Your brain is your best friend. Establish basic brain food habits and your grey matter will thank you. Like the well-trained dog who will serve and play joyfully with you as long you feed him well, your brain depends on you to operate at full capacity.
In the world of nutrition, things can very quickly become overcomplicated. Complex advice can become not just hard to follow, but impossible to put into practice in our busy lives. To keep things simple, we’ve collated our 12 favourite every-day foods to optimise your brain. This is absolutely not an exhaustive list, but rather a basic all-round toolbox for good mood and mental performance day after day.
Brain Food: 12 staples for optimal brain health
Protein rich brain food
1. Eggs: the perfect breakfast brain food
A key step in achieving optimal brain health and mental performance starts with a high-protein breakfast. This will keep your energy on an even keel, supplying the brain with a steady release of energy throughout the morning. In addition to protein, eggs have the extra benefit of providing choline.
Choline has been shown to contribute to increased neuroplasticity. Increased neuroplasticity means the brain will be able to make new neurone connections easier. In other words, you’ll be able to learn new things and remember them better. Don’t eat eggs? We’ve included your daily dose of choline in our vegan-friendly Power Up daytime nootropic.
2. Organic Whey Protein: the tryptophan goldmine
Organic whey protein is the most bioavailable source of tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid necessary for the production of serotonin – the feel good hormone that will optimise your mood and restful recovery. Tryptophan is super important for proper sleep.
Try taking a serving of organic whey protein 30 minutes to an hour before bed: the protein will improve brain recovery overnight, while the tryptophan will induce deep restful sleep. You’ll wake up refreshed and ready to go! If you’re looking for a vegan-friendly alternative, try tahini, or a protein powder with real peanuts in it (peanut flavouring won’t work!).
High fibre brain food to regulate digestion
3. Oats: Fibre + Fuel
Oats are great. An excellent and regular supply of glucose (brain fuel), oats benefit from high levels of fibre too, meaning you’re not taking your brain on a sugar rollercoaster ride. As a rule of thumb, the coarser the oats, the better. Indeed, highly refined “instant” porridge will have a much higher glycaemic index than steel cut oats, defeating the purpose.
4. Leafy Greens: Fibre + Phytonutrients
It would not be fair to highlight only one leafy green vegetable when the key is in the variety. The fibre will aid the regular release of glucose into the brain, but you’ll also be packing in a load of brain-fuelling phytonutrients. Vitamins A, C and K are off the charts in the brassica family. Just make sure to pick whatever is in season locally and avoid falling for a steamed-broccoli-every-day routine. Brain food requires variety!
Fatty brain food for good mood
5. Cold-pressed hemp seed oil
Low levels of omega-3 are linked to depression and anxiety, so be sure to beef up your diet in EPA and DHA omega-3s. A high quality fish oil is excellent (we recommend Bare Biology). If you are vegan, opt for organic cold-pressed hemp seed oil: 2-3 tablespoons a day.
In addition to fish oil, a couple portions of fatty fish per week go a long way in fuelling the brain in healthy fatty acids to keep things running smoothly. As an easy way to remember these think SMASH-T – AKA sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, herring and trout. Note that bigger fish like tuna are higher up the food chain, so are likely to have accumulated more heavy metals than smaller fatty fish like sardines or anchovies.
Flavonoid-rich foods to clear oxidative stress
7. Apple skin
Peel your apples? Stop right there. Apples are a great source of catechins, a type of flavonoid antioxidant particularly beneficial to clearing oxidative stress from the brain. The catechins are mostly in the skin of the apple, so you’ll miss out on a lot of the antioxidant action if you peel your fruit. To avoid wax and pesticides, try to source local and organic apples.
We’re all familiar with blueberries being great sources of antioxidants. But further to this, it’s actually been shown that blueberries can increase brain blood flow and even working memory. The studies were done with high concentrations of blueberries – the equivalent of over 200g of berries per day, which might get expensive. Even so, it won’t hurt to include a handful here and there!
It’s a good idea to have a back stock of bloobs in your freezer. An easy addition to morning smoothies, porridge or that pre-bed whey protein hit. Try simply mixing organic plain yoghurt, organic whey protein, and a handful of blueberries in a bowl.
Gut-healing foods for the gut-brain connection
There is a close connection between the health of your gut flora and the stability of your mood and mental energy levels. For optimal brain health, feed your gut microbiota well.
9. Bone broth
With high levels of gut-healing collagen, bone broth is the ultimate comfort food for the mind and brain. You can easily make your own in a slow cooker over 24 hours, but if you’re short for time, buy some ready-made broth from a high quality organic supplier like Borough Broth Co.
10. High quality probiotics
Food sources of probiotics such as kimchi and kefir are great, but a high-strain probiotic can make the difference when it comes to establishing a healthy gut microbiome. Look out for a brand which passes the “survival test”, meaning the probiotics make it to the gut alive. We recommend trying Symprove.
Food-based nootropics to feed the brain
11. Power Up: Daytime Nootropic
Power Up is designed for two things: immediate improvements to mental performance and wellbeing, and long term brain health benefits. Looking at the immediate benefits, we draw particular attention to mental alertness, memory and flexibility improvements delivered by L-tyrosine, L-carnitine and Ginseng. These benefits will go a long way for anyone with high-stress jobs, who are often under time pressure and need to make quick decisions.
The methylated forms of B-vitamins included in Power Up will feed the brain for raised mental energy levels. Especially important if you do not eat meat (and are at risk of low-levels of B-vitamins).
12. Unplug: Night-Time Nootropic
Unplug is Motion Nutrition’s evening nootropic supplement. Just like Power Up, it’s designed to improve the health of the brain in the long run, with benefits accumulating over time. But in the short run, Unplug feeds the brain to decrease both mental (rushing thoughts, feelings of panic, inability to focus) and physical (muscular tension, raised blood pressure) feelings of anxiety with powerful adaptogens rhodiola and ashwagandha. In addition, bacopa monnieri, a nootropic herb used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, will promote brain longevity, cognitive enhancement and deep restorative sleep.