World Brain Day 2023: Foods to eat and avoid for sharper memory, improving brain health
Are you eating the right foods for your brain? Here's a list of foods to eat and avoid for improving memory and preventing dementia.
Nutrition plays a key role in the functioning of the brain. Certain foods make you feel energetic and brighten up a dull day while others can have an opposite effect. For all its complex functions, brain uses 20% of the total available energy while it is only 2% of a person's weight. This means if you aren't eating nutrient-dense foods, following extreme diets or eating junk this can affect functioning of your brain. The quality of your diet directly impacts your brain function. Sugary and fatty foods can leave your brain malnourished and in long term can cause inflammation in the brain. Eating a balanced diet with all essential nutrients can help development of brain in children while helping adults to maintain efficient cognitive function. World Brain Day 2023 is celebrated on July 22 every year to promote the importance of brain health and ways to maintain it. (Also read: World Brain Day 2023: Date, history, significance, theme and everything you need to know)
Ramya B, Executive Nutritionist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Chennai in an interview with HT Digital talks about nutrition required by brain and all the foods one must include in their diet to improve memory and brain function.
Which is the most important age for brain development?
The first two years of life are very crucial as this is a period where rapid growth and brain development take place. The child has to be introduced to all kinds of food groups by the time when the baby turns a year old. Regular nutritious food intake to be ensured as there is a continuous demand for better cognitive function. During adolescence, the demand is even higher in order to improve sharper memory and thinking ability.
What are the nutrients that are important for my child?
- Zinc, iron, choline, iodine, folate, and vitamin B12 are the important key nutrients for cognitive function. These nutrients play a vital role in DNA, RNA synthesis, nervous system myelination and neurotransmitter functioning.
- One more important nutrient is omega-3 fatty acid. Omega-3 fatty acids is a brain nutrient that comprises 35% of the brain lipids. DHA is a type of omega-3 fatty acid which is abundantly found in neuronal tissues.
A study states that in the last stage of pregnancy and the first 18 months of life rapid accumulation of DHA takes place in the brain. Therefore, it is most important to deliver these nutrients adequately during the early childhood period. Deficiency of these micronutrients during childhood can cause detrimental effects on attention and memory.
How does food affect our brain when we grow up?
In adulthood, productivity and mental health highly depend on the diet and lifestyle that we carry. Foods that we include in our day-to-day life reflect in our actions and work productivity. A poor diet can cause fatigue, reduces concentration capacity, and poor outcome. A balanced meal with adequate brain nutrient-rich foods must be included on a regular basis.
List of foods to include in your diet to promote memory and cognitive function
Green leafy vegetables
They are a good source of iron and folate. The inclusion of one serving of green leafy vegetables 3-4 days a week is essential.
They are good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Choose fish low in mercury such as anchovies, tuna, red snapper, and sardine. The inclusion of these fish varieties twice a week will enhance the uptake of DHA into our system.
Nuts and seeds
They are rich in omega-3 (Alpha-Linolenic acid) which is a precursor for DHA synthesis. Walnuts, garden cress seeds, and flaxseeds are the richest vegetarian source of omega-3 fatty acid foods.
A study by Selvaraju Subash, Mustafa Muhammad Essa, et.al concluded that the inclusion of berries like strawberries, blackberry, and blueberries offer neuroprotective functions and delays memory decline.
Foods rich in choline include eggs, meat, soya beans, and kidney beans.
It is an important nutrient that is in high demand during early childhood. Iodine involves in neurogenesis and myelination. Iodized salt and seafood to be included regularly.
Many studies have identified that there is an association between low serum vitamin B12 levels and cognitive impairment. Meat, and fishes are the good source of vitamin B12.
Foods to avoid for improving memory and focus
Consumption of foods high in sugar, refined flour, and bakery foods, in the long run, can lead to depression and anxiety. This is due to the repeated increase and decrease in blood glucose levels.
Fried foods and fast foods from the food outlets are high in saturated fats. These foods are likely to impair cognitive function and lower the memory of an individual.