Boosting brain health through nutrition

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) 

Examples of: 

  • 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.  

References

  1. González Olmo, B., Butler, M., & Barrientos, R. (2021). Evolution of the Human Diet and Its Impact on Gut Microbiota, Immune Responses, and Brain Health. Nutrients13(1), 196. doi: 10.3390/nu13010196 
  1. 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
  1. (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/ 
  1. Welland, D. (2009). Does D Make a Difference?. Scientific American Mind20(6), 14-14. doi: 10.1038/scientificamericanmind1109-14 
  1. 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 
  1. Petersson, S., & Philippou, E. (2016). Mediterranean Diet, Cognitive Function, and Dementia: A Systematic Review of the Evidence. Advances In Nutrition7(5), 889-904. doi: 10.3945/an.116.012138 

Other cites: 

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 Reviews31, 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. Nutrients13(1), 24. doi: 10.3390/nu13010024 

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