We are what we eat, and as such, most of us are probably a bit too much chips and a bit less chia seeds than we should be. We’re all aware of the physical benefits of eating well and exercising more than we want to, but rarely do we equate eating healthily with our long term mental health.
A new book by Dr Lisa Mosconi entitled Brain Food: How to Eat Smart and Sharpen Your Mind is attempting to educate us on how to do just that. In news that will surprise literally nobody, your Friday night kebab probably isn’t helping your brain health, and all the biscuits you’re posting whilst you wait for lunch aren’t going to get you on QI.
However, it might come as a surprise that your brain cells are among the only cells in your body that don’t regenerate throughout your life, so it might be an idea to keep them in shape. Plus, less that 1% of people with Alzheimers develop the condition through genetics - the rest is due to other factors including lifestyle. Although this might sound scary, it also means that we can try to do something about it.
New research has revealed which foods have a neuro-protective role, which can help prevent brain cells from being damaged, and give them the energy they need to function well. Our brains use 20% of our bodies’ energy, the most of any other organ in the body, so what tops the list of goodies?
Fatty acids, best found in fish like salmon, mackerel and your dad’s favourite, sardines. Hurray? Most people like fish don’t they? If you don’t, chia seeds are your best bet, but stick with the fish if you can.
Extra virgin olive oil is also top of the list, which again isn’t too much of a chore, and let’s face it, Italians always look healthier and live longer, as Bertoli are always telling us.
What they might not be telling us, however, is that margarine is probably one of the worst things you can eat, along with fast food, processed food, pizza and deep fried stuff. Tell us something we don’t know. (Apart from the interesting brain facts which we actually didn’t know.)
The recent trends towards veganism and eating less meat generally might have a positive impact on our brain health in the future, with red meat and high-fat dairy also high up on the list of ‘don’t eat this.’
Of course in addition to this we should always endeavour to move a bit more (has anyone ever been told to exercise less?) probably drink fewer pints, and eat more green things. We know all this already, but with new research on the links between food and brain function, perhaps we’ve got a better incentive to keep them healthier for longer.