5 of the Best Food and Drinks For Brain Health
By GMB Nutritionist Melissa Fine
It’s easy to forget that our brains are where it’s at! The control centre of the body, your brain regulates how you feel, think, and move, all while instructing your organs to behave as they should.
If you’re feeling like you could do with more ‘brain food’, we’ve rounded up some of the best brain-boosting foods for you to stock up on.
1. Complex Carbohydrates
The ‘good’ kind of carbohydrate, by complex carbohydrates we mean unadulterated wholefoods, being
Fresh fruit and vegetables,
Legumes (beans and lentils), and
Wholegrains like brown rice, quinoa and steel-cut oats (although traditional rolled oats are great too)
Because each component of a complex carbohydrate food is still intact, it provides slow-releasing sugars that eventually break down into the simplest sugar possible – glucose, the brain’s primary energy source. This explains the dizziness, brain fog and moodiness that can come with a low carb diet.
2. Green Tea
Providing stimulating caffeine but in a gentler dose than coffee, green tea ALSO gives you a good dose of L-theanine – an amino acid with a calming effect on the brain. And as if that wasn’t enough, L-theanine can work synergistically with caffeine to improve cognitive (brain) function – this might explain the sudden mental clarity you feel after a cuppa green!
Don’t like the taste of green tea? Try a shot of shine+ instead…it contains green tea as one of its active ingredients, but comes without that astringent green tea taste that isn’t everyone’s cuppa tea (pardon the pun). We love its wake-me-up ginger lemon-lime flavour and that there’s brain-powering turmeric in here too (more on this in #5)…our new go-to coffee substitute when we hit a mental or physical slump.
3. Dark Chocolate
We know you were hoping this one would make the list! By dark chocolate we mean either pure cacao or cacao nibs, or a chocolate bar with a high cocoa percentage – at least 70 per cent. It’s the concentrated cacao or cocoa that gives you the natural compound theobromine; this has a similar structure to the caffeine in your coffee, but works as a gentler central nervous system stimulant – which means improved alertness without the coffee jitters.
4. Oily Fish
Salmon (the wild kind), sardines and mackerel are the richest sources of essential fatty acid omega-3 - ‘essential’ meaning the body can’t produce it so we need to obtain it from food. Interesting fact: the DHA component of omega-3 is found in large concentrations in the brain. DHA is important for neurological development in infants, and remains important throughout life due to its role in enhancing mental alertness and memory.
A number of epidemiological studies[^1] looking at disease occurrence in a human populations have found a high fish intake to be associated with a reduced risk of impaired cognitive function, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Vegan or vegetarian? Walnuts are the next best way to get some dietary omega-3 into you.
Another reason to add ground turmeric to whatever you’re cooking. Several epidemiological studies[^2] have found there to be a lower incidence and prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in India than in the US; it is thought that the turmeric in Indian curries could be one of the reasons why, as turmeric has been shown to be able to cross the blood-brain barrier, which means it can enter the brain and have a direct impact on brain cells.
There are number of theories behind the protective and memory-boosting mechanism of turmeric on the brain, with fingers pointing to its antioxidant (cell protective) and anti-inflammatory potential, to name a few.