How to get a brain-boosting 5-a-day

Getting your 5-a-day can feel like a challenge some days. So here are some meal plan ideas for getting all the nutrients you need, from breakfast to bedtime.

We all know we need to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day for a healthy diet. But if you’re finding it a struggle, take inspiration from these healthy meal plans – including the best brain-fuelling nutrients for optimum mental health.

Breakfast

Two omega-3 enriched eggs, poached, and served with wilted spinach and wholegrain toast.

Why? The eggs will give you a dose of brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids,1 along with B vitamins, which help release energy from food and keep the nervous system healthy. The spinach and toast provide B vits too.2 Green tea is packed with flavonoids – a plant compound shown to help concentration – but it’s lower in caffeine than coffee and black tea.3,4

Lunch

Green leafy salad dressed with flaxseed oil, served with hummus and oatcakes.

Why? Leafy vegetables and oats are high in a range of B vitamins, while the chickpeas in the hummus are especially rich in folate – another B vit needed for various jobs, including making healthy blood cells.5 Flaxseed oil is a good veggie source of omega-3 fatty acids.6

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Dinner

Stir-fry made with mushrooms and broccoli, and served with brown rice. Follow with a big bowl of mixed berries, such as strawberries, blackberries and blueberries, topped with plain yoghurt or a dairy-free alternative. Cup of herbal tea.

Why? Mushrooms, broccoli and brown rice all give you a serving of B vitamins,7,8 while berries are a rich source of those essential flavonoids.9 The herbal tea helps hydrate you without caffeine.10

Handpicked content: Why take a vitamin-B complex?

Snacks

Need an extra nibble between meals? Pick from these brain-boosters:

  • apple – it’s rich in flavonoids11
  • a handful of walnuts, high in omega-3 fatty acids12
  • a couple of squares of dark chocolate, packed with flavonoids13
Remember to drink at least six to eight glasses of fluids a day, such as plain water, low-fat milk or non-dairy alternatives such as oat milk, and herbal and fruit teas.14

Handpicked content: Should you go dairy-free?

Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
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Sources

1. NHS Choices. The vegetarian diet. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-vegetarian-diet/
2. NHS Choices. B vitamins and folic acid. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-b/
3. Bell L, et al. A Review of the Cognitive Effects Observed in Humans Following Acute Supplementation with Flavonoids, and Their Associated Mechanisms of Action. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4690090/
4. Mayo Clinic. Caffeine content for coffee, tea, soda and more. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/caffeine/art-20049372
5. As Source 2
6. As Source 2
7. Medical News Today. What is the nutritional value of mushrooms? Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/278858.php
8. As Source 2
9. Devore E, et al. Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22535616
10. NHS Choices. Water, drinks and your health. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/water-drinks-nutrition/
11. Boyer J and Hai Liu R. Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC442131/
12. As Source 1
13. Nehlig A. The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3575938/
14. As Source 10

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