Health tips by Barmer: Brain food – Eat smarter
Whether it’s bread, pasta or bananas: what we eat influences our daily productivity, our powers of recall and our concentration curve in our everyday lives, at the university and at work. For us to get through the day effec- tively, our brain needs – in addition to good blood circulation and enough oxygen – the right balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals and plenty of water to work optimally. The good thing is, our body gets all this from food, so we can influence our brain performance and well-being with “brain food”.
“Foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates, such as wholemeal products, vegetables and fruit, preferably raw, form the basis of brain food,” explains Micaela Schmidt, nutritionist at BARMER. “This also includes foods containing healthy fats, such as nuts and salt-water fish, and protein-rich foods that at the same time are low in fat – like low-fat dairy products, meat and sausages or, for vegans, pulses.”
Start the day with wholemeal bread, oatmeal or fruit to give your head valuable carbohydrates for breakfast. The post-lunch slump we are all familiar with tends to come when we have loaded foods that are too heavy onto our plates. So go for wholemeal pasta or rice, vegetables and potatoes for lunch; the complex carbohydrates in them provide long-lasting energy. Combine these with a source of protein, which can be found in lean meat, quark or pulses such as lentils, beans and peas, which also provide valuable amino acids.
Brain food for the lunchbox
- Go for healthy fats: polyunsaturated fatty acids – such as omega-3 fatty acids – are found in fish like salmon and mackerel, nuts and rapeseed oil. These make the perfect salad ingredients for lunch- time.
- Vitamin C helps to reduce stress: one yellow pepper or 150 g of strawberries are all it takes to get your daily requirement and they fit in any lunchbox.
- B vitamins are important for attention, concentration and mood, and are found especially in wholemeal products, lean meat, fish, milk and cheese, nuts and cabbage. How about wholemeal bread and cheese with chopped walnuts?
- Iron is responsible for blood formation, for transporting oxygen to the brain and for producing hormones and messenger substances. Meat, fish, green vegetables, pulses, wheat germ and currants are particularly rich in iron.
- Magnesium regulates your energy balance and is good to coun- teract stress; we need about 300 to 400 mg daily. Magnesium is mainly found in wholemeal and dairy products, vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds. Why not snack on a few pumpkin seeds or raw fennel?
Chocolate bars are tempting for a quick energy boost between meals, but they cause blood sugar levels to quickly plummet again. A handful of nuts or fruit, such as a banana, is just as convenient, but reboots the brain for longer. Cashew nuts, Brazil nuts or almonds contain many B vitamins and minerals like magnesium. “Mix up a variety of nuts however you like,” Schmidt recommends.
Drink a lot!
For our brains to work properly it is absolutely essential that we drink enough: at least 1.5 to 2 litres a day. So take a large drinking bottle to your workplace: “The best drinks are calorie-free, such as water, mineral water or herbal or fruit teas – or even water you have flavoured yourself with herbs, vegetables or spices,” nutritionist Schmidt advises.