Are there really good super ‘brain foods’?

Hard work and hours may be important when studying, but having adequate sleep, regular physical activity and eating well can also help with your brain power.

“When it comes to specific foods to eat in order to boost brain power, the evidence is inconclusive,” says Dietitian Ethel Lim, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at KK Women’s and Children's Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group.

However, there are some specific nutrients that support brain development.

5 Tips to help fuel your mind

1. Don't skip breakfast

Your body would have been fasting overnight, including your brain. Not having breakfast means that your mind may be running on second gear, leaving you with poor concentration and feeling tired.

A simple breakfast like wholemeal bread with peanut butter and a cup of low fat milk is enough to help to fuel the body.

2. Aim for wholegrain foods instead of refined sugars

This includes:

  • Wholemeal bread
  • Brown rice and pasta
  • Soba noodles
  • Brown rice beehoon

Wholegrain Foods

Wholegrain foods are more likely to help maintain steady blood sugar levels, keeping your brain well-fuelled and preventing energy slumps.

Limit your intake of sugary drinks and candy to a minimal as these provide quick, temporary energy with minimal nutritional value.

3. Stay hydrated to keep any fatigue away

Keep a bottle or cup of plain water with you as you study. Low fat milk is also a good option.

While sweetened beverages may be a source of fluid, they provide you with little nutrition and you may end up feeling more tired than usual due to a dip in blood sugars after a while.

And while it may be true that caffeinated drinks may help increase your alertness, too much caffeine may cause you to be more irritable and jittery than usual, and may also affect your sleep routine.

Hydrate with Water

4. Eat iron-rich foods

Iron is a component of red blood cells which carry oxygen to the brain. Hence, not having enough iron may cause anaemia, resulting in tiredness despite having adequate rest. Teenage girls tend to be more at risk of having low iron stores due to menstruation, therefore it is important that iron-rich foods are consumed regularly, if not on a daily basis.

This includes heme sources like:

  1. Lean red meat
  2. Fish
  3. Chicken

Heme Iron-Rich Foods

And non-heme sources like:

  1. Eggs
  2. Iron-fortified breakfast cereals
  3. Dark green leafy vegetables
  4. Nuts
  5. Dried fruit

Non-Heme Iron-Rich Foods   

Remember to also consume vitamin C-rich foods like fresh fruit with your meals to enhance the iron absorption from non-heme sources.

5. Include omega-3 fatty acids

This nutrient has been associated with a lower risk of dementia and an improved focus and memory.

Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include:

  1. Fatty fish (such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and tuna)
  2. Walnuts
  3. Chia seeds
  4. Flax seeds

Aim to eat two serves of fatty fish every week.

Omega-3 Fatty Foods

Ref: N18