What you need to know:
- It is important to get these foods into the diet as they help to reduce inflammation, which causes cognitive decline and general mental health illnesses such as anxiety and depression.
Consumption of smaller, usually easily prepared food items between regular meals is common. However, it is important to choose the right snacks, rich in nutrients and those with a positive impact on cognitive function, mood and overall brain health.
Daniel Kamara, a nutritionist at Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre, Kampala, notes that balancing carbohydrates, proteins and fats while preparing snacks is good for optimal brain health. He advises one to consume 60 to 65 percent carbohydrates, 20 to 25 percent protein and less than 30 percent fats.
“Mental clarity and focus during demanding tasks or work can be maintained by taking caffeine (coffee) as it enhances activeness and prevents sleep although it can cause insomnia with prolonged use,” he adds
According to thrive-magazine.co.uk, what we eat directly affects cognitive function and in turn, mental health. In particular, a diet rich in Omega 3 fatty acids supports cognitive function.
“DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) is the most abundant Omega 3 fatty acid found in brain cell membranes. Our bodies cannot make it, but it can be synthesised via foods that contain Omega 3 such as avocados, olive oil and flax seed,” thrive-magazine.co.uk states.
It is important to get these foods into the diet as they help to reduce inflammation, which causes cognitive decline and general mental health illnesses such as anxiety and depression.
B vitamins are also thought to contribute to neurotransmitter production and in turn reduce cognitive decline. Vitamin B3, B6, folic acid and B12, send messages from one brain cell to another. Without these, there may be inability to think straight, hearing one’s own thoughts and so on.
According to thrive-magazine.co.uk eating snacks is also a way of fueling the brain and body to continue on its way.
It is not about energy production
Kamara notes that proper nutrition during conception in women enhances brain development and prevents neural tube defects in babies. Brain development depends on the iron levels of the baby and takes place in the first 100 days after birth. He mentions that Iron, Folate and Zinc are key nutrients for brain health.
“Snacks such as roasted cereals contain important micro nutrients such as iron for brain development as well as fruits rich in vitamin C, which enhances the absorption of other micro nutrients,” he says.
He adds that nutrient-dense snacks such as fortified cereals, milk products, popcorn, whole grain bread, fruits such as oranges, banana and pineapple are beneficial for brain health as well as snack combinations such as milk tea with whole grain bread, roasted ground nuts with Irish potatoes, egg and fruit juice (water melon) with pasta can provide a good balance of macronutrients
Kamara stresses that sugary foods are associated with high levels of toxins (oxidants) and enhance generation of free radicals that may lead to cancers and so, these should be avoided during snacking.
“Alternatives to common processed snack options that are more beneficial for the brain include fruit and vegetable salads, fortified cereals, nuts and seeds,” says Kamara.
He also stresses the importance of hydration in supporting brain function.
“Ensure proper supply of nutrients to the brain for proper functioning as well as removal of waste from the brain by eating fruit salads and dairy product,” he adds.
For individuals learning to add brain-boosting snacks into their daily routine, he advises eating pyramid and Mediterranean diets.