5 brilliant brain foods

5 brilliant brain foods

What we eat can have a positive impact on mental agility. Our nutrition expert serves up diet tips to help you stay sharp.


Keeping our brains firing on all cylinders is as important as keeping our bodies in good shape as we get older.

The good news is that, it is now known that brain cells can make new connections throughout life. Even better, what we eat in our 40s and 50s is emerging as one of the most important ways to stay on the ball and reduce the risk of dementia in later life.

With this in mind here are five brain foods to put on your menu:

1. Fish

- According to one review, people who put fish on the menu between one and four times a week have more grey matter.

- In another study, omega-3 (especially rich in oily fish such as herrings, mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout and tuna) helps increase the fluidity of brain cell membranes and maintain vital connections between brain cells.

- That’s not all. Fish is a great source of other vital nutrients too, including protein, B vitamins, vitamin D, the trace element, selenium, and taurine, an amino acid that’s been linked to brain health.

ENJOY… Fish can be baked, grilled, in a pie or a casserole or fresh in ceviche or sushi.

2. Nuts

- In one 2014 study older women who had at least five servings of nuts a week scored higher on tests of brain power than those who ate fewer. Why? What’s good for the heart is good for the brain and nuts lower levels of total and ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.

- Nuts, especially walnuts, are rich in a nutrient called ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), an essential fatty acid that’s vital for brain function.

ENJOY... Chop and sprinkle nuts over cereals, bakes and salads. Keep a jar of mixed nuts in the kitchen and grab a handful to snack on instead of a biscuit.

3. Berries

- Evidence is growing that berries are brilliant for the brain.

- Consumption of diets rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory polyphenols such as those found in fruits and vegetables, may lower the risk of developing age-related neurodegenerative diseases. Research also suggests that berry fruits, such as blueberries and strawberries, may also have a beneficial effect.

ENJOY… Mix up juices and smoothies with berries, sprinkle them over cereals and keep in the fridge as snack. Polyphenols are also found in other colourful fruit and veg such as grapes, tomatoes, tea, spices, herbs and olive oil.

4. Wholegrains

- These are a great source of B-vitamins that, according to research, are vital to a healthy brain as we age.

- Good wholegrains include oats, brown rice, wild rice, barley, quinoa, bulgur as well as spelt, millet, buckwheat, farro and amaranth.

ENJOY... Use wholegrains as a change from rice in risottos and pilafs, ground in bread and pancakes, added to meatballs, burgers and bakes. Enjoy them in salads such as the Middle Eastern tabbouleh.

5. Red Grapes

- These are a good source of a polyphenol called resveratrol, which is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties and be brain protective.

ENJOY... Keep a bunch of red grapes in the fruit bowl to snack on and drink grape juice. If you enjoy a glass of red wine, just be sure not to exceed the number of units of alcohol recommended limit a week and have some alcohol-free days.

Patsy Westcott has an MSc in Nutritional Medicine and is co-author (with Professor Margaret Rayman, Katie Sharpe and Vanessa Ridland) of ‘Healthy Eating to Avoid the Risk of Dementia’ (Kyle Books).

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  • Show comments

Red grapes v Fibromyalgia

Taxitim24 05/02/2017

Hello Patsy, i hope your having a lovely weekend? Just picking your brain abit here on your brain food topic. I suffer with Fibromyalgia & was wondering if the red grapes would help slow the pains down that i feel constantly (some days worse than others). I would be made up to hear your opnion on fibromyalgia & maybe you could do a topic on this terrible illness. I know alot more women suffer with it compared to us men, but i feel that the chemotherapy induced my own fibromyalgia. Thanks.😗

almonds major brain food

samaina 06/01/2017

I'm anaemic and sometimes can feel week through out the months and lethargic which slows down my thinking. I find as i get older I'm in my forties i seem to be forgetting things. My mother has aways stated almonds a re a good source of natural brain food and energises you. Ive been eating a handful a day for the last two months and there has been a massive improvement in my mental energy and motivation and determination. Also takes away those winter blue moments.

A Boost to My Confidence

Comfortshoe 17/07/2016

Pleased to learn I have been doing everything that Patsy is advising. Sometimes there is so much contradictory advice from "experts" it can be very confusing.

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