Have you ever wondered how our brain manages to always be “on”? It is responsible for our breathing, our heartbeat, our thoughts, our movements, our senses… In, other words, we’re talking about a machine, working hard 24/7, even when we are asleep.
And like every other machine, the brain needs energy in order to be able to perform work. Well, the fuel of the brain comes from the foods we consume and the quality of fuel that we provide can really make a difference!
So, let’s take a look at certain eating habits that we can all make part of our daily lives aiming to give our brain a boost as well as specific foods and nutrients that can prove to be strong allies in our endeavor!
- Let’s start from the beginning of the day. Every morning, due to the overnight fast, our body is in a “low battery” state. So, if you’re used to leaving home having eaten nothing or something very small, it makes sense if it’s hard for you to find your lost strength or concentrate. On the contrary, a full and balanced breakfast can give you the energy you need to bring out your morning activities, mental and physical! Εven if you don’t get the time to have breakfast at home, you can still make it up at work! Enjoy a cup of coffee, which will “wake you up” due to the caffeine it contains, and combine it with:
- a turkey and cheese sandwich
- a wholegrain baguette with salmon, cream cheese, avocado and lettuce
- a tortilla with chicken and veggies
- Use your lunch break wisely! Especially if you work till late, a good breakfast is not enough! Be sure to consume a balanced lunch (you will find ideas below), which will not only recharge your batteries, but will also prevent you from eating too much in the evening.
- Don’t be afraid of carbohydrates! You may have heard a few things about carbs- they’ve been demonized a lot! However, carbs- and more specifically blood glucose- are, in fact, the main source of energy for both the human body and the brain. Ideally, choose to include complex carbohydrates (whole-grain bread, cereal, bars, pasta etc.) in your breakfast and other meals and snacks. Not only do they provide us with valuable fiber, but they also contribute to the gradual release of glucose into circulation, ensuring a stable supply of energy to the body.
- Match carbohydrates with your diet! Carbohydrates are not the only important element though! In order to make your meals complete, prefer to consume complex carbohydrates in combination with a source of protein, such as fish, poultry, dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt) or egg, which are not only rich in high-value protein but they also contain significant amounts of valuable nutrients such as calcium and B-complex vitamins.
- Salad with wild rice, tuna and vegetables
- Whole wheat penne pasta with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and pesto sauce
- Chicken fillet with sweet potato puree
- Find the proper match for cabs! It’s not just carbs that are important, though! To make your meals complete, combine complex carbohydrates with a protein source, such as fish, poultry, dairy products (milk, cheese, yoghurt) or eggs, which are not only rich in high biological value protein, but they also contain significant amounts of valuable nutrients, such as calcium and B-complex vitamins.
- Don’t forget the salad! Vegetables may be poor in calories, but they are rich in nutrients! In addition to carbohydrates and fiber, they provide valuable vitamins and antioxidants that keep brain cells strong and healthy. Especially green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, kale etc. are high in brain-friendly nutrients such as folic acid, vitamin K, lutein and beta-carotene.
- Say yes to “good” fat! Polyunsaturated fatty acids play a particularly important role in mental function, as they are components of nerve cells. Several studies, in fact, have linked their intake to protection against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. You can find them in fatty fish (salmon, sardines etc.) and seafood, in seeds e.g. flaxseed, sunflower seed, in walnuts etc. Indeed, a study by UCLA1 found that individuals with higher walnut consumption had improved scores on cognitive tests.
- “Small, but miraculous!” We may consume minerals and trace elements in small quantities, but they often play a key role in our health. So, in order for our brain to function properly, we should make sure that we cover our requirements in iron (red meat, dark poultry meat, fish, lentils etc.), iodine (iodized salt, seafood, potatoes etc.) as well as zinc (red meat, seafood, beans etc.).
1. Arab L, Ang A. A cross sectional study of the association between walnut consumption and cognitive function among adult US populations represented in NHANES. J Nutr Health Aging. 2015 Mar;19(3):284-90.