Do numbers leave you muddles, or are you perplexed by puzzles? Research suggests that many adults struggle with basic sums and often rely on calculators to add and subtract. Almost a quarter (22%) of the 2,000 adults tested in the National Numeracy Survey said they were not well prepared at school to use mats in everyday life, while more than two-thirds (67%) feel that the subject is important in their daily lives. But just because school is over doesn’t mean it’s downhill from here with intelligence and learning. Here are three ways to boost your brain, whatever your age, and soon you’ll be acing the Countdown Conundrum.
1. Blend up an unforgettable smoothie and you may just forget less, with these brain boosting ingredients for a kick start to your day. Bananas are an essential ingredient, high in antioxidants, serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin improves mood and helps control appetite, memory and learning, whist dopamine boots attention and memory. Add in some apples, or fresh apple juice, linked to critical memory and brain health, and a punnet of blueberries, AKA ‘brain berries’. These are jam-packed with antioxidants which neutralise free radicals and prevent them from damaging cells in the body and brain, and pigments called anthocyanins, which boost brain function, according to the sciencedaily.com. Flavonoids in the blueberries help improve learning and memory by enhancing communication among brain cells, and experts have speculated that they may stimulate the growth of new brain cells and provide an anti-inflammatory action in the brain. Goji berries are the final addition to your brain power juice. An antioxidant powerhouse, and a feature of many celebrity diets, goji berries help our bodies produce Choline, an essential nutrient combating free radical damage associated with neurological degeneration and Alzheimer's disease.
2. Can your diet make you smarter? Make sure your diet is abundant with fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, which are swimming with omega-3 fatty acids, essential for a healthy mind. Walnuts, and other seeds and nuts also contain essential fatty acids that support the development of brain cells and neurotransmitters. Leafy greens contain antioxidants like vitamin C and plant compounds called carotenoids which are particularly powerful brain protectors, so pile up your plate with salads, stir-fries, and side dishes with broccoli, cabbage, kale and sprouts. Treat yourself at the end of the day to a few squares of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa). High in flavonoids - another class of antioxidants linked to brain health - and improving blood flow to the brain, dark chocolate can increase mood and fight against diabetes and cancer, making this sweet treat just what the doctor ordered. Another brain booster comes straight from our taps, and makes up three quarters of your brain: Water. A small Ohio University study found that people whose bodies were well hydrated scored significantly better on tests of brain power, compared with those who weren’t drinking enough. So drink up, and make sure you’re getting 6-8 glasses of water each day.
3. Crack the code to a better brain. Puzzles, riddles, and games help develop good problem-solving skills and improve creative thinking abilities. These games, sometimes called ‘brain training’, help strengthen reaction time, logical reasoning, maths abilities, memory, and processing speed, according to brainmetrix.com and BBC news. Another activity for quick thinking and keeping one eye on the ball is aerobic exercise. Studies have shown fitter individuals to score better in mental tests that their unfit peers, as exercise increases oxygen flow into the brain, reducing brain-bound free radicals and increases concentration levels and mental sharpness by relieving brain tension. Exercise also acts directly on the molecular machinery of the brain itself, and increases neurons’ creation, survival, and resistance to damage and stress. So jump in the pool or go for a walk for some proper ‘brain training’.
features writer & lifestyle blogger and avid shoe wearer.