Your brain is always switched on. It runs 24/7. However, brain health isn’t perhaps the first thing you might consider when looking to improve your health and fitness.
Nevertheless, brain health is essential for optimum wellness. It kind of makes sense to have the body’s processing powerhouse in top shape for an overall healthy life, doesn’t it? Thus, cognition is one of the seven core performance areas that we help track with our health app.
More on that later. You are here to discover how to improve your brain health. So here is a list of quick wins that will go a long way in doing so.
Lifestyle hacks to improve brain function
1. Replace sugar with sugar-free snacks
Sugar is notorious for providing us with an instant, short-term energy boost. We are all guilty of choosing sugar-laden energy drinks when preparing for an upcoming deadline or exam. However, that high is short-lived. As sugar high declines, the inevitable crash interrupts our ability to create new mental pathways for retaining information1. Additionally, the same energy deficit also causes a reduction in your productivity and attention too2,3!
The good news is that there are a bunch of healthier alternatives available. You don’t even have to quit cold turkey. You can gradually reduce your sugar addiction with naturally sweetened/sugar-free alternatives.
By the way, you can check out our handy guide to help you identify products that appear “healthy” but in reality pack a lot of sugar.
2. Replace crashing with your phone with board games for your brain
Quite similar to exercising different muscles, you can exercise your brain too. We often give growing children puzzles to help further their cognitive development. And, it turns out, they work just as well to keep the adult brain sharp4!
Studies recently found that solving jigsaw puzzles engages visuospatial cognition (our perception of the physical world) and can help protect the adult brain from cognitive decline5.
So ditch the smartphone at the end of a boring day and set up a board game with friends or family. You’ll get to provide some exercise to your brain and have fun with your loved ones. Additionally, your eyes will thank you for the break from the screen.
3. KISS – Keep It Simple Silly!
Jacobo Mintzer, in a recent study, discussed how people who described their mental wellbeing as “feeling good” and “coping well” had improved cognitive function and episodic memory6.
The key takeaway from that study was: Don’t give yourself a hard time during the challenging moments – life can be tricky! Instead, in the meantime, discover new strategies to look after yourself.
Some people prefer meditation. Meditation has beneficial effects on slowing cognitive decline in younger and middle-aged adults, and potentially improves cognitive function in older adults7,8.
Others may enjoy working out through running, yoga or Tai Chi. Or you could try some mindfulness activities, such as gardening, painting, or just the calming escapism of a good audiobook.
The point is, spend some time trying things that calm you down. When the going gets tough, have a mental health day for yourself to relax and KISS!
Nutritional hacks to improve brain function
Nootropics are natural vitamins and minerals that boost cognitive function and enhance your brainpower. Here are some foods that have nutrients that can positively impact brain health.
4. Hello productivity, meet Caffeine
Even as I’m writing this, I’m onto my third cup of caramel tea. Caffeine is the most commonly known nootropic. Even if you don’t drink it in your favourite beverage, you’ve probably known it since your late teens9.
Caffeine is so widely consumed because the stimulant blocks the adenosine pathway receptors. Therefore, your brain can keep working on your project ’til the early hours because it can’t detect that it’s tired10,11.
5. Get more iron from your diet
Iron creates haemoglobin molecules that carry oxygen in red blood cells and transport oxygen across the body. Moreover, iron is used to produce a substance called Myelin. Myelin coats brain cells and increases the rate at which signals are sent to and from the brain12,13.
You can find iron in many common foods, including red meat such as beef, shellfish and most healthy breakfast cereals. Sources of iron in a vegan-based diet include nuts, dried fruit and most legumes – including kidney beans, chickpeas and soybeans14.
To confirm what your parents told you as a kid, vegetables such as broccoli and spinach contain iron too. However, the human body can’t absorb and process it as well as it can from the foods listed above15.
6. You can’t really escape the vegetables
Leafy greens such as spinach are a great source of magnesium, even if they’re not a good source of iron16. So yes, no matter how old you get, your parents’ advice will forever haunt you until you just give in! For the sake of your health of course.
Magnesium is essential for many metabolic pathways throughout the body16. But more importantly, it promotes the production of healthy neurons, especially during foetal development17. Studies have shown that it reduces neuropathic pain in patients with nerve damage18.
Nootropic supplements to improve brain function
These nootropics can be purchased as a supplement from your local pharmacy or health-food store. If you have a health condition, it’s always safe to consult your doctor before taking any supplements.
7. Start building up healthy blood cells with B Vitamins
B vitamins boost your immune system and are essential to iron in building healthy blood cells. A healthy supply of blood cells promotes optimum oxygenation for the brain19. Although this area is still under active research, it is known that B vitamins are essential to keep the brain in its prime – from oxygenation to neurotransmitter production20,21,22,23.
In fact, deficiencies in B vitamins cause an increased risk of anxiety, depression, impaired concentration, and memory loss24.
8. Omega-3 is brain food
Omega-3 oils can help slow down and potentially stave off neurodegenerative diseases – Alzheimer’s and similar conditions. Omega-3s can improve cognitive function and spatial memory and support long-term neural structures within the brain! 25,26,27
Omega-3s are “fatty acids” found in oily fish, including; salmon, tuna, herring and sardines. Alternatively, if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, linseed (flaxseed) oil is the way to go28.
9. Resveratol is science asking you to eat more dark chocolate
Most of us want to avoid the signs of ageing to our skin and bodies; only a few of us focus on how ageing occurs biologically and how the brain ages.
Ageing is a side-effect of tissue turnover and cell regeneration. In most organs of the body, after the lifecycle of one cell generation ends, the replacement cell set will have a slightly shorter lifespan29. This turnover is caused by oxidative stress30. Powerful antioxidants including Resveratol (found in dark chocolate and red wine) help defend the cell set against oxidation, slowing down ageing and improving memory! 31,32,33
Improve your brain function with a health app personalised to you
It’s commendable that you are actively working on improving your cognition and overall health. However, the path to reach a stage where you are performing at your best can be confusing. It is tricky to keep track of all the changes you need to make and constantly measure results. And the latter is important because, let’s face it, the end goal should always be positive growth.
Here’s a short two-paragraph pitch on why we think we can help you get there.
The ElevateMe health test starts with a simple health blood test (you gotta know the areas that need improvement before putting in all the effort), a lifestyle questionnaire (what are your health goals and how far are you in your journey), and a health app personalised to you.
The health app is where you get a personalised action list across what lifestyle changes to make, what foods to include in your diet, and (if you choose) what supplements to use. In addition to all that, your health app will also have a detailed dashboard where all your progress will be recorded. So you can always look back and be proud of how far you’ve come.