Brain food for clarity, energy, sleep
Jessica Dogert and Jasmine El Nabli cover brain foods and supplements that help with your energy, clarity, and sleep.
Jessica Dogert: registered dietitian who focuses on how nutrition can impact your brain for the better. Created a course for nutrition on the brain.
Jasmine El Nabli: MS, RDN, and corporate health and wellness director!
Dan Murray-Serter: Co-founder of braincare company Heights, and host of our Braincare Podcast.
(Resources can be found at the bottom)
What would you suggest they eat on a daily basis to optimise brain power?
Omega 3: Start with omega 3 DHA and EPA, most commonly found in fatty fish. An anti-inflammatory, omega 3 is linked to reduced stress levels, optimising brain function and increasing your brain's grey-matter which is associated with intelligence.
Protein: Prioritise protein at meals. Protein is rich in the amino acids Tyrosine and Tryptophan- the building blocks of dopamine and serotonin (the big-hitter neurotransmitters!)
Greens: Make sure you incorporate a lot of dark leafy greens. Studies show that those who regularly eat a 1/2 cup of greens have the memory of people 11 years younger than them. You can have them in salads, smoothies, and more.
Berries: Berries need to be a staple in your diet because they contain flavonoids which are great brain food. Studies show that berry consumption can improve communication between brain cells, reduce inflammation, increase plasticity, and neural connections, and reduce/delay age-related neurodegenerative diseases.
What happens with vegetarians and vegans who can't eat fish?
Our bodies really struggle to convert ALA to DHA. If you are vegan or vegetarian, you can get plant-based sources of Omega-3’s from chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds in the form of ALA, but it’s not going to convert to the EPA and DHA that our brains desperately need. If you can, try to incorporate fatty fish into your diet.
When it comes to brain health it's better to follow a more mediterranean-style diet.
The best thing you can do is eat a better diet, it’s not to take a supplement. But for a lot of people this is very difficult because life gets in the way! The second best thing to do in that case is supplement.
What should you stock your pantry and fridge with?
Important step: make sure you have the correct foods in your pantry and fridge. This way it becomes a staple in your diet, and is your first step in improving your brain health, energy, clarity, and sleep.
Fill it with foods high in polyphenols which help the hippocampus region (the memory and learning part of the brain).
Spices like turmeric, and pairing it with black pepper to increase the anti-inflammatory effects.
Dark, leafy greens
A balanced plate and blood sugar control
Blood sugar control is key. It is important for mental clarity, energy, and performance.
If carbohydrates are eaten alone, blood sugar levels spike within 1-2 hours. If paired with a protein, this is extended to 3-4 hours.
Keeps blood sugar steady throughout the day. Making sure we have consistent blood sugar control throughout the day can make us make better food choices.
What would you recommend for energy, clarity, sleep, and why?
Magnesium L Threonate. One study found that those who took it for 3 months had brain function of people 12 years younger- it can keep your brain from ageing!
½ cup of dark, leafy greens a day (as previously mentioned).
Omega-3 fatty acid supplement (having fish once or twice a week is not enough!)
Turmeric for inflammation.
What plant-based foods can you eat in the afternoon when you've gotten up early?
Matcha green tea. Matcha has ⅓ less caffeine than coffee does. It also contains the compound L Theanine that helps boost energy, increase alertness, improve focus, and decrease the jitters you often get with too much coffee.
Vegan yogurt and matcha powder.
Matcha mint chip with dark leafy greens (the cacao is beneficial for energy as well.)
Fill your smoothie with fruits, proteins (e.g flaxseeds), and healthy fats (e.g. nuts). This will help balance your energy levels and get you to your next meal without a blood sugar crash.
Hydration for energy- water is super important. Add a pinch of sea salt or citrus to your glass of water. Citrus is packed with Vitamin C, which is good for the immune system, and is linked to slowing mitochondrial ageing.
Would you recommend any specific types of fruit for the afternoon?
Berries- they’re super important for brain function.
Recipe idea: Vegetables should be more predominant than fruits. If you’re going to have a high-sugar fruit, half it. Keep the fruits to berries and add in leafy greens. A teaspoon or two of flax, chia, or hemp seeds. Add almond milk, cinnamon, and some kind of nut butter.
Make sure your plate doesn’t only include fruit, but healthy protein and fats to help stabilise blood sugar. For example, pair your apple with almond butter.
One food you'd recommend to support brain health?
Omega-3-rich fish may help support brain health.
Dark chocolate. The cocoa flavanols may help reduce levels of stress hormones. One study found that eating an ounce and a half of dark chocolate a day reduced feelings of tension. Should be at least 70% cocoa.
Gut health is directly linked to brain health. Be consistent with probiotic and prebiotic intake to help foster a great gut microbiome to help with your overall brain health. Incorporate either a probiotic supplement or fermented foods into your diet like sauerkraut, miso, or kimchi- they are probiotic powerhouses! Prebiotic foods (e.g.bananas, garlic, asparagus, artichokes, soybeans, onions, TigerNuts) can help foster a really healthy gut microbiome.
Sleep disturbances & supplements
Sleep is super important- you need to be getting at least 7-8 hrs of sleep a night.
Supplements help calm the nervous system to help with sleep.
Blueberry extract helps your glymphatic system which is important for when you’re sleeping.
B-vitamin complex helps to regulate energy, and avoids the spike of energy people with sleep issues experience.
To explore more benefits of Omega-3 read this comprehensive guide.
If you want to find out more about how berries benefit your brain, read this.
Read about 7 brain foods for focus.
Read Sophie Medlin’s guide on the top 12 foods for long-term brain health.
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