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You are what you eat, so the saying goes. (Hands up if that means you’re a cheeseburger.) Although this phrase often refers to foods that benefit the immune system and our physical health, eating food for brain power can give you a real boost too. Whether you’re working, studying or need laser-like focus on a task, eating brain foods can really help cognitive functions like memory, attention and concentration. ‘What is the best brain food?’ you ask? Well, we haven’t got just one, we’ve got five brain healthy foods for you to try!
1. Oily fish
Fish like sardines, salmon and mackerel are famed for being stinky, but their fishy ‘aroma’ is worth it for the benefits they can give your physical wellbeing. And did you know that these Omega 3-rich swimmers are also great foods for focus and memory?
A 2017 study found a link between high levels of the essential fats found in oily fish and increased blood flow to the brain. The study also connected improved cognitive skills as a result of the Omega 3s. Sardines on toast, tuna sushi rolls, grilled mackerel with potatoes, salmon en croute… there’s more than one way to skin (or eat!) a fish. Just keep the breath mints on hand for afterwards.
Blueberries are packed with antioxidants, which place them high up the list of brain boosting foods. It’s these antioxidants that may well reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, helping brain cells to communicate with each other more efficiently. Smart.
The result of this interaction can play a big role in improved short-term memory, making this tiny little berry a potentially great food for concentration. Add them to your smoothie or bowl of yoghurt for a hit of brain boosting power – you’ll be mastering that tricky Sudoku puzzle in no time.
High levels of vitamin B and folic acid are the reason for eggs being placed on a lot of lists of the best brain food. It’s this nutrient combination that can help reduce a blood compound called homocysteine, which has been linked to a reduction in cognitive ability and even stroke.
In addition, egg yolk contains high levels of choline. This nutrient is essential for the production of a memory boosting chemical called acetylcholine. As you can see, eggs may be small, but they really are a mighty powerful food for brain power. Scrambled or poached, on toast or a muffin, eggs are versatile and there are many ways to enjoy them – and many ways to dribble them down your chin. Cue a sheet of kitchen paper to wipe your/ your loved one’s sticky face. Love is… cleaning egg yolk dribbles off each other’s chins!
As with eggs, it’s the high vitamin content that makes broccoli one of the best foods for focus and general brain power. This time it’s vitamin K, which is well known for its ability to improve cognitive function. On top of that, broccoli is also high in glucosinolates, another compound that helps keep memories sharp.
If you’re not a fan, there’s some good news – broccoli isn’t the only vegetable that’s high in glucosinolates. Cauliflower, kale and cabbage are other brain boosting foods in the family. As for vitamin K, you can also get a good hit in kiwi fruit, avocado and beef liver, amongst others. So there’s pretty much something for everyone there. Add broccoli and its cousins as side dishes or whizz them up in a smoothie to get your vitamin K boost.
Storing vegetables in kitchen paper can help them to last longer, and Plenty kitchen paper is perfect for the job. Whether you need the paper dry or damp, it’s strong and absorbent, which is just what you want to keep those veggies fresh.
You probably know it as a staple in curries and many other spiced dishes from Asia and the Middle East, but did you know that turmeric is amongst the best brain foods too? This is because of the high levels of curcumin, the active ingredient that gives turmeric its famous golden tone – that same tone that can stain your clothes if you accidentally spill curry down your front. If you’re an ‘expressive’ eater (messiness is in the eye of the beholder), then tuck a sheet or two of kitchen paper into your collar and on your lap to catch any wayward drips.
With the potential stain situation sorted, you can confidently tuck into dishes containing turmeric. It contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties too, and has been linked to improved memory and mood. That’s a great combination when you’re looking for a nutritious food for concentration.
Try adding one, two or all of these brain healthy foods to your next dinner and give the old grey matter a boost!