By Dr Sivuyile Madikana (Herbalife NAB Southern Africa)
The older we grow, the less robust our cognitive abilities become. However, nutrition plays a huge role in ensuring we keep our brains healthy and strong.
The brain is a critical organ in our bodies in the same way the heart pumps blood, the gut digests our food in order for us to get the right nutrients, the brain controls how we think, move, breathe and perform our daily functions. It essentially coordinates keeping us alive and thriving. As is the nature of these important functions, we must give the brain all the nutrients and fuel it needs to continually perform at its best.
The recommendation is that we follow a simple healthy nutritional regimen of lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. There is no single magic wonder that we can use to prevent decline in our cognitive ability as we age, however the right kinds of nutrients from the right foods will help protect the brain and improve memory, concentration and overall brain health. So, what kinds of foods are we talking about?
• Leafy green vegetables: these are packed with lots of nutrients such as Vitamin E, Vitamin K and Folate. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects the cells from free radical damage. Having leafy green vegetables has been shown to reduce cognitive decline. Some foods you can eat are broccoli, spinach and a few others. Simply steam them or even pop them into a smoothie for your daily consumption.
• Fatty Fish: fatty fish are rich in Omega-3, which are healthy unsaturated fats critical for brain development and function. These fatty acids have been associated with lowering the risk of heart disease and arthritis. A great source is Salmon, which is a good source of protein as well. If you’re not a fan of fish you can try other sources of Omega3 such as flaxseeds, avocados or ask your Doctor for Omega-3 supplements.
• Berries: strawberries and blueberries provide the body with nutrients such Vitamin C, Vitamin K and phytonutrients. University research has shown that a person who has two or more servings of strawberries and blueberries each week displays delayed memory decline by up to two-and-a-half years.
• Walnuts: these nuts are a rich source of plant based Omega-3 fatty acid called ALA (alpha-linolenic-acid). They are also a great source of protein too. Walnut consumption has been shown to improve cognition as well as lower blood pressure (which is good for the arteries and great for the brain as well).
And if you lead a very busy life and don’t have time to prepare and search for all the different foods mentioned? Not to worry, supplements and other products such as protein shakes can also be a great source of these vital nutrients needed for the brain. The above list is not exhaustive, however a great starting point if one wants to improve the concentration, memory and stay sharper for longer.