Much is made of the importance of good nutrition for physical performance, but as our diets become more processed and nutrient poor, more evidence is being found demonstrating the importance of key foods and nutrients for cognition, memory and concentration.

1.       General vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, particularly Vitamin B1 and B12 have been linked to reduced brain function and fatigue. Eating a broad range of foods, including vegetables and varied protein sources provide these nutrients.

2.       Protein. Key neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine are important. These are found in salmon, red meat, carrots, peanuts, sesame seeds and brown rice. Norepinephrine production requires tyrosine ( an essential amino acid), this neurotransmitter is important in long term memory storage. Tyrosine is also involved in producing dopamine, important for motivation and activity. Tyrosine rich foods include avocado, turkey, chicken, red meat, lentils, Lima beans and sesame seeds.

3.       Carbohydrate. These are required for sustained energy to allow concentration and mental alertness. Complex, slowly absorbed carbohydrates are found in whole grain cereals, breads, pastas, fruit and vegetables. Simple carbohydrates are found in lollies, muesli bars, energy bars and drinks. Sugar is quickly absorbed, with a rush of glucose creating a burst of energy, but followed by a flat lethargy and irritability.

4.       Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Research suggests that the omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are involved in a number of  biological processes associated with brain function. They have been linked to regulating new brain cell growth, affecting gene expression in the brain and affecting communication between brain cells. Omega 3 fatty oils are found in seafood, particularly oily fish such as Atlantic Salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, herring and trout. The parent molecule is also found in plant based sources such as walnuts, soy, flax and canola oil. There are a number of foods on the market supplemented with omega 3 fatty acids, such as milk, eggs, bread and margarine.

For more information about the various portions and recommended choices

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