6 things you need to do for optimal brain health

As we become more ‘mature’ we hope that we also become significantly wiser…and even though “true wisdom cometh with age,” it’s fair to say that many of us, as we age, feel as if our mental function is not quite as sharp as it once was. Many of us don’t realise the vital role that nutrition has to play in our mental function.

Eat Fat

The primary building block of brain tissue is an omega 3 fat DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), that is found in fish oil and can also be created within the body from the ‘base’ omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid—found in oils such as flaxseed and hemp oils and in walnuts and pumpkin seeds.

Suffice to say, it is extremely important to be eating good quality omega 3 fats each and every day.

Take fish oil capsules daily and/or eat walnuts and pumpkin seeds a few times a week, and use flaxseed oil or hempseed oil as a salad dressing.

Eat Protein

Protein containing foods (meat, eggs, nuts and seeds or quality supplements) contain amino-acids that are used to create the chemicals that our brain uses to communicate. Without optimised protein levels we may not have enough of these chemicals needed to provide for the best levels of awakening and alertness through the day, nor those required to relax at night!

Make sure you eat about a palm-sized portion of a quality protein food at each and every meal.

Eat ‘Slow Carbs’

The brain’s priority fuel is glucose (blood sugar). But this does not mean we should eat sugar for optimal brain health! Eating lots of sugar or other highly processed carbohydrate foods (like those from cakes, cookies and other baked goods) can actually damage brain cells.

The best way to reduce potential damage is to stabilise blood sugar levels, and to do this we need to eat carbohydrates that are natural, whole and unprocessed. These carb foods include vegetables, berries, kumara, yams and if you are very active the ‘ancient grains’ (wild rice, quinoa, millet). These types of carbohydrates help us avoid the ‘spike and crash’ that comes from eating too much sugar.

Use kumara, yams, and vegetables as your main carb choices and limit sugar, bread, pasta and other bakery goods.

Use Coconut Oil

The brain can also use certain types of fats for fuel! Fats from coconut oil and dairy fat (butter and ghee) can provide a stable, efficient fuel source for brain cells. These fats (especially the fuels created from Medium Chain Triglycerides in coconut oil) may actually protect brain cells from the damage associated with Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimers!

Use a little coconut cream in smoothies and cook using ghee, butter or coconut oil.

Eat More Vegetables

A deficiency in the  B-vitamins and many other vitamins and minerals has been associated with with age-related dementia and other mental problems.

Eating ‘nutrient dense’ foods like vegetables and berries helps us to get enough of these essential nutrients. But in spite of our best efforts to eat nutrient-dense foods more often we seldom have enough consistently. Eat at least 6 servings (fist-sized) of vegetables every day, and consider using a natural multi-nutrient formula such as NuZest’s Good Green Stuff!)

Use Brain-Supporting Herbs

Some herbs can help to support brain function. These include: rhodiola, ginseng, gotu kola, green tea and ginger. Use ginseng, lemon balm, ginger, rhodiola and green teas.


About the author:

Cliff Harvey is a naturopath and registered clinical nutritionist with a clinic on Auckland’s North Shore. Cliff also lectures on the topic of sports nutrition at Auckland’s Wellpark College and runs education programmes for trainers, coaches, naturopaths and nutritionists. He is pursuing research at AUT University in the area of nutritional metabolism.

Over the past 15 years Cliff has worked with many high-performing athletes competing at Olympic, world championship and Commonwealth Game level.

Cliff is one of the co-creators of the NuZest range of products: Good Green Stuff and Clean Lean Protein.

Read more from Cliff Harvey here