Diet has the potential to alter our brain health and mental function. There is growing evidence to suggest that certain dietary patterns can have a positive impact on cognitive performance and mental wellbeing.
Two randomised controlled clinical trials, published in the journal Nutrition and Healthy Ageing, investigated the effects of a diet rich in high flavonoid fruits and vegetables on cognitive performance in healthy adults. The results of the study showed that participants who followed a high-flavonoid diet over a 12-18 week period experienced significant improvements in cognitive performance, including enhanced memory, attention, and executive function. In contrast, participants who followed a low-flavonoid diet did not experience any changes in cognitive performance.
The improvement in cognitive performance seen in the study mentioned above is thought to be linked to an increase in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a hormone that is critical to brain function. BDNF is involved in the growth, maintenance, and repair of neurones in the brain, and it plays a key role in learning, memory, and other cognitive processes.
The clinical trial mentioned above suggests that not all fruits and vegetables have the same effect on cognitive function. Only those that are rich in flavonoids, a type of antioxidant found in plants, have been shown to have a positive impact on cognitive performance.
Some examples of low- flavonoid fruits and vegetables include bananas, pineapples, watermelon, peas, and corn. These foods are generally lower in flavonoids compared to other fruits and vegetables, such as berries, apples, citrus fruits, kale, and spinach. However, it is important to remember that all fruits and vegetables are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are important for overall health. So even if a fruit or vegetable is low in flavonoids, it can still provide many other benefits.
It is also worth noting that the flavonoid content of fruits and vegetables can vary depending on factors such as the variety, ripeness, and growing conditions. For example, ripe berries may be higher in flavonoids than unripe berries, and organically grown fruits and vegetables may be higher in flavonoids than conventionally grown produce.
The study also found that the cognitive benefits of a high-flavonoid diet peaked at 12 weeks, when participants were consuming an average of 240 grams of high-flavonoid fruits and vegetables per day. This suggests that there may be an optimal level of flavonoid intake that is necessary to support cognitive function.
It is important to note, however, that this study only looked at the effects of diet on cognitive performance over a short period of time.
If you are facing an intense workload or a stressful period of exams requiring concentration and memory, max out on these high flavonoid foods.
If you are super organised and know your schedule well in advance when the extra mental performance will be required, incorporate 300g of high flavonoids foods into your daily diet at least few weeks before the important mentally - taxing event.