diet, Cognitive Function, and Dementia: A Systematic Review of the Evidence. Advances In Nutrition, 7(5), 889-904. doi: 10.3945/an.116.012138
Wahl, D., Cogger, V., Solon-Biet, S., Waern, R., Gokarn, R., & Pulpitel, T. et al. (2016). Nutritional strategies to optimise cognitive function in the aging brain. Ageing Research Reviews, 31, 80-92. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2016.06.006
Begdache, L., Sadeghzadeh, S., Derose, G., & Abrams, C. (2020). Diet, Exercise, Lifestyle, and Mental Distress among Young and Mature Men and Women: A Repeated Cross-Sectional Study. Nutrients, 13(1), 24. doi: 10.3390/nu13010024