If you're busy with study, work, family or all three, you need to take care of your self by nourishing your body and brain; without spending hours in the kitchen or a small fortune on so-called superfoods.
We're kicking off our 'What's for Dinner?' series by hearing some advice on preparing quick and nutritious meals to boost your brain power!
When I first left home and started uni, making 'dinner' typically meant boiling some spiral pasta, stirring through a jar of ready-made pasta bake sauce and transferring it to the oven with about half a block of grated cheese on top (for protein?). While my cheesy pasta bake was relatively cheap and easy, it probably wasn't the best bet for brain power.
Now I'm a bit older, a lot wiser and working in the university sector, I started thinking about some more nourishing foods for busy students. Let's take a few foods widely known to boost brain power and incorporate into tasty meals that are good for your brain, your budget and your busy schedule:
These red root vegetables are known to increase blood flow to the brain and help improve mental performance. They're cheap as chips when they're in season and easy as pie to add to your dinner plate; just wash, chop into 2cm cubes, drizzle with oil and bake at 180C for about 30 minutes until soft. Toss with some spinach leaves for a simple, delicious and nutritious side dish.
The choline in egg yolks is a known memory booster. Plus, protein-rich foods like eggs can improve cognitive performance and stave off brain fog or concentration dips. And eggs are easily one of the most versatile and inexpensive sources of protein. Mix some left over veggies into a three-egg omelette, or hard boil and mix through a salad for simple and nutritious weeknight meals. Or if you have time on the weekend, get your day off to a good start and treat yourself to scrambled eggs on toast.
High in both antioxidants and Omega-3s, walnuts can help improve mental focus, so they’re a sound choice as a study snack or a simple way to add crunch and healthy fats to any salad.
No mind food overview would be complete without a nod to the omega-3s in oily fish such as salmon, which are essential to neural function and regulating neurotransmitters responsible for mental focus. It might not be dinner party fare, but when you’re after an inexpensive and easy avenue to get your brain-boosting Omega-3, don’t look past tinned salmon. Toss through a salad, serve in a sandwich or stir through a pan of pasta with a squeeze lemon, asparagus, peas, a small splash of cream and lots of cracked pepper.
Green leafy and cruciferous veggies (broccoli and cauliflower) has been shown to slow cognitive decline and boost memory. Spinach leaves make a great base for a salad, or can be stirred into a pasta dish just before serving. Broccoli packs a punch of nutrients including immune system-boosting Vitamin C (the last thing you need when you’re juggling a family, studying and working is to get sick), is very versatile, inexpensive and simple to prepare. Whenever you’re frying meat, just chop up a head of broccoli and sauté in the same pan we’re all for minimising the washing up!. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, peas, Asian veggies such as bok choy and whatever other greens are in season make a nourishing base for a quick stir fry – just wok fry with a splash of oil, some garlic and soy sauce with some meat or egg if you like. Steamed rice to serve is optional; I usually prefer to skip the hassle and extra dish by just eating more of the veggies.
Red meat is one of the best sources of iron, which helps transport oxygen through your body and brain. It’s also rich in Vitamin B12, which is critical to the health of your brain and nervous system. In fact, even slight deficiencies of B12 can manifest in fatigue, poor memory and even depression – all of which will make studying more of a challenge than it needs to be. If you don’t eat meat, consider dairy, eggs, whey protein powder and good old Vegemite as alternative sources. Beef needn’t be expensive – think for cheaper cuts you can throw into a curry and slow cook, or mince which you can easily mix with some tinned tomatoes, grated carrot and diced onion and then serve on some pasta. Probably just as cheap and quick as the lacklustre pasta-bake of my student days, but a whole lot better for my grey matter.