Food for Thought

The food you eat can affect your brain health. We look at the top foods that boost memory and brain power.

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The food you eat can affect your brain health. We look at the top foods that boost memory and brain power. Some old wives tales hold up better than others. There’s now proof chicken soup has antihistamine properties that work against colds. And carrots contain beta-carotene, which is good for your vision. But is it true that eating fish is good for your brain?

According to Dr. Tiffany Chow, a neurologist and scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute, current scientific evidence links brain health to the consumption of fish, as well as other foods. “Fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, mackerel, sardines and bluefin tuna, protect against inflammation and are good for the brain,” she says. “Fish is also a good source of protein instead of red meat, which is laced with the kind of fat that gets you into trouble in the long run in terms of stroke and brain maintenance.” Dr. Carol Greenwood, a senior scientist at Baycrest’s Kunin-Lunenfeld Applied Research Unit and professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto, agrees. “You want a fattier fish, like those who inhabit cold water environments. They use their oils as a natural insulator to improve survival.”


Both Drs. Chow and Greenwood also encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables. “There’s good epidemiological data out there to argue that people with a higher intake of fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of dementia,” says Dr. Greenwood. “We attribute this in part to the anti-oxidants.” Research has shown that virtually any disease process will involve an “oxidating reaction” that causes cell damage. “If you want to look at how to minimize cell damage, you want to protect it from oxidative reactions,” she says. “That’s why anti-oxidants, commonly found in fruits and vegetables, are not only good for your brain they’re good for many other systems in your body, as well.” Sometimes, it’s what you don’t eat that matters. That means trying to keep your sweet tooth in check! “Your brain is only two per cent of your body mass, but it consumes 20 per cent of your glucose intake, and doesn’t cope well with major fluctuations caused by foods with a high glycemic index,” says Dr. Chow. “That means watching your intake of sweets.”

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