METRO PLUS

Nutrition for those grey cells

NUTRITIOUS Gorge on fruits and vegetables

NUTRITIOUS Gorge on fruits and vegetables  



Enhance your brain power with a balanced diet

This is the time of the year students and parents go through the mentally exhausting drill of tuitions, pre board exams, and then the finals.

The next two months are traumatic for the high school students who have to use their brain power to the optimal by analysing, categorising, memorising and reproducing all the taught knowledge of the preceding months. What every parent prays for his or her child is that they retain and remember all that was learnt, during the exam time.

In a nutshell, the power of memory looms larger than any other virtue for the student.

How can we enhance our brain power? Are there foods that help? What is the role that nutrition plays in brain functioning? Are there foods that damage the brain cells?

Yes, there are. It is known that food affects the mood and behaviour of man.

Foods that deteriorate the mental functions

Over eating, too much of starch (rice, bread), fried foods, fatty red meats, junk foods, highly sugared drinks, artificial sweeteners and additives are proven to be detrimental to a healthy brain.

It has been shown that the kind of fatty acids known as trans fatty acids found in processed foods and junk foods can actually replace the good fats in the brain cells.

Foods that augment brain functions

Omega 3 oils – Sixty per cent of the brain is made up of fats, mainly omega 3 fatty acids which are hugely needed for brain cell structure, thus improving cognitive and behavioural functions. Our daily requirement of omega 3 is about two to four gms. One tablespoon of flaxseed (linseed) oil/day would supply this.

Foods that contain omega 3 are flaxseeds and its oil, fatty fish like sardines, seeds, nuts especially walnuts and cashews, extra virgin olive oil, egg and green leafy vegetables.

Choline – positively affects learning abilities and memory functioning. Choline is a chemical that may be grouped with the B vitamins.

Foods that contain choline are all nuts especially the humble peanut, egg, milk and sardines.

Iron – iron deficiency is known to impair brain development and learning in children. Iron carries oxygen to the brain cells and aids in attention and learning capabilities. A child who is anaemic is tired and lethargic and lacks ability of concentration. Eat green leafy vegetables, whole grains, ragi, beaten rice (aval), lean meat (especially lean beef) liver.

Antioxidants – protect the brain cells from damage caused by free radicals and environmental pollution. The antioxidants are Vitamin A, E and C.

Best sources of A and C are berries, pomegranate, gooseberries (packed with Vitamin C), mangoes, papaya, oranges, pumpkin, carrot, orange, all yellow and green vegetables. The deeper the colour of the vegetable or fruit the more nutritious they are in these vitamins.

Eat peanut, peanut butter, oilseeds and its oils, papaya, almonds, spinach. Kiwifruit and wheat germ are excellent sources of Vitamin E, a potent antioxidant.

Folic acid, B12, B6 – folic acid is a memory enhancer and B12, B6 a brain longevity enhancer, thus both very essential for proper brain functioning.

Whole grains, oranges, green vegetables are high in folic acid. Whole grains with its wheat germ intact are also excellent sources of B6. Bananas contain tryptophan (an amino acid not produced in the body but derived from food) which is converted to serotonin which is a known mood booster.

With such an array of foods aiding in optimal brain functioning, it is clearly indicative that nutrition does have a major role to play in mental health. It is therefore prudent to include these foods mentioned, always in your diet.



PARVATHY R. KRISHNAN

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