Feeling forgetful lately? Trying to juggle too many things and writing list after never-ending list of to-dos?
Forgetfulness could be due to several factors (e.g. age, lack of sleep, genetics, level of physical activity). But here is an interesting question – does the food you eat have anything to do with how your brain functions? We here at PurpleCarrot Nutrition firmly believe in the power of food and have no doubt that what you eat has an impact on your ability to remember.
Your brain needs a steady supply of glucose. So, balancing your blood sugar levels is an essential first step in improving your memory. In addition, some studies have shown that a diet high in sugar increase inflammation in the brain which has a negative impact on memory. So, make sure you are following a low sugar, well balanced diet with plenty of fresh vegetables, protein, wholegrains and good fats. Eat regularly, at least three balanced meals a day and, if you feel the need, a couple of healthy snacks (don’t forget to balance those too!)
The bacteria in our gut have many roles including producing vitamins, regulating our immune system and helping us absorb nutrients. New research is showing that the bacteria in our gut may also have a large influence on our brain. It is so powerful that it is being called a “second brain”. Wow! Some research has suggested that supplementing with probiotics has a positive impact on memory function. So, make sure you add probiotic (Greek yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi) and prebiotic (leeks, onions, garlic) foods to your diet.
Antioxidants are fabulous for improving memory function. Because antioxidants protect cells from free-radical damage, eating high antioxidant foods is an excellent way to improve cognitive skills and slow brain aging. So, make sure you are eating foods that are high in antioxidants, mainly dark coloured fruit and veg (berries, spinach, apples, mango, broccoli and, of course, purple carrots!). Green tea and cocoa are also good sources of antioxidants. 60% of our brain is made up of fat and the majority of that fat is an Omega 3 essential fatty acid (EFA) known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Your brain needs fat to work properly. But not just any fat will do. You have to go for the good fats such as omega-3s. Studies have shown that increasing omega-3s has been shown to help memory. So, make sure you regularly include Omega 3s food sources such as oily fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel, sardines), chia seeds and flax seeds, and even eggs from chickens fed a flax-seed rich diet. You can also take a daily Omega 3 supplement…but talk to your GP or nutrition professional first to find a supplement that is right for you. B vitamins appear to play an important role in memory. A recent study found that taking vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid together reduced brain atrophy (loss of brain cells), improved brain function, and dramatically reduced brain shrinkage in the part of the brain most affected in Alzheimer’s. Include good sources of B vitamins include green leafy vegetables (try our courgette with spinach pesto) wholegrains, legumes, bananas, broccoli, eggs, fish, poultry.
Stress has been shown to have a negative impact on the brain. Too much stresses causes your body to release cortisol, which increases blood sugar levels. It also depletes those B vitamins that are essential for brain health. Why not try a yoga or meditation class? Studies suggest that both the quantity and quality of sleep have an impact on memory. There are two ways in which sleeps helps memory. First, if a person is sleep deprived, they cannot focus and learn. Second, sleeping helps to consolidate memories from the day, which is essential for learning new information. So, make sure you are catching both quantity and quality Z’s.
Exercising regularly has been shown to change the brain in a way that improves memory, thinking skills. As if you needed another reason to get motivated for the gym! While some days you can feel like you are losing your brain, it is important to remember that there are some things you can do right away that will boost your brainpower. So, make sure to include memory-boosting foods in your diet and adopt a healthy lifestyle. If you are looking for more specific recommendations on how to boost your memory and improve your health or have any questions on these article, please get in touch. We’d love to help with our personalised approach and research-based nutrition!