Sunday, 29 May 2005

Brain food

I'm always interested (see "Of apples and oysters") to hear scientific confirmation of some of the things your grandma was always nagging you about.

The 28 May 2005 issue of New Scientist has a cover story on "11 steps to a better brain" (this "11" thing is spreading: first Spinal Tap, then (according to Niall Kennedy) Technorati - what's next...?).

From their summary of the research a steady supply of glucose throughout the day is the key (food with slow release sugars), and generally fish is the best brain food, while there's evidence that highly processed food is bad not only for the weight but also mental health. The right stuff seems to not only help brain development in kids, but also counteract the negative effects of aging in the elderly.

It all seems common sense really, but here's the official lowdown from New Scientist on the best diet for your brain, to boost memory, attention, concentration, alertness and co-ordination, mop up nasty free radicals and keep the brain well lubricated:

  • Breakfast - beans on toast or wholemeal toast with Marmite

  • Lunch - omelette/eggs and salad; yogurt dessert

  • Mid-afternoon - a snack (but not junk food like cakes, pastries or biscuits)

  • Dinner - fish (seems the best food at any time); strawberries and blueberries for dessert.

Plus, physical exercise can help adults grow new brain cells (and vice versa - regularly thinking about exercising their biceps increased arm strength in a test group by 13% in 12 weeks!).

The right amount of vitamin folate plus activities (yes even knitting and crosswords, not just physical exercise) will help keep brains healthy, as will a positive attitude.

And getting enough sleep is vital for the brain, with performance (including general skills and problem-solving, not just concentration) improving even in someone who isn't sleep-deprived if they just take an extra hour or two of sleep. I've always been a big believer in afternoon naps at the weekend, so I feel completely justified now!

So it all seems to boil down to a decent diet, positive thinking, lots of exercise (both physical and mental), and lots of sleep. Just like grandma said, then.

Now - go and eat your greens, run a few laps, and off to bed with you!!

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1 comment:

TaB said...

I have some old dietary cards for recommended allowances for airline foods (British Standards) from the 1940-50’s!! very entertaining cards they are!! LOL

Well said though, diet science is a personal equilibrium mixed with common sense, you don’t get fat if you move (typically). I think many people want a plan that prohibits action while reducing fat! That aint gonna happen.

I power nap loads myself, especially while working, it does wonders for your mental health too! Fab stuffs.. Do you read Scientific American?