Feed your brain … and boost your memory and mood

Herbs and Helpers

Health expert Delia McCabe talks you through the big brain dos and dont’s

Leafy greens and cold water oily fish among the good foods to eat

Alcohol, sweets and fried food like chicken nuggets on the banned list

Have you ever strolled into a room and forgotten what it was you ran in for, or been at a party and totally forgotten someoneas name, even though you know them?

Perhaps youave discovered yourself standing uselessly at a cashpoint, unable to remember your PIN.

Or your search for a specific word feelings as if you are rummaging through empty drawers.

The chances are that if you have experienced any of those memory lapses a and most people have a youall have blamed them given the fact that youare getting older or have had a stressful few days.

Then again, you might be one of the millions suffering from more serious conditions such as nervousnes and depression, which have reached epidemic levels.

Indeed, mental health costs the NHS a staggering APS7 7 billion a year a more than heart disease and cancer combined.

Whatever your problems, the chances are that no matter what redress youave tried afrom a holiday to antidepressants or merely a stoical adoption that this is the way things are a you wonat have thought of what is perhaps the easiest therapy of all: to change what you eat.

With my background in clinical psychology, Iave lost counting of the people who have told me they suffer from all of their own problems mentioned above.

But when I ask if theyave ever considered to strengthen their mental function by altering their diet, they look at me with astonishment.

Yet the simple fact is this: when you feed your brain, you can change your life

When you give your brain the nutrients it needs to function optimally, it can work efficiently, improving learning potential, focus and memory.

You become lighter in mood and weight, and brighter in outlook and cognitive capacity.

Pack your diet with my top 15 and banish the bad five and youall be on your route to optimum brain health.

( kale, rocket, watercress and spinach)

Full of vitamins( C, K and the Bs) as well as minerals( calcium, potassium, copper, magnesium, folate, manganese and zinc) plus fibre and many plant nutrients.


( salmon, mackerel, herring)

These are all the best possible direct source of healthy brain fats called omega 3 essential fats.


Another great source of brain fats when eat in moderation.

( pecans, walnuts, macadamias, almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts)

A great source of good fats plus protein and brain nutrients such as selenium, in Brazil nuts specifically.


( organic and cold pressed)

Contains antioxidants and brain healthy plant chemicals.

( flaxseed, sunflower and sesame seeds, chia seeds)

A rich source of plant essential fatty acid( EFA ), containing omega 3 petroleums and lignans, phytochemicals that act as good hormone imitators and antioxidants.


Contains a beneficial saturated fat plus anti-microbial and anti-fungal and anti-viral function.

Packed with vitamins, fibre, minerals and largely mono-unsaturated fats.

( sweet potato, pepper, carrot, tomato)

Their rich colour indicates high anti-oxidant content, and they are also sources of fibre, minerals, enzymes and plant nutrients.

( broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage)

Have phyto-chemicals that stimulate our enzyme defenses against cancer, plus minerals and vitamins.


Great for a big punch of fibre and detox nutrients. Also acts as a prebiotic( provides food for bacteria in our intestine ).

( lentils, peas and beans)

In addition to vitamins and minerals, they contain lignins, also known as phyto-estrogens, which protect against different forms of cancer, as well as balancing hormone levels. Low in fat and high in fibre.

( quinoa, millet, amaranth, basmati rice)

Rich in vitamins and minerals plus protein.

Nutrient-dense brain superfoods we should feed every day.

When a seed, grain or heartbeat has germinated, its nutritional value rises so there is 60 per cent more vitamin C and 30 per cent more B vitamins in a sprouted seed, grain or pulse.

They also contain large amounts of protein and vitamin E, as well as phosphorous and potassium.

Sprouting makes these nutrients highly digestible.

( blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)

True brain superfoods, colourful berries contain antioxidant power to protect the brain from ageing plus an anti- inflammatory and ellagic acid, which is a unique compound that a number of experts say could help to protect the body against cancer .

Because when your brain is satisfied it defines off a wonderful domino effect, a cascade of improved health on every level.

All the most up-to-date brain research indicates very clearly that cognitive deterioration is not inevitable with ageing.

We can take very practical and simple steps to maintain our cognitive health throughout our lives a but if you want a brain thatas going to work well into old age, you need to think about its welfare before memory lapses strike.

Of course, it would be naive and simplistic to suggest our modern, highly processed junk food diet is the only reason people are suffering from increased mental health challenges.

We live in a sophisticated and complex world.

Navigating this complexity produces levels of stress humen have never before encountered.

But with psychological distress so widespread and on the rise, looking after your brain has never been more important.

And there is scientific proof to support the fact that what you eat is possible and does influence your mood, behaviour, concentration, learning and memory.

Most people do not associate what they feed with how their brain is functioning.

If they are forgetful or moody or battling to learn something new, they often look for other reasons to explain why the objective is feeling that way.

But because guessing is a pattern of cellular activity across a vast network of cells, chemicals, membranes and molecules, it is possible to influence the brainas functioning in the same route we influence our bodyas.

You can feed your brain to be happy or sad a and used to help to learn and recollect things much more efficiently a simply by changing the type of foods you eat.

In fact, every snack and snack you ingest, or feed your family, is supporting healthy brain function or undermining it.

After 20 years of being involved in research into how nutrition influences brain function, Iave learned a lot about food and what it does to the brain.

If you know what various nutrients do in your brain and why they are critical for optimal brain function, youall be better equipped to choose the right foods.

You may believe that you have no control over how your brain works and ages.

But actually merely one third of the ageing process is determined by your genetic make-up a the other two-thirds are under your control.

The brain is made up of many billions of neurons that can stay robust or shrink in sizing, and the connections between those neurons can be strengthened or weakened a or new ones created.

These changes on the physical terrain of your brain give instructions to the body, which manifest as new abilities and skills.

When you forget someoneas name or why you walked into a room, this is a sign of weakening a link with that memory.

So you can focus on maintaining the connections strong and robust, and on forging news ones, or you can allow your brain to shrink and become diminished as a person in the process.

Because nutrients go to work very fast, you can quickly ensure a cognitive result after eating.

Coffee gives you a very obvious energy hit, but a snack that provides good fats, protein and unrefined carbohydrates, such as a handful of almonds and sundried tomatoes, will provide a much more sustained energy boost.

Though your brain is so small you could accommodate it in your cupped hands, it has a ferocious appetite.

This network of interconnecting cells works together to control every single thought and movement, masterminding your concentration, focus, memory and mood.

At any given moment, these cells are receiving and processing 100 million pieces of information. Little wonder they have such a hunger for nutrients.

Your brain consumes 25 per cent of the oxygen you breathe, 20 per cent of the blood that pumps through your heart( sent along 100,000 miles of minuscule blood vessels in your head) and up to half the glucose your body processes from food.

If your brain is not fed precisely the nutritional cocktail it needs to work smoothly and efficiently, things will swiftly go downhill a and thatas when nervousnes, depression, lapses in memory and vacillating concentration can appear.

Using food to keep your brain working well, once you know which are the best brain-supportive foods, is the simplest route to stay sharp.

More than half your brain a 60 per cent a is made up of fat.

After water, fat is the most abundant substance found in the body and the brain.

Every single brain cell is surrounded by fat, and good healthy fats should form a fundamental part of everyoneas diet.

But as fat has been the Number One enemy in diets over the past 50 years, many of us have brains that are fat-deprived.

If youave ever gone alow fata in the interests of weight loss, thereas every chance you suffered from low mood, perhaps depression, as a consequence.

Stick to a low-fat diet long-term and Iam convinced the impact on your brain will be so great youall be compromising your ability to learn new things and to recollect the skills you already have.


( chicken nuggets, fried chicken, chips and crisps ).

( sweets, tarts, biscuits, cakes and milk chocolate ).

( full sugar or diet versions ).


Excess has been linked to poor brain function.

Meat, fruit and veggies that have been subject to a heavy chemical or pesticide load.

Pesticides accumulate in our fatty cell membranes and, with a brain made up of 60 per cent fat, itas best to avoid these toxins.

In addition, youave likely got sore joints, dry scalp, dry eyes, a sluggish metabolism and low energy levels.

But a knee-jerk switch to crisps and cakes isnat going to cut it.

A quarter of the brainas 60 per cent fat is made up of certain types of fat called EFAs or essential fatty acids.

So even if “youre starting” your day with a full English breakfast, thereas every chance your brain has continued to be woefully absence the EFAs it needs.

This is a serious concern: researchers know that a lack of these specific types of fat is likely to predispose you to memory deterioration and even, ultimately, Alzheimeras disease.

The key lies in an emerging understanding that not all fats are equal.

To function at its best, your brain needs healthy different forms of saturated, monounsaturated and polyun- saturated fats.

Your body can merrily construct the first two.

But it canat construct the polyunsaturated fats that are EFAs.

These have to be supplied through the diet.

The fatty composition of animal fats tends to harden our cell membranes, leaving them inflexible and unable to respond quickly to the various jobs they have to do.

Ultimately this leads to sluggish thinking and forgetfulness, as well as general cognitive decline.


Answer the following questions honestly.

If your answer to five or more is aYesa, you could be unwittingly starving your brain.

Follow my scheme all next week in the Daily Mail and test yourself again next Saturday a youall be amazed at how quickly your brain responds.

And the benefits last for life!

1 My guessing is not as clear as it used to be and sometimes I have trouble making decisions.

2 I seem to be forgetting things, such as peopleas names and places, more often than I used to.

3 Even after a good nightas sleep, I still feel tired.

4 I sometimes have feelings of deep depression, hopelessness and despair

5 Some days I drag myself around and everything feels like a huge effort.

6 I ALWAYS require a beaker of coffee to wake myself up in the morning.

7 I require a cup of tea or a chocolate bar or cookie to give me an energy burst mid-afternoon.

8 I crave foods that are high in fat or sugar, or both.

9 My skin is dry and I require lotions to keep it moist.

10 I have found that Iam putting on weight around my middle.

11 I battle to go to sleep at night and wake during the night, too.

12 I drink alcohol three or more periods during the week.

13 I have a number of allergies and food fanaticisms and they seem to be getting worse.

14 My joints are sore and sometimes they ache.

15 I feel more anxious and emphasized than I used to.

16 I often feel hungry two or 3 hour after eating a snack. Having something to feed gives me a quick explosion of energy.

17 I feel that Iam more irritable and moody than I used to be and sometimes have angry outbursts.

18 Itas hard for me to remember when I last felt calm and at peace

19 Sometimes I feel that Iam merely too old to learn new things become I fear that my memory isnat that good any more.

20 I rarely feel like eating any vegetables.

Rigid membranes impair the ability of brain cells to have smooth conversations with each other, so messages between them can become muddled.

Itas like talking on a very bad phone line a the result is sluggish thinking, difficulty in learning a new undertaking or recollecting an old one, depression and nervousnes, a lack of motivating, poor sleep and even a lowered pain threshold.

However, EFAs in the diet can swiftly construct those membranes flexible and elastic.

So, consuming saturated fats as well as EFAs is the answer a not avoiding saturated fats!

This is where many people have become confounded a and why the afat discussiona leads to so many heated arguments among people.

The speed of your thinking depends in part on the health and flexibility of a special brain cell component called myelin, the cover-up of the connections between neurons.

But a significant percentage of myelin is made up of EFAs, so if we donat eat enough of them, communication between brain cells will significantly slow.

In addition to this, our thoughts are going through brain cells via electrical currents carried by neurotransmitters.

The point at which the brain cell( the neuron) and neurotransmitters connect is the synapse.

If the synapse isnat packed with EFAs, it will not be able to release the neurotransmitter optimally and its messages become garbled.

If any part of this electrochemical current is interrupted, the memory or thought becomes incomplete or is destroyed.

Thatas partly what happens when youave strolled into a room and forgotten why you ran there in the first place.

Luckily, consuming enough EFAs will naturally lessens any negative effects of eating the wrong kinds of fats because EFAs are very soft and flexible, so they balance out the hardness and inflexibility of other fats.

So, how do you improve the fat in your brain? By taking action to feed your brain properly.

And in Mondayas paper I will focus on precisely what various kinds of food.

Then all next week Iall be telling you exactly what sort of protein, sugar, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins your brain needs in each snack, with a recipe pullout each day packed with delicious brain-food recipes that are tasty and easy to make.

And Iall also explain how food fanaticisms may be seriously affecting your brain a and how to tell which, if any, foods you may need to cut out altogether.

Source: Daily Mail

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