What you choose to eat and drink can influence how you feel, how you think and the health of your brain as you age. By eating well, you have the power to fuel your brain to perform at its best and ensure your brain continues to work well into your later years of life.
Great Health spoke to acclaimed doctor of nutritional science, dietitian and health advocate, Dr Joanna McMillan about how the foods we eat can ensure your brain works at its best and help to slow down the aging process.
What do you mean when you use the term brain health?
Brain health is really about optimising the performance of your brain today and looking after it as we age. The brain is affected by ageing just as the rest of the body is. If we don’t look after it, it doesn’t work as well and raises the risk of dementia and other brain chronic diseases as we get older.
What are your key steps to maintaining a healthy brain?
In my book I outline six key steps to maintaining a healthy brain: following a healthy diet, being active and getting regular exercise, stimulating your brain via education, learning and challenging your brain, having an active social life, getting enough sleep and managing stress levels.
What are the key lifestyle factors?
Exercise, sleep and stress are key, but also continuing to challenge your brain. This helps to increase what we call cognitive reserve. That’s your brain’s ability to form new connections when damage does occur in the brain.
How can we reduce our risks?
Eating a plant-rich, whole food diet with minimal junk food. Key foods can help such as oily fish, berries, leafy greens and a Mediterranean style diet has been shown to reduce risk. Exercise often. Maintain strong social connections. Get enough sleep and manage your stress levels. And make sure you continue to challenge your brain throughout life. Learn a new language or musical instrument, for example!
Is there anything else we should know about Brain Food?
The recipes are delicious! It makes healthy eating a cinch when it tastes good and I can guarantee the recipes work because I partnered with the incredible Bauer team and they triple test everything! I have to credit them for working with me seamlessly to bring their recipe expertise together with my nutrition expertise to create a truly tasty collection of recipes.
What are your top tips for brain health?
- Eat lots of plants, especially veggies.
- Make extra virgin olive oil your principal fat.
- Eat oily fish at least twice a week.
- Cut the crap! That means soft drinks, junk food and ultra-processed food.
- Move more and limit sitting.
- Laugh often and spend time with family and friends.
- Continue to learn to stimulate your brain throughout life.
- Don’t underestimate the power of sleep.
Brain Food by Dr Joanna McMillan (Bauer Books) RRP: $35
Available at magshop.com.au and where all good books are sold
In Brain Food, Dr Joanna McMillan explains which nutrients our brain needs to work at its best and how our creativity and ability to think and reason, as well as influence your mood and how you feel is all influenced by food. Brain Food focuses on practical things you can do and foods to include along with ideas as to how to eat them.