Nutrition Expert Editorial Team June 16, 2017

To function well, our brain relies on a constant supply of essential vitamins and minerals, proteins and healthy fats. The occasional treat won't do us any harm, but eating a diet too high in sugar, salt and trans-fats can have a harmful effect on our brain and cause it to slow down.

Here, nutritionist Rob Hobson reveals the top five foods we should all be eating to keep our brains healthy…

1. Wholegrain cereals

Wholegrain cereals are bursting with vitamin B1 which boosts cognitive activity, learning capacity and brain function. “They’re low GI, which means that they release energy steadily throughout the day, rather than giving the body a massive surge of glucose,” explains Hannah.

“Eating wholegrain and brown carbohydrates rather than white allows the brain to function better and at a higher rate for a longer period.”

2. Oily fish

Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, or sardines, are a great source of the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. These essential fatty acids help to lower cholesterol levels and help protect against strokes by reducing the risk of blood clots forming in the arteries connected to the brain.

“Aim to eat at least two portions of fish each week - one of which should be oily”, says Hannah. Don’t like oily fish? Try a supplement! Omega 3 supplements, cod liver oil and krill oil supplements all provide beneficial fatty acids.

3. Leafy green vegetables

Vitamin B3, found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach, is important to help boost memory and, as a bonus, could help alleviate symptoms of depression and dementia.

“Some leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli, also contain vitamin K which is important for cognition and brain function, while kale and spinach are high in lutein and zeaxanthin, which helps to protect your eyes from the likes of age-related macular degeneration (AMD)” adds Hannah.

4. Eggs and milk

These foods are high in vitamin B12 which is linked to the production of ‘acetylcholine’: a neurotransmitter which helps memory and learning. Vitamin B12 is also needed for energy production and plays a vital role in turning carbohydrates into glucose.

A study in Finland, involving 271 people aged 65 -79, found there may be a link between a deficiency in vitamin B12 and Alzheimer’s. Research is ongoing, so watch this space.

5. Folate foods

Folate-rich foods, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, chickpeas and fortified cereals, are packed with folic acid, also known as vitamin B9. Folic acid helps the body to produce red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the brain.

“Higher levels of folate have been found to reduce the effects of ageing on the brain - especially when it comes to spatial copying cognitive skills,” says Hannah.

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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