Brain Support Foods by Shirley Ward

Support Your Mental Energy and Brain Function – make the right food choices:

Your food choices  are a really good place to start – certain foods can either benefit brain function or actively compromise this, so make sure you choose wisely and remember the following rules:

Rule 1: Choose “energy producing” foods: As we can't produce energy ourselves, we need to obtain this from food

Choose: brown rice, oats, wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta, whole grains, lentils and beans, fruit and vegetables.

As well as containing good amounts of energy, these foods also contain the magic ingredient, fibre. This moderates energy release to both the body and brain to help balance levels throughout the day, plus these foods are packed full of vitamins and minerals to aid their digestion

Rule 2: Cut Down on "Energy Depleting" Foods: As these lack that vital fibre element, their energy is released and used up quickly, creating an energy dip. These dips can also cause concentration levels to fall as the brain struggles to function efficiently

Cut Down: white rice, white bread, white pasta, pastries, sugary drinks, cakes and biscuits

Rule 3: Don't Forget the Protein! Which is crucial for producing brain cells and neurotransmitters, which regulate concentration and mood

Don't Forget: easily digestible protein sources such as fish, chicken, turkey, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, eggs and tofu. Cut down on red meat and full-fat dairy, which use up lots of energy during digestion

Rule 4: Fats are Essential: "Essential" fats are needed for producing both brain cells and energy

Numerous studies confirm how "brain-essential" these fats are, one UK study links fish oils with reduced aggression in young offenders.


Sources: Oily fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines, nuts and seeds, olive oil, flax (linseed) oil, avocados and green leafy vegetables

But won't these make me fat? No, if eaten in balance, these fats can actually aid weight management.  Stick to the rules by ensuring your meals contain a balance of "energy-producing" foods, protein and "essential" fats

Rule 5: Moderate Caffeine-containing Drinks: In excess, caffeine is an energy-depletor and may reduce absorption of key energy-nutrients

Moderate: tea, coffee and caffeine-containing soft drinks, alternating with fruit/herb teas

And the final Rule is Water, Water & Water!! As our brain is 85% water and we use up at least 1.5 litres a day, we need to keep topped up to give our brains and energy production systems a chance

Without regular water our brains can't function efficiently and we can't obtain energy from food. Did you know a mere 2% drop in hydration produces a 20% drop in mental and physical energy levels?  Avoid this by aiming for 1.5 to 2 litres of water daily, spaced throughout the day (which can include herb and fruit teas)

So by not breaking too many of these rules too often, you can help improve your energy and concentration levels and give yourself the best chance of balanced mood, just remember the rules:

Rule 1: Choose "Energy Producing" Foods
Rule 2: Cut Down on "Energy Depleting" Foods
Rule 3: Don't Forget the Protein
Rule 4: Fats are Essential
Rule 5: Moderate Caffeine-containing Drinks
Final Rule: Water, Water & Water

So what are you waiting for? Make a start with the following easy and cheap meal and snack suggestions:

Baked Sweet Potato, Tuna & Avocado: Bake sweet potato at 180C for approx 30 minutes/until tender, top with ½ can of tuna in olive oil (drained), ½ a cubed avocado, squeeze of lemon juice and black pepper.

This follows rules 1-4 as: sweet potato is an "energy-producing" food, avocado contains "essential" fats and tuna in olive oil contains both protein and "essential" fats.


Grilled/Baked Mackerel/Sardines with Brown rice, Kale & Brocolli: (Fishmongers/supermarkets will happily gut and prepare fish)


Wash fish, put in a sheet of foil, squeeze lemon and ½ teaspoon of freshly grated ginger and pinch of black pepper over each fish, wrap up as a parcel and bake in pre-heated oven at 160C for approximately 20 minutes/until fish cooked through. Serve with boiled brown rice, chopped kale and broccoli (you can also use tinned mackerel/sardines in tomato sauce, heat through, mix cooked rice into sauce and serve with vegetables as above)

This follows rules 1-4 as: Mackerel/sardines are a great source of both protein and "essential" fats, brown rice is an "energy-producing" food. Kale and broccoli provide additional fibre, vitamins and minerals

Cheap & Healthy Snack Suggestions (which follow rules 1-4):

  • Protein-based bars such as Trek’s peanut protein bar, Pulsin’s protein bar range

  • 2 Ryvita spread thinly with cashew or hazelnut butter

  • Piece of Fruit with a small handful of un-salted nuts or seeds

Small Cauliflower
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