Seat of our emotions and thoughts, the brain requires at least forty different substances (minerals, vitamins, essential amino acids, fatty acids, etc.) to function properly. Obviously, there is no "complete" food capable of providing all these substances. Common sense therefore leads us to vary our diet as much as possible in order to bring them all together. However, some foods stand out and are particularly beneficial...

 Salmon to maintain brain structure

Did you know that the brain is the organ richest in fat? But unlike those contained in adipose tissue, these fats do not serve as a reserve: they enter into the composition of the biological membranes of neurons. This fatty sheath not only protects neurons, but also promotes the creation of new connections between cells. We owe this structure in particular to the famous omega-3 fatty acids, more commonly called the “good fats” and of which salmon is one of the best sources. This is why fish are often associated with a healthy brain! Studies have shown that deficiencies in these fatty acids induce mild neurophysiological dysfunctions and can affect sleep quality, learning, cognitive performance and the perception of pleasure.

In addition to its very high omega-3 content, salmon also contains a large amount of minerals, including selenium. By combining with other enzymes, it would be able to prevent the formation of free radicals responsible for cognitive aging.

Low GI starches for long-lasting cognitive performance

The brain constantly demands energy. At rest, it uses about 20% of the food energy consumed and requires mainly carbohydrates. Its effectiveness therefore depends on the nutritional quality but also on the regular distribution of these sugars. This is why it is necessary to favor starchy foods with a low glycemic index which will maintain a much longer lasting blood sugar level and supply the brain on a regular basis.

Studies have shown that activities requiring great attention over long periods of time (an exam for example) were more sensitive to the proper regulation of glycemia (= blood sugar level). The type of glycemic index consumed influences, for example, driving performance, but only beyond the 70th kilometer1. In the same way, it has been established that people whose blood sugar levels are poorly regulated experience reduced intellectual performance (by about 8 to 10%).

Example of low GI starches: Wheat (whole grain, steamed), broad beans (cooked), beans (cooked), beans (red and white), hummus, dark rye bread, cereal bread, egg pasta, chickpeas , brown rice, lentil soup...

Blueberries to improve cognitive functions

As previously announced, the human brain is a very greedy organ. The degradation of its favorite resource, sugar, releases oxidizing molecules which are ultimately responsible for its aging. These are the famous free radicals. Fortunately, there are substances that can counter them and slow down this phenomenon of senescence, which is closely linked to neurodegenerative pathologies (Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, etc.): antioxidants.

It turns out that blueberries have the highest antioxidant activities among all fruits. Their consumption would therefore slow down the decline of cognitive functions, but not only. It might even improve them!

In several studies published in the Journal of Neuroscience, American researchers have shown that a diet rich in blueberries in rats (the equivalent of a cup of blueberries a day for humans) leads to an increase in the spatial memory of animals and improved learning abilities in those suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Other studies in humans have shown these properties, as well as increased communication between brain cells.

Be careful, the consumption of blueberry juice would however be less effective than the fruit itself.

The molds to guarantee the energy of the brain

The brain needs carbohydrates, but it also needs oxygen to produce energy. A few minutes without oxidizer (oxygen) or without fuel (glucose), and it is certain death for the neurons. A simple momentary reduction in their intake, on the other hand, prevents them from functioning optimally. This decrease may be due to oxygen.

Indeed, for it to reach the brain, it must be transported by the body's red blood cells. For this, its cells must contain enough iron drawn from the food consumed. If this is not the case, we are exposed to a deficiency that affects intellectual performance: reduced attention, mood disorders, memory loss... Studies have also proven its role in the brain development as in the modulation of cognitive performance.

Grapes to improve cognitive abilities

Like blueberries, grapes contain many antioxidants, in particular flavonoids, such as quercetin, myricetin, catechins, anthocyanins and especially resveratrol, a substance which is mainly responsible for the benefits of wine. All these molecules make it possible to slow down the action of free radicals generated by the large consumption of sugars in the brain. Several studies have shown that the consumption of grapes (in juice) has an effect on motor skills and memory.

However, red grapes are said to be about twice as antioxidant as green grapes, mainly due to their higher quantity of anthocyanins4. In general, fruits and vegetables with the brightest colors contain more.

Other foods rich in antioxidants: dark chocolate, colorful fruits and vegetables (spinach, peppers).

What better, then, than marine bivalves, and in particular mussels, to ensure a sufficient iron level? Especially since mussels contain a high rate of heme iron, which is much more assimilable than the iron contained in vegetable products. These small molluscs have other strings to their bows: in addition to being tasty and containing omega-3 fatty acids, they are particularly rich in vitamins B2 and B12, whose role in the proper functioning of the brain and the system nervous, is very important.