“The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10 thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.” Michio Kaku – Professor of Theoretical Physics
Perhaps this quote explains why the internet is awash with a plethora of brain health supplements making any number of brain health claims.
A quick google search immediately throws up - 8 Supplements to Help Improve Cognition and Brain Health from Amazon, and 31 Brain & Memory Support products from Holland and Barret and the offerings go and on and on and on and on….
Combine this with the oceans of misleading and often contradictory information about nutrition on the internet, and I am left wondering if there is anything credible, that I can put in my mouth on a day to day basis, to protect and enhance my amazing and clearly very complicated brain?
To avoid a solution that may be drenched in hearsay and in expensive pill form, I turn to the known peer reviewed chemistry and biology of food, and adopt the approach of Dr Mark Hyman…
“Food is not just a source of energy or calories. Food is information. It contains instructions that affect every biological function of your body. It is" the stuff that controls everything."
So, are there foods that contain the chemistry and biology, or information and instructions, our brains need to function at their peak?
What follows are some of the top foods that contain the information and instructions that our brains need (according to the latest peer reviewed science).
Oily fish contain a type of Omega 3 (DHA), which has been shown to have an indispensable role in the information processing system in our brain and spinal cord, and a general consensus in science is that DHA from food sources slows cognitive decline.
Seeds and nuts
For vegetarians and vegans another type of omega 3 (ALA), that we can covert to DHA is also present in good amounts in flaxseeds, chia seeds (hence the superfood tag that these carry), and walnuts.
An ingredient not often associated with health benefits, however lamb is a great source of the essential amino acid Phenylalanine. Phenylalanine is used by our brain to create a chemical called norepinephrine that keeps us awake, and alert and also acts as an antidepressant and painkiller.
Good vegetarian and vegan sources of phenylalanine are pea protein and soya products. NB. For phenylalanine to work properly we also need good supplies of iron, niacin, vitamin B6, copper and vitamin C, so combine lamb or soya with a glass of orange juice and you are well on the way to a brain tonic.
Being a foodie, oysters come high up on my list of luxuries, and are the highest ingredient for Zinc, a mineral that is essential for brain function. Oysters are also a source of omega 3. One oyster will provide over 100% of your daily needs for Zinc!
Good vegetarian and vegan sources of Zinc
Wheatgerm, Quorn, buckwheat and wholemeal pasta. Zinc contributes to cognitive function, which includes perception, thinking, memory, learning and attention, so oysters and buckwheat may be ultimate brain foods!
The ultimate brain food meal?
Oysters to start followed by lamb chops on a bed of baby spinach! (Vegetarian and vegan option is also available)
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Director - Nutrient expert, researcher & data miner
I am responsible for the scientific research and data oversight at the CheckYourFood Group. A great journey of discovery for me as I uncover the myriad of goodness that natural food contains and facilitate others to promote health and wellbeing.