There’s a lot of hype currently about avoiding sugar, is eating sugar bad for the brain?
Not directly and in fact the brain’s preferential fuel is glucose, one of the simplest types of sugar. But by sugar most people think of table sugar and certainly too much added sugar in your diet is not good for the brain.
However, too much refined starch is also bad. In essence, it is refined and highly processed carbohydrate-rich foods that provide too rapid an uptake of sugars into the blood and these “spikes” in blood glucose and certainly not good for the brain. Sugars present in fruit and totally different as they usually slowly absorbed and accompanied by fibre, nutrients and protective plant chemicals such as antioxidants.
READ MORE: How To Cut Down On Eating Sugar And Lose Weight
A lot of your recipes include seafood and oily fish like salmon, how do these fit in to a brain-friendly diet?
Oily fish are our best dietary source of the long chain omega-3 fats. We know these are important for brain function as they are concentrated in the brain. We can make these fats from the shorter chain omega-3 fats found in some plant foods – that I also recommend we eat – such as walnuts, flaxseed and chia, but we have a limited capacity to do so. It is best therefore to eat oily fish at least twice a week.
READ MORE: How To Make A Cured Salmon Dish For A Healthy Start To The Week
Are there any foods that are particularly good to eat for brain health?
Veggies stand out as being good for the brain and overall a high plant food intake. People who eat the most veggies have been shown to have significantly less cognitive decline with age. Berries have also been shown to be good for brain health – for example blueberries have been shown to improve memory. Nuts, renowned for their benefit to heart health, are also good for the brain.
The MIND diet is one of the biggest to look at diet and cognitive function and this approach found that combining a traditional Mediterranean diet with a DASH (dietary approach to stop hypertension) was extremely effective at lowering risk. In essence the diet is loads of plant food, good fats from nuts, avocado, oily fish and extra virgin olive oil, low salt, few sweet treats (other than fruit) and lower intakes of meat.
READ MORE: 5 Very Good Reasons Why You Should Eat At Least A Handful Of Nuts Every Day
Will taking supplements help with brain health?
Supplements will never replace the power of a healthy diet. However, there are a small number that may provide an additional benefits. A good quality omega-3 supplement is probably a good idea if you can’t or don’t want to eat oily fish twice a week.
Low levels of vitamin D are known to increase your risk of cognitive decline, therefore taking a supplement is highly advisable if you have had your levels tested and know they are low. There is interesting research around aged garlic extract for improving cognitive function it those with Alzheimer’s disease, but we don’t really know yet what the effects are on healthy aging. But since it has other benefits on heart health for example, it may also be worthy of taking.
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