Brain Foods. What to Eat to Be Clever


4-mealsThere are many important factors in brain development but no scientifically proven links with specific types of food. That said, a balanced and varied diet obviously ensures that all possible factors important for brain development are present and there are some foods that are better than others for stimulating the brain cells.


Natural starches

Although weighing only 2 per cent of total body weight, the brain uses approximately 20 per cent of the body's energy at rest. The brain's energy stores are very small, so to keep it functioning at its best it needs sugar or fuel, which is derived from carbohydrates. When levels of sugar in the blood fluctuate, behaviour and learning become erratic. The best foods to keep blood sugars steady for the brain are the complex carbohydrates that contain natural starches and so supply a steady source of fuel, such as porridge, wholegrain cereal, brown rice and sweet potatoes.


Foods that contain iron have been shown to prevent anaemia, a condition that leads to tiredness, decreased mental alertness, lowered IQ and overall apathy. Iron is also important for transporting oxygen in haemoglobin in our red blood cells to all organs in the body including our brain, therefore iron is vital for good brain function. High iron foods are red meat, liver, dried fruit and iron-enriched cereals such as Weetabix.

Fatty acids

The idea that fat could be important to human health may seem hard to believe but the fact is that fat is vital to every cell, tissue and organ. In the first year of life, a baby's brain grows at a very fast rate, generally tripling in size by the first birthday. Fats are a major component of the brain - this is one of the reasons why 50 perr cent of the calories of breast milk are composed of fat. A large proportion of the human brain is composed of fatty acids, which are substances that form part of the membranes around every living cell. Fatty acids are found particularly in eye and brain membranes and play an important role in vision and bram cell function. There are two essential types of fatty acids that have been shown to be important for brain and visual development. They are alpha-linolenic (omega-3) and linoleic (omega-6) acids.

Foods rich in omega-3 are linseed oil, walnut oil, salmon, tuna, trout and sardines. Foods rich in omega-6 are safflower oil, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil and soft polyunsaturated margarine.

Did you know? Research suggests that a diet rich in omega-6 and omega-3 acids may improve the performance of children with attention deficit disorder, byperactivity or dyspraxia.

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