Brain Food: the importance of nutrition for healthy cognitive function
Here at Sydney Neurofeedback Centre, we have always encouraged any clients undertaking Neurofeedback Brain Training to prioritise a nutritionally-dense diet rich in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. And why do we strongly believe that a healthy diet equals a healthy brain?
Firstly we need to acknowledge that the brain never gets a rest - it's always switched ON 24/7. In fact, the brain uses more energy than any other organ in the human body to power a variety of functions from breathing and maintaining a heartbeat, to figuring out difficult maths equations and regulating mood. But this is only possible when our brain is supplied with fuel - fuel that comes in the form of what we eat and drink.
But not all food is created equally! Your brain can only function at it's best when it's fed good fuel. Diets composed of seasonal fruits and vegetables, unprocessed grains, fresh seafood, fermented foods and the occasional serving of red meat and dairy has been shown to support healthy intestinal flora and gut function, and thereby supporting strong neural pathways that directly link the gut and brain. In turn, this gut-brain communication influences our cognition, memory, thoughts, mood and overall brain health. In fact, some foods have the ability to preserve and protect the brain.
What are our top brain foods recommendations and why?
Fatty fish - naturally high in Omega-3s (healthy fats) to support the structural integrity of brain cells and strengthens cell-to-cell communication. There is also strong evidence for the use of fish oils in treating depression, memory loss and inflammation (Dyall, 2015)
Eggs - make eggs an essential component of your diet as they're rich in choline (B Vitamin complex) - a precursor to acetylcholine needed for memory and learning (Kovacs-Nolan et al, 2005)
Avocado - our favourite toast-topper is mainly comprised of healthy fats and contains the brain-loving vitamins E, K, C and B. It also contains the amino acid tyrosine, a precursor to dopamine - a neurotransmitter that enhances motivation (Walters et al, 2017)
Blueberries - naturally high in polyphenols and flavanoids - compounds found in colourful fruits and vegetables with strong anti-oxidant activity. Research has shown that blueberries can improve memory recall, slow the rate of cognitive decline and improve cognitive performance (Spencer et al, 2017)
Nuts & Seeds - one of the highest nutritional sources of Vitamin E, daily intake of nuts and seeds has been associated with improved vascular function, cognitive performance and a decreased risk of developing age-related mental decline (Martin et al, 2002)
Dyall, S. C. (2015). Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and the brain: a review of the independent and shared effects of EPA, DPA and DHA. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 7, 52.
Kovacs-Nolan, J. et al (2005). Advances in the Value of Eggs and Egg Components for Human Health. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 53, 22.
Martin, A. et al. (2002). Effects of fruits and vegetables on levels of vitamins E and C in the brain and their association with cognitive performance. The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, 6, 6.
Spencer, S. J. et al. (2017). Food for thought: how nutrition impacts cognition and emotion. Nature: Science of Food, 1, 7.
Walters, M. et al. (2017) Role of Nutrition to Promote Healthy Brain Aging and Reduce Risk of Alzheimer's Disease. Current Nutrition Reports, 6, 63.