Sunday, September 14, 2008

8 brain boosters

8 brain boosters
Mon, Sep 15, 2008
The Straits Times

By Esther Teo

You might think that labelling some of the things you eat as 'brain food' might be stretching it a bit.

However, many scientists and nutritionists believe that foods you eat can directly affect the way your brain performs, that you can boost your intelligence quotient (IQ), focus your concentration, sharpen your memory and keep your mind young.

They may also have an effect on how children develop and grow.

So are we what we eat? Dr Ang Poon Liat, senior consultant paediatrician at the Paediatric Centre in Thomson Medical Centre, said that a person is 20 per cent genes and 80 per cent food.

To him, nurture supersedes nature and one should eat for several reasons.

'Purpose-driven eating is very important; you must eat for brain growth and development, to prevent cancer and to stabilise hormones,' he said.

Aside from breastfeeding, which has proved to increase the IQ of babies and children, the food you feed your kids can also determine their academic potential.

Dr Ang identifies eight brain foods which should be part of your child's diet. However, these are foods that will benefit you through life.

1: Fish

Why: Fish like salmon, sardines (Image 2) and cod are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for brain growth and function.

Dr Ang says: Not just salmon, all types of fish are good. You can even take cod fish body oil, which is rich in vitamin A, to supplement your diet. Your brain is 60 per cent fat, so fish is a good source of that.

2: Eggs

Why: Other than being a great protein source, egg yolks also have a high amount of choline - a nutrient in the B vitamin family - which helps in memory development.

Dr Ang says: The best way to eat your egg is soft boiled. Frying or having it hard boiled destroys its protein, causing it to be allergenic.

3: Nuts

Why: They provide vitamin E and are also a source of antioxidants that protect the membranes of brain cells against free radicals.

Dr Ang says: Macadamia and almonds are recommended. Ground peanuts are less ideal because they often result in allergic reactions.

4: Colourful vegetables

Why: They provide high levels of antioxidants that keep brain cells strong and healthy.

Dr Ang says: Choose fresh products in a wide variety of colours to give you a range of antioxidants. Also, go for brighter and hence more intense antioxidants, which help prevent cancer.

5: Wholegrains

Why: Provides gradual release of glucose that the brain needs to function due to the fibre regulating its release. It also contains B vitamins.

Dr Ang says: The slower release process of glucose prevents glucose swings - the process in which a child is energised and then quickly becomes fatigued. These mood changes are unhealthy for a child.

6: Berries

Why: High levels of antioxidants, such as vitamin C, which can help prevent cancer. Some studies have also shown improved memory.

Dr Ang says: The best fruits are berries. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and even cherries. They are less sweet and present less sugar problems; also, they have antioxidant values that are rated the highest.

7: Beans

Why: These provide energy from protein to complex carbohydrates which are good brain foods. Proteins are needed to synthesise the nucleic acid of brain cells.

Dr Ang says: Green beans and red beans are good. As far as soya beans go, it is best to consume fermented soya products.

8: Yogurt

Why: Good source of protein and B and D vitamins, which are vital for the growth of brain tissue and neuro-transmitters.

Dr Ang says: Yogurt is preferred over milk because a semi-solid food is a better choice for a growing child. Also, because it is fermented, it is also pre-digested and is easier for a child to process.

"Purpose-driven eating is very important; you must eat for brain growth and development, to prevent cancer and to stabilise hormones." - Dr Ang Poon Liat, senior consultant paediatrician at the Paediatric Centre in Thomson Medical Centre.

This story was first published Mind Your Body, The Straits Times, on Sept 11, 2008.

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