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It’s food safety week.

Yes really!
Which got me thinking – perhaps it’s time to think about which foods are neuroprotective. And because, “we are what we eat”, why not choose to include those foods that have been shown to boost memory, mood and cognition?

There is no single super brain food that is the most important; rather, it is the combination of a wide variety of fresh, unprocessed foods that matters. So when you’re in the supermarket this week, why not ensure you’ve got at least one of the following in your shopping basket.

1. Fish.
We’re all being encouraged to eat more fish, especially the cold water, fatty varieties because they contain the highest amount of Omega-3’s, the essential fatty acid that we can only obtain through diet. Three portions a week is ideal.
Studies have shown that Omega-3s provide an essential component to our cell membranes and promote cognitive function by facilitating the rapid recycling of our important neurotransmitters that get passed from one neuron to the next. It’s like ensuring that your electrical cabling is always operating in a safe and timely manner.

But remember, not all fish were created equal. If possible buy fresh, wild caught fish rather than the farmed varieties of salmon, mackerel, herring, mullet, sardines and anchovies.

2. Blueberries.
Blueberries are high in polyphenols and have been shown to improve memory performance, glucose metabolism and increased functional connectivity in the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with learning and memory.

Other studies have demonstrated additional benefit of blueberries to executive thinking including reasoning, decision-making, verbal comprehension and numerical ability.

While blueberries are king, other deeply pigmented fruits: strawberries, plums, cherries, black grapes, cranberries, blackberries and beetroot are also good. And while fresh is best, frozen berries are fine too.

Berry delicious!

3. Chocolate.
Chocolate snobbery now appears taking over from coffee as people search for the best chocolate created from the finest cacao beans.
Look for the chocolate with the highest cacao content. Yes it’s bitter, which means less sugar (bonus) and you are more satisfied with just a small piece (extra bonus).
Chocolate reduces blood pressure and soothes stress by lowering cortisol and adrenaline levels. Plus having a cup of cocoa at bedtime may do more than help you sleep. In older subjects, drinking two cups of cocoa improves cerebral blood flow boosting working memory and is thought to be neuroprotective.

4. Leafy greens.
What we all need more of on our plates is more leafy green veggies.
Of course the leafy green that everyone has been talking about is kale. Folks have been using it for smoothies, salads and chips. If only it didn’t taste like cardboard, I might have been able to persuade my husband to eat the stuff. It’s chock-a-block full of lovely antioxidants, vitamin K and the B vitamins, which are very important for brain health and assist in reducing inflammation. And it’s best eaten cooked, not only because it can be tough as old boots when raw, but is high in oxalates and glucosinolates that for some people can increase their risk of kidney stones and thyroid problems.

Of course there are lots of alternatives to kale such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach, bok choy, chard, cauliflower, watercress and cabbage which are all great for brain health.

Adding brain healthy foods to our diet is easy.
So what are you waiting for?

Which brain healthy food are you adding to your diet this week?

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

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