Whether you want to help your kids optimise their nutrition during exam season or simply want to stay sharp yourself so you can continue supporting your kids, eating a brain-boosting diet can support both short- and long-term brain functions. In fact, despite that our brain only accounts for 2% of our body weight, it requires 20 percent of our calories to fuel! So to help maintain concentration and brain power during this high stress period, fuel your body with nutritious foods.
Rich in stress-relieving B-vitamins and potassium, avocados make the perfect superfood for lowering blood pressure and stress hormones during high-stress times. In addition, avocado is a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids, which in turn improves blood flow to the brain. Pair it with whole-grain sourdough, it can be a power breakfast on exam days.
- Wild Salmon
Oily fish like wild salmon are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids help build important membranes around each cell in the body, including the brain cells. A 2017 study found that people with high levels of omega-3s had increased blood flow in the brain. The researchers also identified a connection between omega-3 levels and better thinking abilities. In particular, one of the omega 3s - DHA - can improve memory and actually shorten the time it takes to recall a memory. New Zealand researchers found that even a low-dose of DHA supplementation, equivalent to roughly the same amount found in a 100-gram serving of salmon, can improve memory and reaction time.
- Dark Chocolate
This may be a good time to treat your kids to some high-quality chocolate. Cacao flavonoids found in dark chocolate are powerful antioxidants; they have been shown to lower stress hormone levels and improve mood. In addition, these flavonoids seem to be good for the brain as well. According to a 2013 review study, they may encourage brain neuron and blood vessel growth in parts of the brain involved with memory and learning. So look for dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content to get the most benefit.
Although directed for the slightly older population, evidence suggests that the consumption of blueberries may be effective in improving memory and cognitive functions. One of the key contributing nutrients is anthocyanins, the pigment responsible for the blue and dark red colours, like in strawberries, blackberries and blackcurrants. Indeed a 2014 scientific review found that berries (not just blueberries) have many positive effects on the brain, including improvement on brain cell communication, as well as an improvement on the brain to make new cell connections and hence boosting memory and learning abilities. This is just one more reason to eat more fresh berries!
- Cherry Tomatoes
Bright red and orange vegetables are great sources of carotenoids. You may have heard of beta-carotene but another example is actually lycopene, an antioxidant that has been associated with a protective effect against prostate cancer. Another lesser known function of lycopene is that it helps improve brain function and memory. Lycopene is highly concentrated in the skin of tomatoes; the smaller the tomato, the higher proportion of skin and hence the higher concentration of brain-boosting lycopene. Cherry tomatoes were ranked highest in lycopene content in a study comparing various tomato varieties. It’s important to note that lycopene is best absorbed when fat is available. So eating tomatoes with an olive oil-based salad dressing adds additional flavour and makes good sense in terms of brain health.