While many of us are aware that the food we eat can affect our weight, skin, and energy levels, many people don’t know that it can also affect how our brain functions, and our ability to get through a busy day. To help you fight through the fuzzies on hump day, we asked Brisbane nutritionist at JCN Clinic, Jessica Cox, to give us her top tips, and the foods we should be eating to increase our brain power.
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What are some great foods we should be including in our diet to improve brain function?
Foods rich in essential fatty acids such as oily fish (salmon, cod, tuna, sardines), cold pressed flaxseed oil, extra virgin olive oil and walnuts are a great place to start, as our brain is made up of these types of fats. We also want foods rich in amino acids to support cell structure and neuron's, such as a diversity of protein found in meat, fish, eggs and legumes. Choline rich foods also support neurons, and can be found abundantly in eggs and liver.
A healthy gut is also essential for great brain function. Poor gut function and gut inflammation will place pressure on our capacity to think clearly, often referred to in nutrition terms as ‘brain fog’. There is a ‘neural highway’ between the gut and the brain that is fundamental in keeping our gut-brain connection in check.
Should we be eating them in the morning before work, at lunch, or at dinner?
It doesn’t matter when, just aim for a diversity of these foods within your dietary intake throughout your week. Diversity is key!
What are some great brain food snacks to choose instead of a chocolate bar or extra coffee?
You want to go for snacks that provide long lasting energy to your brain without causing blood sugar spikes that initially pep you up, but then drop you back down. Nuts, seeds and their butters are wonderful – you can eat them alone or use the butters smeared on fruit wedges, like apple, or vegetables. Homemade protein balls are wonderful too, along with hummus or other legume based dips rich in protein and fibre for blood sugar regularity. Boiled eggs make a great snack too, and so do wholefood muffins or biscuits made with wholegrains, nut meals and healthy fats.
How often should we be including them in our diet?
You should be using healthy snack options daily if you’re finding you are hungry between main meals. If you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner without getting cravings in-between, then you may not need snacks. Conversely, if you get hungry and find yourself looking for chocolate or coffee, these types of snacks can be eaten daily. Remember though, you need your main meals to also be a good balance of whole foods with complex carbs, protein, fats and vegetables to prevent energy lulls and cravings for sugars.
Is it possible to eat too much to make them have an adverse effect?
Not really, though you can overeat any food to the point that you end up excluding more diversity of other foods overall. Also, some foods in excess may result in too high of an amount of certain minerals or vitamins. Liver would be a classic case or even carrots with too much betacarotene.
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