You are what you eat: Just as gasoline or oil is to a machine, so is food to your brain. Your brain is the fattiest organ in your body with DHA (a type of omega 3 fatty acid) making up to 35 per cent of the brain’s dry content hence an essential component of brain cells. Omega 3 is only found in food sources. What if I told you that your brain is one of the starved organs in your body, would you believe me? Well, it is. The following are some of what I like to call ‘happy hour’ foods for the brain.
Avocados: Here is all avocado lovers can celebrate… having been on the right track all along. They have one of the highest fat capacity of any fruit or vegetable (FAT is good for you…the good kind of fat.), and it boasts of a cocktail of different types of vitamin E – which is more than any supplement can provide – and carotenoids which are antioxidants. It is also rich in potassium (twice the amounts found in bananas) which is linked with vascular dementia and stroke.
Tip: Aim for a 1/2 to a 1 avocado daily in a salad, or as a spread on your toast, or in your fruit juice/ smoothie. Or maybe mix it up with an egg yolk and some black pepper for an interesting deviled egg (why it is called deviled, I do not know).
Berries: These have among the highest antioxidant capacity of most fruits due to an abundance of flavonoids. Even more remarkable is their ability to cross the blood to brain barrier a factor that helps enhance the brain’s memory centre and mood.
Tip: Experiment with salads, or smoothies or snack on your berries either way berries, berries, berries. Black berries, raspberries, strawberries or blueberries. Opt for organic, but even dried ones will suffice.
Dark chocolate: In addition to being one of the richest sources of magnesium, dark chocolate’s cocoa flavonoids have the ability to reverse signs of cognitive aging. Another added benefit of this bitter dark is that it improves insulin sensitivity as well as vascular function (hence blood flow to the brain).
Tip: This is not the milky and sugar filled chocolate products in the market, look for chocolate with cacao content above 80%, and one that isn’t processed with alkali aka dutch processing and one with minimal sugar content (lower than the cacao content). The nutrition information should be indicated on the packaging.
Dark leafy greens: The only dark side of life you should dare to revel in. Leafy greens are rich in nitrite, a compound that is linked with the dilation of blood vessels and in the expansion of arteries while improving blood flow hence an uninterrupted fuel supply to your brain. Foods like terere (amaranth), managu, beet greens (beet root leaves), spinach, broccoli, and swiss chards.
Tip – sauté in some olive oil and add garlic, or steam and add some butter and season. You can add to your smoothies for your source of fiber.
Eggs: Did you know that eggs contain a little of nearly every vitamin and mineral required in the body? Vitamin A, B12, E, selenium and even zinc just to name a few. Most notable though is choline; a component of a neurotransmitter responsible for learning and memory. They also have carotenoids that boost the brains processing speeds.
Tip - Scramble, poach, fry or boil. Do it how you like itAnd for a twist, how about an egg curry?
Ababach Tamiru, nutritionist/ dietician, C&P Health Centre.