10 foods to help boost mental performance

Proper nutrition can play a critical role in maintaining good mental health, and choosing the right foods can also play a significant role in your cognitive performance, memory and overall brain function. To help you get the most out of your diet, here are 10 foods that could optimise your brainpower.

The role of food in mental performance

There have been studies that prove the link between good nutrition and brain health, which is why everyone should pay more attention to what they are putting into their body. But choosing the right food for your day-to-day diet is only one part of the process. To maximise the benefits of ‘brain food’ you must stay consistent with your eating habits.

“Your brain requires a constant stream of fuel across the day from glucose, which is found in carbohydrates,” says dietitian Jessica Perrone from The Lifestyle Dietitian. “Because the brain cannot keep backup stores of glucose, regular eating is important. Skipping meals and snacks causes your blood-glucose levels to dip, and with this comes a drop in your concentration, energy levels and even mood!”

Ready to swap out those brain-blocking foods for a more mentally stimulating diet? Here are 10 foods that could help supercharge your brainpower and lead to improved mental performance over the long term.

1. Wholegrains

Wholegrains like brown rice, quinoa and oats are high in fibre, essential B vitamins, antioxidants and other nutrients that can help improve mental wellbeing.

“Low-GI carbohydrates are slowly released in the body, meaning you will have sustained energy and brain fuel throughout the day,” Perrone says. “In addition to wholegrain foods, you can also get these ‘good’ carbs from baked beans, grainy crackers, rolled oats, roasted chickpeas, basmati rice and plain popcorn.”

2. Fatty fish

There are many delicious fatty fish varieties that act as an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can be beneficial for brain health and development.

“Your brain cells are built from omega-3 fats, so a low intake can impair learning and memory,” Perrone says. “Rich sources include oily fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines. Aiming for two to three serves of oily fish per week is ideal.”

3. Blueberries

Blueberries are high in antioxidants, which means they can help protect the brain against things like oxidative stress while boosting cognitive function at the same time.

“Deep-coloured berries are rich in anthocyanins which improve memory, enhance brain function and reduce rates of cognitive decline,” Perrone says. 

4. Avocado

Avocado might come with a relatively high calorie count, but it is also a fantastic source of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, fibre and vitamin E, which can keep your brain healthy and naturally improve your mood.

5. Leafy greens

If a veggie looks like it’s good for your body, it may also be good for your brain. Spinach, kale and broccoli are just a few of the common leafy green vegetables that are high in vitamins and minerals important to your brain health.

“Leafy greens are high in vitamin K, which helps build structural pathways within the brain,” Perrone says.

6. Eggs

Not only are eggs a good source of high-quality protein, which provides the building blocks for brain cells and neurotransmitters. They also contain high levels of choline, which is a precursor to acetylcholine – a neurotransmitter that could play a vital role in your memory and learning function.

7. Turmeric

A tasty spice that can elevate a number of healthy dishes, turmeric may act as a brain-boosting food thanks to the compound curcumin. This has been shown to have anti-inflammatory as well as antioxidant properties that can contribute to improved cognitive function and mood.

8. Nuts and seeds

Many different nuts and seeds are great sources of both vitamin E and healthy fats, and they could help to boost brain function, brain health and may even reduce the risk of cognitive decline or reduce the severity of depression. Here are some tasty treats to add to your diet:

9. Dark chocolate

Obviously any type of chocolate should only be consumed in moderation, but dark chocolate has specific properties that make it a great ‘brain food’. In particular, dark chocolate with cocoa flavanols can improve blood flow to the brain in young adults and may boost attention, verbal learning and memory.

10. Coffee

Your morning coffee could be doing more for your overall brain health than you think. In fact, a recent study found that life-long coffee consumption is linked to the “prevention of cognitive decline, and reduced risk of developing stroke, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.”

Your brain’s secret weapon

While no single food will provide mental superpowers, building these foods into your diet and continuing to exercise regularly can lead to positive health outcomes for your brain. As Perrone says: “Nutrition can play an invaluable role in keeping your concentration, memory and energy levels in top shape. If you want to boost your mental performance, taking advantage of the power of food is imperative.”

Since you are making a positive change for your diet and overall mental wellbeing, it may be worth reviewing your life insurance policy to make sure it still meets your needs. Talk to the team at Guardian Insurance today about life insurance or consider requesting a quote for life insurance online.