Eating well: it’s easier said than done. During a busy week of training and work, family life and social occasions, dialling in your diet can often feel like one rep too many. But neglect your nutritional intake at your peril, as it’s directly linked to dozens and dozens of bodily functions, from muscle-building to sleep and mental health to digestion. One of the most important functions it can contribute to, however, is your productivity and cognitive ability. You are what you eat, after all.
Choosing certain foods and ingredients can “optimise brain health and reduce the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” explains Rachel Butcher, Head of Nutrition at Natural Fitness Food, all through “prioritising plant-based foods and exercising portion control with foods high in saturated fats.”
But, which foods should you be stocking your cupboards and fridge with? Below, Butcher shares some of her dietary non-negotiables:
Omega-3 fatty acids
“Beneficial for learning and memory as we age, our brain’s grey matter naturally decreases,” says Butcher. “Omega-3 fatty acids can actually help increase the volume of grey matter in our brain.”
“This is important in the nervous system, mood and cognitive function as folate deficiency
Is linked with depression and dementia,” says Butcher.
“Vitamin E is linked to improved cognitive and memory function by decreasing oxidative stress,” Butcher explains.
“These antioxidants are associated with improved cognitive performance.”
“Flavonoids are neuroprotective and have the potential to promote cognitive function, learning and memory,” says Butcher, who goes on to explain that there are certain ingredients you should be prioritising when it comes to your nutrition game. These include…
- All vegetables, particularly green leafy veg (the darker the better) such as kale and spinach
- Fish and seafood, particular oily omega-3-rich options such as salmon, mackerel & sardines
- Berries, the more varied in colour your diet, the better – berries are a source of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Studies have demonstrated that flavonoid-rich berries may have a positive impact on neurodegenerative diseases thanks to their anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties)
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive oil
- Whole grains, as high sugar intake has been linked with a quicker decline in brain function so prioritise whole grains over simple carbs as these complex carbs are broken down more slowly with their sugars released gradually, opt instead for brown rice, quinoa, whole grain bread and pasta, buckwheat and steel-cut oats