How to Stay Sharp

How to Stay Sharp

You don’t have to be an expert in the intricate workings of the human brain to understand that it’s an incredible organ. It is the control room for our physical sensations and body movement; our motor skills, judgment, and emotion; our language, memory, thoughts, attention and perception; our ability to plan and carry out tasks, and our ability to live a purposeful life.

Despite its immense importance, most of us don’t look after our brain like we do our other vital organs or muscles. We keep fit for the good of our heart; we eat well for the good of our digestive system, but our brain is all too often overlooked.

Like other muscles and organs, our brains don’t work as well as we age. We become more absent minded and generally don’t feel as sharp as we use to. At the extreme end of the scale are conditions like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia that significantly alter the way we operate on a daily basis. While these diseases set in later in life, they are not entirely attributed to age and can be caused by several outside factors such as poor diet and lifestyle, and heredity factors.

It’s quite alarming to know that Alzheimer’s has become the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, Even here in New Zealand, death from Alzheimer’s has jumped 66 percent in 3 years, while death from other major diseases has decreased.

The message, the experts say, is ‘change your unhealthy lifestyle habits now or face a much greater risk of developing brain problems in the future’.

But here’s the good news…

There are various ways to help prevent the debilitation of cognitive (brain) health.
Much like having a protein shake after a workout to help your muscles stay in good shape; your brain needs the right nourishment if it’s going to last you the next few decades.

The Right Nutrients

Omega 3 - particularly DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid)

DHA is one of the critical nutrients required by the brain and eyes during the early stages of development. Sufficient levels are needed to properly maintain optimum brain health throughout life. In fact, this omega 3 is the primary building block of the brain. The brain is 60% fat, and DHA is the most abundant fatty acid in the brain. It increases cellular communication and the action of neurotransmitters. In short, it helps your brains cells talk to each other better.
Sources of omega 3 include fish oil, Krill oil and Flaxseed oil.

Chocolate – YES CHOCOLATE!

Well actually, cacao (raw cacao powder). This delicious superfood is naturally high in Flavanols – which boost blood flow and thereforemore oxygen to key areas of the brain. Increased blood flow helps to increase performance in specific tasks and boost general alertness.


This herb has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, and therefore oxygen and glucose utilisation in the brain (glucose is the only fuel the brain uses). It also increases the rate at which information is transmitted from cell to cell within the brain. It is commonly used to improve memory and alertness and overall cognitive performance.

Phosphatidylserine (PS)

PS is naturally found in our brain but levels decline as we get older so it needs to be topped up. Vegetarians and people on low-fat diets are generally lower in PS too. PS increases the communication between cells in your brain by increasing the number of membrane receptor sites for receiving messages. It also helps to restore the brain’s supply and output of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter crucial to memory. Ideal for people whose brains feel worn out! PS is naturally found in soy lecithin, but the potent stuff comes in supplement form.

Vitamin E

This common vitamin helps support brain health and can be found in milk, butter, eggs, vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, wheat germ and dark leafy greens like spinach.


Everybody should add lutein to their diet. Lutein is an important natural antioxidant that helps maintain healthy eyes and supports brain health as we age. It can be found in dark leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, collards and turnip greens), egg yolks, peas, corn and super foods. Lutein is also available in a supplement.


There is a strong correlation between iodine deficiency and lower intelligence and learning disorders. Iodine is naturally found in iodised sea salt, seaweeds and some seafood, and it’s one of the easier things to add to your diet.

Vitamin B12

Deficiency is commonly associated with neurological problems including memory loss and Dementia. Unfortunately, B12 absorption decreases as we age. A simple blood test will tell you if you are low.

Folic acid

Folic acid is needed to manufacture brain neurotransmitters (the brain’s chemical messengers), which are responsible for memory, mental clarity and alertness.

It’s important to ensure your brain is getting the right nutrients. Other things you can do to actively look after your brain include:

Getting plenty of sleep
Staying physically active
Avoiding smoking
Maintaining a healthy weight
Staying mentally active with crosswords, reading or even learning a new language
Staying socially engaged through social activities, clubs etc.

After all, you only get one brain, so take the initiative to look after it.


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Not all products recommended may be available in South Africa at this time