Do you have days when you are feeling a little foggy in the head? Science is always finding new ways to help.
With a few simple strategies you can improve your brain health and help you stay sharper for longer.
The brain is a complex organ that basically controls the functions of your body. Your brain needs special nutrients to function to its maximum: glucose, vitamins, minerals and other essential chemicals. For example, the fuel (energy) for your brain is glucose. You can get glucose by eating carbohydrates or other foods that can be converted to glucose.
Science is advancing all the time and learning more about the brain, how it functions and ways we can improve its functioning. This enables up to perform at our maximum level. You help this by being aware of a few strategies that will assist with improving your brain power.
A Well Balanced Diet
Raichle and Gusnard’s research has found your brain burns around 1250K joules (300 calories) each day simply by performing its regular mental tasks so it’s important to keep it fuelled up with the right kind of foods. The brain also uses approximately 20% of the oxygen we need to survive.
A well-balanced diet improves overall health as well as brain health. Eating the right food reduces the risk of developing health conditions that can lead to dementia.
Foods that promote brain health include:
- olive oil
- fruits and vegetables high in vitamin E, such as blueberries, broccoli, and spinach
- foods rich in antioxidants, such as walnuts and pecans
- omega-3 fatty acids that can be found in fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and albacore tuna
Chocolate (Cocoa) and Coconut
A study by The Age Well Project /has found that eating chocolate (made with cocoa) and coconut may protect brain function and counteract cognitive decline. The process is that it assists with widening the blood vessels in the brain thus improving blood flow. It also may improve general cognition, attention, processing, speed and memory.
The chocolate must be made with cocoa which is also a good source of flavonoids (dietary antioxidants).
In the process of their research The Age Well project focused on the brains of young teens who are sitting for exams. They have published a recipe for Brain Balls for these exam sitting teens. It looks like a good recipe to have for after the gym or even as an afternoon pick me up, when we need the brain power even for us older adults.
COCONUT CHOCOLATE BRAIN BALLS
- 75g coconut oil
- 60g almond butter
- 50g coconut flakes
- 2 tabs gogi berries or cranberries
- 80g oats add more if necessary
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 50g dark or milk chocolate (made with cocoa)
- Gently warm the coconut oil and almond butter together in a medium sized bowl in the microwave. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, except the chocolate. Put the bowl in the fridge for around 20mins, until the mixture is firm. With wet hands, shape walnut-sized balls of the mixture – it’s very crumbly. Melt the chocolate and pour about half a teaspoon over each brain ball. Keep in the fridge.
Learn a Second Language
Learning a new language is not only fun it’s also great for your brain power. In 2021 a study followed a group of adults aged 65 and older who hadn’t studied another language in a previous decade. They were encouraged to complete a Spanish course using a language app dual lingo.
After using the app for just 30 minutes each day for 16 weeks they showed improvements in range of cognitive functions. It was also evident that they enjoyed learning a new skill.
Elevate Your Heart Rate
A quick way to improve your concentration is aerobic exercise. A single 10 minute bout of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise is enough to improve focus and productivity. Remember the brain uses 20% of the oxygen we breath.
The next time you’re battling brain fog skip the caffeine and try a quick workout instead. If you are one who suffers the afternoon slump, a quick walk at lunch time or afternoon teatime might help your focus and energy levels.
Keeping active doesn’t only reap rewards for younger brains it’s also useful for older adults.
An Australian study, conducted at the university of Sunshine Coast in Queensland found that interval training can be as beneficial for the brains of older men as continuous exercise. Interval Training is alternating short bursts of more intense activity with longer bursts at a lower intensity level.
If you have health concerns or haven’t exercised in awhile always consult your GP before starting a new programme.
That’s right! Scientists are already aware of the positive impact that exercise of all levels has on the brain. These studies are conducted to understand how different forms of physical activity contribute to brain health. This is crucial for developing strategies to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia in older adults.
In a recent study 66 cognitively healthy adults were asked about the time they spent on household chores, such as tidying, dusting, meal preparation and clean up, shopping, heavy housework, yard work, home repairs and caregiving.
The researchers found that older adults who spent more time engaging in such activities had greater brain volume, regardless of how much exercise they did.
The evidence is reasonably convincing that the way to improve our brain power is to keep moving, no matter what exercise we do or to what level. The scientists were also suggesting that the actual planning of the household chores had an impact on improving brain functioning.
Seep is our bodies way of recharging. It’s also essential for building and regenerating at a cellular level. Sleep consolidates memories and removes toxins in your brain that build up while you are awake.
While scientists are still learning exactly how sleep impacts brain development it’s becoming clear that it’s essential for a variety of cognitive functions.
This is evident if you’ve struggled to think clearly after a night spent tossing and turning.
Improving your brain power is about adopting healthy habits and making healthy lifestyle choices.