Keeping nerve cells healthy ensures that our brain works efficiently. Messages pass between cells, and the speed at which they can travel depends on these cells (neurons) and their protective sheaths which are made of a substance called myelin. At the end of each cell is a tiny gap (synapse). Chemicals called neurotransmitters are released to allow the message to cross this gap.

Clearly, the brain needs the correct nutrients to produce healthy neurons and neurotransmitters. These nutrients include proteins, enzymes, salts, glucose, calcium ions and essential fatty acids (EFA's), as well as the oxygen and water already mentioned on other pages.

We should include in our diet:

- oil-rich fish such as sardines and mackerel to provide EFA's                    

 - Whole grains, fish,lentils, vegetables, wheatgerm and sunflower seeds to provide B vitamins, particularly B6, B12 and folic acid

- Anti-oxidants are essential to protect the myelin sheath. Foods rich in anti-oxidants include fruit such as avocados, berries, grapes, prunes and raisins as well as nuts, fish, garlic, green tea, wheatgerm, watercress and vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, carrots, beetroot, peppers, onions, tomatoes and potatoes. There is evidence that people with higher levels of anti-oxidants in their blood do better in memory tests.

- Cauliflower, eggs, fish, liver, milk and leguminous vegetables (eg peanuts, soya beans) provide choline which is needed for the structure of brain cells and also helps to make an important neurotransmitter.

As might be expected, smoking has a very negative effect on promoting healthy brain function.

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Our Brain - promoting brain-friendly learning

Bryn Evans 2003