Whether we’re working full time, studying or doing a little of both, our lives demand mental acuity at all times. But, if we’re honest with ourselves we’re not always as on the ball as we should be. We all know the dread that sets in when our brains, like tired old engines on ancient cars, cough, splutter and stop without warning. There’s nothing more frustrating than when that brain fog descends; sapping your productivity, robbing you of rationality and making the recall of even deeply entrenched memories like trying to suck a grape through a hose pipe. Typically this tends to happen right when you need your brain most like when trying to remember an important phone number or the name of a half remembered friend of a friend advancing towards you at a wedding. Unfortunately, no amount of willpower, determination and repeating the mantra of “just wait a minute, it’s on the tip of my tongue” will save you. Sure, a jolt of coffee may give you a short term boost in brain function by blocking receptors of adenosine (the neurotransmitter that aids sleep) but it’s a fleeting high. In brain health, as in most facets of health quick fixes are rarely a lasting solution.Brain fog and cognitive dysfunction are more than just an occasional inconvenience. They can also accompany lethargy, poor memory, fatigue, mood swings and even depression.
The best way to ensure mental acuity is through your diet. But you already knew that, right? Of course the trouble is that given our busy lifestyles we rarely have the time to concoct nutritious meals that will not only keep our bodies lean and healthy but keep our brains firing on all cylinders. At last, that’s what we keep telling ourselves. The truth, however is that a home cooked meal rich with brain boosting foods can be prepared in minutes. Just make sure that you load up on these nourishing staples and you’ll be brain fog free all day every day…
The importance of hydration
While the fact that we need water to stay alive is news to nobody, yet surprisingly few people are fully aware of just how much we need to stay hydrated for good brain health and optimal cognitive function. Our brains are 85% water, after all, and everything from feeling an itch to ruminating on the works of Rene Descarte requires electrical processes which require water to be facilitated. Our brains also need water to produce the necessary hormones to regulate our bodily functions. Your brain cells need twice as much energy as any other cells in the body and water provides the perfect vehicle to provide it. That’s why you should be drinking at least 8-10 glasses of water a day for optimal cognitive function. This will help to ensure focus, recall and concentration throughout the day. Carry a stainless steel flask with you when you go to work so that you can sip and go. Avoid plastic containers as these may contain harmful BPA. Make sure that your brain gets rest breaks too. Even the best nourished brain can’t run a 24 hour marathon.
Salmon can chase the brain fog away
Any elementary school kid can tell you that fish is brain food but salmon is the king of the river when it comes to providing optimal nutrition in every bite. It’s not only quick to cook, versatile and even tasty when raw, it’s also rich in omega 3 fatty acids to help combat brain fog. A lot of people shy away from fish because they don’t want a “fishy smell” in their refrigerator or their garbage after eating. Of course, when you buy your fish fresh this isn’t nearly as much of an issue. Try using an online fishmonger like Citarella to get fish that’s a whole lot fresher than you’ll see in the supermarket delivered direct to you. See their website for more information. Obtaining the right balance between omega 3 fats and omega 6 fats is important for optimal brain health. Those who eat a protein heavy western diet which is rich in meat and dairy often have an abundance of omega 6 but very little omega 3. Switch out the red meat for fish more often and you’ll achieve this balance much more easily. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, however, salmon aren’t the only good source of omega 3s. You can find them abundantly in chia seeds, brussels sprouts, flax seeds and…
If you’re looking for a healthy snack that can boost your brain function on the go, be sure to carry a handful of walnuts around in your pocket. These tasty little morsels are not only loaded with Omega 3s but antioxidants which protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals. Moreover, walnuts are loaded with vitamin E which has been proven to help prevent Alzheimer’s.
Most of us get a goodly portion of these with our main meal, but their benefits for our whole bodies are so potent that it might be worth swapping out empty carbohydrates like rice or pasta for an extra portion of spinach, kale or Swiss chard. They’re great for their nutrient : calorie ratio and can generally be cooked within two or three minutes making them perfect for quick and easy meals like stir fries. These veggies are loaded with vitamin A and K to help fight inflammation within the brain which has been linked to early onset dementia.
Extra virgin olive oil
This food is so versatile and requires so little effort to incorporate into your diet that there’s absolutely no excuse not to get your daily fix. You can drizzle it onto a salad, dip your whole grain bread in it (in lieu of butter) but since it has a very low burning point I’d advise against cooking with it. Extra virgin olive oil is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols which can not only improve memory and facilitate faster learning but they can also help to repair the damage caused by age or disease related deterioration of the brain.
Who says that brain healthy meals needed expensive ingredients and hours to cook?