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Feed your mind

Feed your mind

Issue 60 September 2009

Give your brain the boost it needs by eating the right food for a healthy mind. Noreen A. Kassem provides some much needed food for thought.

You may have heard the saying,‘You are what you eat’, and with this month’s health focus it seems that you think what you eat too. The foods we eat help to fuel both our body and our brain – studies show that eating the right foods can boost brain performance, improve mood, sharpen memory and even stabilise emotions. There are certain foods that offer more nutrients to the brain and not only help you think more clearly but also protect the brain and keep it functioning optimally. So let’s get our brain power off to a healthy start with some food for thought!

Five Mindful Tips

1. Eat a protein based lunch to optimise your mental performance and alertness throughout the day. Try a lentil soup or baked chicken or fish.

2. Eat foods rich in vitamins and minerals to ‘fine tune’ your mind. These include plenty of fruits and vegetables, particularly brightly coloured foods such as blueberries and mangoes

3. Drink up to two litres of water a day to keep your brain well hydrated. Try green tea which is a powerful antioxidant and helps you stay hydrated.

4. Oxygenate your brain by exercising and eating little and often. Eat your main meal before 7pm and do not eat at least two hours before you go to bed.

5. Sleep well—getting enough sleep during night time hours helps the body rebuild itself and protect the brain. We all think better after a good night’s sleep!


An excellent source of protein which help your cells to keep healthy. Egg  protein contains all the essential amino acids needed by the human body.


Improves your brain matter, your mood, your synaptic connections, and is one of the best sources of essential fatty acids.

Cacao beans

Not to be confused with Cadbury’s, the original cacao beans are a veritable powerhouse of cognitive enhancement, mood and even bliss.


A great source of calcium which is not only important for healthy bones and teeth but is involved in the transmission of nerve impulses.


May reduce the risk of developing cognitive impairment by diminishing oxidative stress.


Contains vitamins B2 (necessary for the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates) and B12, essential for a healthy nervous system.Foods to Boost Your Brain Power!


Lulu Malik, 24, Economics Graduate

“When I was studying for my GCSE exams, mum always told me to eat more almonds. I thought it was an old wives’ tale, but I ate them nonetheless. Munching on them while I looked over my revision notes, at the very least, kept me more awake. Later, I found out that almonds are actually beneficial for you, as nuts are packed with protein and essential fatty acids, which are essential for good brain health.

This led me to ask ‘Shaykh Google’ for more tips on brain food. At university, while other students were gorging on pasta and junk food, I was more careful about what I ate as I was desperate to give my brain all the support it needed! Before I changed my dietary ways, I used to grab anything I could find in the morning – which was sometimes a chocolate bar I am embarrassed to say.

Now I have foods that don’t give me that midday brain fog, which often used to spread to the late afternoon. So I eat a poached or scrambled egg with a bit of wild salmon and brown toast for breakfast, followed by a banana or slice of mango. Whereas before I would find it hard to concentrate which was made worse by the fact I was so hungry all morning, I can now work right through the day to lunchtime, when it’s time for my next brainy fix!

Though I have to say that even though I don’t have chocolate in the morning, I do have a large dose each day – I take it medicinally! It’s not the common confectionary you get in the newsagents, but a dark chocolate which is at least 75%. I have heard that it helps increase blood flow to the brain and improves brain function – now that’s what I call chocolate!

Since cutting out junk and increasing my diet with vegetables, and fish which I try to eat twice a week, I have definitely noticed a difference. And it all started with mum and her almond advice eight years ago. I am now happier, less tired and hopefully more brainy!

Brain Exercise

Eating the right foods, as we’ve discussed, is of course essential to maintaining brainpower. But we wouldn’t be true health gurus if we didn’t chant the age old mantra employed by every healthy-living expert: ‘Exercise, exercise, exercise!’ We often forget that the brain is the central hub for all the activity that goes on in our bodies; it is, essentially, the malik of metabolism, the emperor of enzymes, the king of kinetic energy [okay, you get the idea]. Your brain is a thinking organ that learns and grows by interacting with the world through perception and action. It is able to continually adapt and rewire itself; even in old age, new brain cells are consistently growing.

Although the origin of mental decline is often cited as some form of cognitive disease, many of the age-related losses in motor function are simply a result of inactivity and lack of mental exercise. Thus scientists have concluded that exercising your brain can create a cognitive reserve that will help you stay sharp as you age.

Studies show that simple cerebral activities such as doing a crossword or Sudoku puzzle can help ward off­ Alzheimer’s disease. Other brain-activities such as learning a new language, writing with your left hand if you are normally right-handed and playing memory games are all essential components of ‘mental aerobics’. But don’t turn in your gym card just yet! Researc hers also suggest that physical exertion canal so help keep your mind agile in later life. Simple activities such as getting up from your desk and going for a brisk walk could improve ‘decision-making’ and ‘focus’. Well, they do say a healthier mind results from a healthy body!


Brain snack

Anti-aging brain mix

1 cup walnuts

½ cup pine nuts

¼ cup sesame seeds

½ cup pumpkin seeds

¼ cup of dried goji berries

½ cup dried apricots

“Blueberries can delay the onset of age-related memory loss.”


Tomato, Tomatoe! The BBC in their ‘Good Food’ section suggest that a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes could help protect brain cells from diseases like dementia.

Who? What? Where? Ever walk in to a room and forget why you’re there? Eating a mix of wholegrain foods such as cereal, wheat germ and whole-wheat pasta can help sustain your memory.


I can’t see the Vitamin C! Though oranges are considered to be the best source for vitamin C, blackcurrants are actually one of the best sources of this vital vitamin, which has the power to increase mental agility.


Inhale…Exhale! After a big meal, most of your body’s oxygen is occupied by your digestive system, as it is busy digesting the food you’ve eaten. This means that your brain is being denied the oxygen it needs to function and  stay alert hence the reason you feel sleepy after a big meal. The trick? Try and eat small portions regularly.

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