Which foods should I eat to keep my brain healthy?

Most of us are aware that what we eat is important to our physical health but did you know that diet also plays a critical role in our brain health?

Can the Mediterranean diet support brain health?
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Which foods should I eat to keep my brain healthy?

Most of us are aware that what we eat is important to our physical health but did you know that diet also plays a critical role in our brain health? There are certain foods we should be seeing on our plates more often, and others we should be trying to keep to a minimum. So, when it comes to brainfood, what should we be fuelling up on?

Brain superfoods

According to research, there are certain foods that are high in nutrients which have been linked to enhanced cognitive function. Some of these foods include fish which is rich in omega-3 and nuts and seeds which are rich in vitamin E and B¹.

Don’t forget about heart health foods too! Studies have shown that there is a link between brain health and heart health, with cardiovascular disease being linked to a higher risk of dementia². Eating plenty of fruits vegetables and wholegrains and foods that are rich in protein such as fish, meat, legumes and eggs helps to not only keep your heart healthy but benefits your brain health too.

A healthy diet is something we should be aiming for, with plenty of foods mentioned above incorporated into our daily eating pattern. There is one diet however that research has shown is particularly beneficial to brain health. The Mediterranean diet (based on the diets of those who live in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea such as France Greece, Italy and Spain) is associated with better cognitive function, lower rates of cognitive decline and a reduced risk of dementia³. Embracing the Mediterranean diet typically involves eating lots of fruit, vegetables, legumes, cereals, and a moderate consumption of oil fish and dairy⁴.  It’s also a diet that is low in some of the foods that are detrimental to brain health such as salt, sugar, red meat and processed foods⁵.

Worst foods for your brain

While brain superfoods are great, many of us also need to be aware that there are certain foods which we should be aiming to keep to a minimum. These foods not only impact our health but can have a negative impact on how the brain functions. Foods that are rich in sugar, salt and saturated fats (think foods such as butter, cheese, greasy foods, fatty cuts of meat and cakes) are often harmful to our brain health¹.

A diet high in saturated fat can sometimes lead to obesity which research has shown is a risk factor for dementia⁶. While consuming too much salt can lead to hypertension, which can restrict oxygen flow to the brain, causing cells to die, which is known as brain atrophy⁷. So, it’s important to keep your consumption of saturated fat and salt to a minimum.

In particular, if you have a sweet tooth, it’s important think of other ways to get your fix. For example, swapping a slice of cake for a piece of fruit. The overconsumption of sugar is associated with type 2 diabetes (a condition where the body can no longer use insulin properly to regulate blood sugar levels) which is a known risk factor for dementia⁸.

Knowing which foods to eat regularly and which you should try to minimise consumption of will not only help with your overall health, but your brain will thank you too.

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