Food for thought: Here’s how to boost your brain health with the right diet

If you have been wondering why you feel sleepy after a meal, you may not be eating the right foods. A good diet will improve brain health and keep you alert all day, says our nutritionist
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When it comes to staying alert and focused, there are several systems involved within your body. Keeping your body efficient by using food as fuel correctly is the best way that you can boost your brain health and use your mind as productively as possible.

The right foods can improve alertness and brain health (Pic credit: Shutterstock)

Before I take you through some foods that can help you, I want to first speak about some important systems in the body.

There are three key systems that play a role in brain health and focus - blood sugar balance, circadian rhythms and digestive health.

Blood sugar balance and brain health

Preparing healthy food at home is the best way to ensure blood sugar balance all day (Pic credit: Shutterstock)

Recent research has found that a large number of people who had blood sugar imbalance thirty years ago, all developed neurodegeneration. What this has now illuminated is that blood sugar balance is the key to supporting brain health. While your brain likes glucose, it does not like it to be in spikes and crashes, or in excess.

To support your brain health, the first thing that you need to work on is stable blood sugar all the time. If you are on a diet where you eat just two meals, this is all the more important. If those meals have high sugar, then your blood sugar will spike and crash. It is very important that you see that your blood sugar is balanced by eating fat, fibre, protein and colour at every meal.


Circadian rhythm and brain health

Unless your job involves staying up all night long, it is critical to build optimal circadian rhythm by going to bed before 10 pm and waking up with the dawn. Without having circadian rhythms, no amount of correct eating will be supportive.

The reason for this is that the brain needs deep restorative sleep from 10pm to 6am, in order for metabolites to detoxify. This is a critical part of efficient brain activity and focus. Getting to bed at the right time, waking up at the right time and eating meals at regular times are all important for focus.

Digestive health and the brain

You might have heard that the gut and the brain are deeply connected. They are connected via the vagus nerve. When digestion is poor, or when you suffer from digestive distress, it will immediately impact your ability to focus. Find a way to support your digestive health with simple home remedies that improve digestion. It is only when you have good digestion, that your body can absorb nutrients efficiently and support your brain health.

What can you eat to boost your brain health?

To improve focus, you have to think about good digestion, great food and blood sugar balance. When it comes to choosing the right foods, think about clean proteins, healthy fats and lots of phytonutrients. Your brain loves phytonutrients which are from different colored plant foods. These are rich in antioxidants that provide fuel for alertness.

You also need to keep blood sugar stable. If you eat a diet high in sugars, where your blood sugar keeps crashing, then your brain will struggle to stay alert. Let’s look at some food combinations that support blood sugar balance, good digestion and optimal brain health.

Seared fish with asparagus and broccoli

Pan fried fish with vegetables is a nutritious meal (Pic credit: Shutterstock)

Pan frying your favourite fish in whatever style you like and combining it with half a plate of non-starchy vegetables like broccoli and asparagus in organic butter, is a great meal to keep you super alert. Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Make sure that you eat fresh fish rather than anything that is farmed. Non starchy vegetables stabilise blood sugar and improve digestion.


Fresh green salad with walnuts and pomegranate

When it comes to phytonutrients, one of the best ways to get them is through a salad. You can combine them in different ways and add spices and flavours that you love.

Start by buying some fresh leafy greens. Choose from kale, methi, bitter greens and any local greens. Rinse the greens well and shred the leaves. Add two colored vegetables grated. Choose from carrots, beetroots, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and different colored cabbage.

A green salad is full of phytonutrients (Pic credit: Shutterstock)

Add a handful of ruby red pomegranates which are rich in antioxidants. Toast some walnuts and cashews for healthy fats and proteins. Drizzle generous amounts of olive oil or sesame oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and any spice. Enjoy it fresh. After such a meal, there is absolutely no way that you will not be alert!

Desi food

A well-balanced Indian meal can boost brain power (Pic credit: Shutterstock)

When it comes to enjoying hot food, nothing beats a good Indian meal. But a large quantity of rice or too many rotis with little protein and fat will upset your blood sugar balance.

You have to see that you eat two or three tablespoons of rice with ample dal and two varieties of cooked vegetables. Add a dollop of ghee and if possible, add a little salad. When you do eat a meal like this, remember to drink a lot of water, starting one hour after the meal. Water supports brain health tremendously.

Oats and almond milk

A breakfast of oats and almond milk can keep you focused all day (Pic credit: Shutterstock)

Nothing stabilises blood sugar and improves alertness as much as oats. See that you source gluten free oats. Most people cook the oats which actually can make you less alert. Instead soak it overnight in almond milk. When you are ready to eat, add some cardamom powder or vanilla, little raw honey, and some low glycemic fruit like green apples, pomegranates and pears.

You will just need a small bowl to make you full. This is one meal that is a great way to be focused right through the day!

(All picture credits: Shutterstock)

Edited by Asha Chowdary

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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