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Brain Function & Diet

The importance of nutrition for the brain and body

An Increase in Attention & Concentration
difficulties in class

It is May 2024 and in the last couple of years I have noticed an increase in difficulties associated with attention and concentration in school-aged children and students in college.  Could it be that I am more aware or are there really more children and young adults with neurological difficulties and the inability to concentrate in class?  It could be a combination of both aspects, of course.  

I certainly believe, however, that many children do not have diets that include brain nutrition.  What do I mean by brain nutrition?  Foods and drinks that keep our brains and bodies healthy help slow down inflammation in our brains and bodies.

How do our brains and bodies become inflamed?   Well, by regularly eating and drinking the following types of foods and drinks:

  • Refined sugary foods (sweets, cakes, biscuits, crackers, pies etc)

  • Juices with added sugars and Sodas

  • Crisps

  • Salt

  • White rice, pasta and bread

  • Transfats (fried chicken, fries, doughnuts, etc)

  • Highly processed foods (full of additives: packaged ham and other cold cuts, pizza, ready-meals, sausages, bacon, etc)

  • Refined (heat treated and bad for arteries!) vegetable oils and plant oils high in Omega-6

Our brains and all of our cells crave good fats and oils; they are essential for wellbeing and good mental health.  Think about a car not having oil; what would happen?  Yes, it would stop working.  

Healthy fats include:

  • Cold-pressed plant oils (oils that come from vegetables that have been pressed to release the oil), such as olive oil, rapeseed, walnut

  • Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardine)

  • Avocado

  • Seeds and Nuts (no salt or sugar)

  • Seeds and Nuts high in Omega-3 (chia, flax, walnuts)

  • Cheese (in moderation)

When I assess students, I ask them about their focus, attention and concentration in class.  For those who say that it's 'bad or not good'

I then ask them about their diets.  Many students state that they do not have a diet which contains fish, fish oil or omega3.  Supplements are a great way of getting those vital omega3s into our bodies, especially if you or your child don't like the taste of fish.  The best diet in the world is known to be the Mediterranean diet, which is my favourite.  It contains lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, oily fish, seafood, olive oil (cold pressed), nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, beans and other pulses, healthy grains and no refined foods or additives.

'Omega-3 fatty acids increase blood flow to those parts of the brain that control memory and learning.' 

                                                   (magazine: Living Without Inflammation, Bonnier Publications International)

Fish oil is very important to help keep mental health 'healthy', especially when eaten as part of a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and protein. Omega-3 fatty acids also help those with ADHD, dementia, depression and schizophrenia.

Let's go back to the analogy of a car and the oil in its engine.  I wouldn't put any old oil in my car and I certainly wouldn't put any old oil in my brain or body.  It's well worth researching studies which show that fatty acids in fish are responsible for many mental health benefits.

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