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Eat your way to a sharper mind

To keep your business going, you have to remember and continually process many details every day – loads, routes, deadlines, detours, rest stops, fuelling stations, hours-of-service, etc. Since this list is endless, it is vital you keep your memory sharp. Give your mind a boost by maintaining a healthy diet.

For overall health, it is important to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins. To feed your brain in particular, specific foods within these food groups are especially beneficial.

For fruits, choose from the following: Plums contain antioxidants, anthocyanin and quercetin, two phytochemicals which help maintain healthy brain cells. Grapes have high concentrations of these as well, especially dark-coloured red and/or purple grapes. Blueberries also carry very high levels of antioxidants besides Vitamin K, manganese and omega-3 fatty acids. Apples supply the flavonoid quercetin but eat the peel since the peel holds the highest concentrations of quercetin.  Pomegranates are also packed with antioxidants and blackberries are full of polyphenols, specific antioxidants that reduce inflammation. Blueberries appear to help protect your brain from oxidative stress and reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease.

For vegetables, you have many options. Broccoli is an excellent choice because it offers extremely high levels of Vitamins K and C, and also omega-3 fatty acids. Other dark green vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage and spinach carry Vitamins A, E and K, and folate. Spinach also offers omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin K has the unique ability to improve episodic memory – your ability to recall information within the correct space-time context.

Avocados, rich in monounsaturated fat, can help lower blood pressure and promote healthy blood flow to your brain. High blood pressure is associated with reduced cognitive function. Quercetin, present in many of the fruit already mentioned, is also found in broccoli, and red, yellow and white onions. Anthocyanin, also mentioned above, is a component of beets, and eggplant. Eggplant contains nasunin as well, an antioxidant that maintains healthy brain cell membranes.

Whole grains are another food group that carries many brain-building nutrients. Quinoa may be considered a super-brain food, since it contains a high percentage of the FDA’s daily recommendations for the following nutrients. One serving of quinoa contains 43% of iron, 40% of Vitamin B6, 83% of magnesium, 27% of potassium, and 15% of fats. Quinoa’s high level of fibre also promotes healthy blood circulation.

Another whole grain option, barley, supplies 24% of the daily recommendations for fibre and also contains Vitamin B6, folate, Vitamin K, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and selenium. According to studies, a low level of selenium is directly linked to low cognitive functioning levels. Brown rice also contains Vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, selenium, and zinc.

Wheat germ, the core of the wheat grain, holds high levels of Vitamin B6, folate, other B vitamins, selenium, manganese, and magnesium. One serving of wheat germ provides 130% of recommended selenium levels, 94% of zinc levels, 765% of manganese levels, and 144% of thiamin levels (Vitamin B1). These nutrients are essential for restoring efficient memory and brain function.

In addition, a variety of protein products help feed your brain. Some nuts are particularly beneficial. Hazelnuts provide Vitamin E, essential fatty acids, folate, fibre, zinc, magnesium, selenium, and potassium. Hazelnuts also have a high concentration of Vitamin E.  One 100 g serving delivers 100% of your recommended daily amount. Almonds are good, too. In addition to Vitamin E, almonds also contain other essential nutrients, including B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids.

For a great protein snack each day, you could enjoy an ounce of raw or roasted walnuts, Brazil nuts, filberts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seed, and/or unhydrogenated peanut butter or almond butter. As another alternate protein source, beans work well. Along with protein, beans also contain Vitamin C, folate, omega-3s, and B vitamins. Kidney beans are especially beneficial as they are really packed with omega-3s (311 mg/serving).

Fish, a more traditional protein source, is an excellent brain food. Salmon and other fatty deep water fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids. According to an American study, adults who regularly ate salmon, sardines and mackerel had memories equal to people three years younger. However, if you wish to avoid eating fish, a quality fish oil supplement is a good option.

Eggs, another common protein source, also offers choline, and for some eggs – Vitamin D and omega-3s. According to a US study, people who ate high levels of choline showed better memory retention and a lower likelihood of developing dementia. Choline helps maintain efficient nerve communication, prevents homocysteine from accumulating in your blood, and reduces chronic inflammation.

Remember these foods as you plan your weekly menu. Make up your mind. Select from these food options today to maintain mental clarity tomorrow.


Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant, and she can be reached at

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