“The wonderful human brain is the most complex and demanding organ in our body and it uses more than 20 per cent of our body’s energy and oxygen supply. Clearly, we need to fuel our brains to ensure they work at maximum potential,” says wellbeing entrepreneur Liz Earle.
With her company Liz Earle Wellbeing having recently gone global, Liz is busier than ever. And at a time when there’s more information to digest, decisions to make and technological updates to be aware of, brain health has become high on her agenda. “I’ve found these simple but effective brain-boosting strategies incredibly helpful,” Liz explains.
1. Eat a nutritious diet
It is easy to forget that it is as important to feed our brain as it is the rest of our body. Increasing evidence suggests that diet can play a significant role in protecting us from diseases of the brain, such as Alzheimer’s.
What I do: some of my absolute favourite brain-boosting foods include...
Broccoli: high in Vitamin K which can slow down the process of mental deterioration and particularly delicious griddled with sugar snap peas .
Blueberries: the antioxidising flavonoids in the berries, called anthocyanins (the purple/blue pigment) are linked to improvements in short-term memory loss.
Walnuts: which contain a whole host of neuroprotective compounds.
2. Give your brain a daily workout
The brain is a muscle, and as with any muscle, we have to use it, or lose it! This is particularly relevant in our increasingly high-tech world when being able to access all kinds of information at our fingertips means we aren’t putting our little grey cells to such good use.
What I do: I try to exercise my brain whenever possible – shunning calculators and relying on mental maths. Such an easy way to give your brain a regular workout.
3. Make time for exercise
Exercise’s positive effect on memory and brain health is backed up by plenty of evidence. Not only does regular exercise lower our risk of normal age-related cognitive decline, but tests have shown we are more successful at committing information to memory after exercising.
What I do: I find exercising outside works particularly well for me and I like to start my days with a (short!) run in the fresh air as this gives me and my brain a real boost in the morning and leaves me feeling alert and ready for the day ahead.
Hoda Davaine for Asquith
4. Look after your gut health
Increasing evidence shows that there really is an intimate link between mental health and gut health. Not only does it seem that our brains affect our gut health, but our guts may impact on our moods, too.
MORE GLOSS: What this top GP wants you to know about your gut
What I do: It’s so easy to look after our gut by adding a daily dose of probiotics into our diets, in the form of plain live yoghurt or fermented foods such as kefir (see Liz's recipe here ) and pickled vegetables. This simple change can make a real difference. What I love about gut health is that you don't have to give anything up, but by adding a bit of goodness into your daily life you can really improve your overall wellbeing.
5. Get good sleep
Few things are more fundamental to wellbeing than a good night’s sleep and most experts agree the optimum is around seven hours a night. Good sleep isn’t just about the here and now either as low-quality sleep has been linked with future early on-set dementia and Alzheimers’ disease, as poor long-term sleep patterns may affect brain chemistry.
MORE GLOSS: Are you getting enough of this memory-boosting sleep?
What I do: I find that allowing time to wind down before bedtime – by listening to music, taking a bath or reading a book – is really conducive to a good night’s sleep. I also like to sprinkle a little essential lavender oil on my pillow to encourage restful sleep or make your own lavender pillow spray .
6. Check your vitamin B12 levels
As vitamins go, B12, the brain and mood-booster doesn’t get much airtime, which is surprising as it plays such a significant role in our daily health. B12 is a vital ingredient in healthy nerve cells and B12 deficiency can lead to memory problems and low moods (even depression).
MORE GLOSS: Everything you need to know about the B vitamins
What I do: It’s simple to boost your B12 levels, just ensure your diet includes meat, fish, eggs, milk and cheese. B12 helps us feel and perform at our best so if you are concerned you have a deficiency, the best course of action is to have your levels tested – particularly important if you don’t eat meat, fish, dairy or eggs. I make sure I eat two or three of these foods each and every day.
For more information on B12, see Autumn 2018 issue of Liz Earle Wellbeing magazine.