By: Kelly Atyeo, B.A.Sc., M.H.Sc., P.H.Ec.
You can think of the brain as a large Communications Corporation. It employs a staff of 100 billion neurons (brain cells) that send messages to the rest of the “work stations” in the body.1
In order to function, the brain requires 20-25% of the oxygen you need and a lot of energy in the form of glucose (sugar).1 Like any business, you want it to be as successful as possible. Treat your brain the same way and learn about some key nutrients that can help provide more brainpower!
Omega 3 fatty acids
The fats that we eat in our diet have direct effects on the brain2, especially an omega 3 fatty acid called DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) which is extremely important for brain health, as it is a key part of neurons.2
DHA is necessary to provide structure and function of the brain. Research shows that it may help promote memory function and reduce behavioural conditions, such as attention-deficit disorder, depression and dementia.2,3 Also - several studies have linked DHA intake to possibly improving children’s performance in school.2
Food sources of DHA: Salmon, Anchovies, halibut, Omega-3 eggs4
Certain plants produce chemicals called flavonols that provide health benefits. A type of flavonol called quercetin has received a lot of attention for its possible benefits to brain health.2 Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant, which means it helps prevent cells in the brain from being damaged. By protecting brain cells, flavonols like quercetin may help improve memory and prevent conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.2, 5
Food sources of Flavonols: Apples, grapes, red wine, citrus fruits2,5
This is a B-vitamin that is extremely important for growth, development and function of the brain. Like other B-vitamins, folate promotes emotional wellbeing, and may help reduce depression and cognitive issues.2,6
Food Sources of Folate: Spinach, asparagus, broccoli, avocado7
Several other antioxidants are found naturally in the foods we eat that also protect your brain cells from damage. These include Vitamin E, Vitamin C and curcumin.2, 8 The antioxidant in curcumin is found in tumeric, which is traditionally used in Indian curry spices. Curcumin is thought to potentially help treat Alzheimer’s disease.2, 9
Food Sources of Antioxidants: Fruits & Vegetables, Nuts, Seeds, Herbs
Brain Power Breakfast!
There is a relationship between brain function and breakfast. When you eat breakfast, you’re fueling your brain with the nutrients it needs to keep you energized and alert.
Try this healthy chicken breakfast recipe to kick-start your day with some of the nutrients described above. Add some spinach to the burrito and a grapefruit on the side to really boost your brain power!
- Neuroscience Canada. (n.d.). Brain Facts. Retrieved December 24, 2013, from http://braincanada.ca/files/NeuroScience_Canada_Brain_Facts.pdf
- Gomez-Pinilla, F. (2008). Brain Foods: the effect of nutrients on brain function. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9(7), 568-578, Retrieved December 24, 2013, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18568016
- Blaylock, R.L. (2008). DHA Supports Brain Development and Protects Neurological Function. Retrieved December 24, 2013, from http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2008/jan2008_report_dhafishoil_01.htm
- Dietitians of Canada. (2013). Food Sources of Omega-3 Fats. Retrieved December 24, 2013, from http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Fats/Food-Sources-of-Omega-3-Fats.aspx
- Linus Pauling Institute. (2008). Flavonoids. Retrieved December 24, 2013, from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/flavonoids/
- University of Maryland Medical Centre. (2011). Vitamin B9 (folic acid). Retrieved December 24, 2013, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-b9-folic-acid
- Dietitians of Canada. (2013). Food Sources of Folate. Retrieved December 24, 2013, from http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Folate.aspx
- Harrison, F. & May, J. (2009). Vitamin C Function in the Brain: Vital Role of the Ascorbate Transporter (SVCT2). Free Radical Biology & Medicine, 46(6), 719-730. Retrieved December 24, 2013, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2649700/
- Mishra, S. & Palanivelu, K. The effect of curcumin (tumeric) on Alzheimer’s disease: An overview. Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology, 11(1), 13-19. Retrieved December 24, 2013, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781139/