Those who are regular followers of my blog and social media will know that I have a fascination with food. My fascination is less to do with filling my belly but, rather, I find it intriguing to learn about the food that positively impact the human body. We all know about fat; fast food makes you fat and coats your heart with fat. What we know less about is which foods impact different organs positively.
My other fascination is the brain; our productivity, creativity and general amazing-ness is a product of this organ that allows us to ponder and think. I recently have been reading a lot around memory and productivity. Not being able to remember the password to our laptop or where we put our car keys can be excruciatingly frustrating. We are what we eat – we need to fuel our brain with the food that is nutritious and beneficial for its function. The list of foods that have been shown, in studies and various pieces of research, to boost brain function and protect against the effects of aging is vast.
From this list, there are an interesting number of brain food which have been mentioned in the Qur’an and Sunnah. I was discussing this just today with a friend about how the teachings of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) are full of wealth; turning back to the his way of life is sufficient in alleviating ourselves from so many problems we face today.
Here are three types of brain food that I found particularly fascinating:
Pomegranate is mentioned in the Qur’an a number of times in, including Surah Rahman:
In both of them are fruit and palm trees and pomegranates
So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny? [55:67-68]
Pomegranate’s are found to be high antioxidants; these help prevent attacks from free radicals that the brain is at high risk of. Free radicals molecules that attack parts of the body and play a role in aging. It is a natural process occurring all the time which is balanced out but the effects of antioxidants. Pomegranate has been shown to help prevent decline in cognitive function. The effect of free radicals is also something that affects the heart. The state of the heart directly affects the blood flow to the brain; by keeping your heart healthy and protected from free radicals the cognitive abilities of the brain are maintained
Olives are a food mentioned greatly throughout the Qur’an and Sunnah; olive oil and its benefits are a much talked about phenomena.
“ Eat the olive and use it as an ointment, because it is produced by a blessed tree.” [Ibn Majah]
The effect of antioxidants positively improves memory in age and disease related deficient. Research has shown olive oil, particularly extra virgin, to reduce the damage of free radicals in the brain, improving learning and memory problems.
Barley, a type of grain, has been frequently mentioned in the narrations of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and was one of the basic things the people of that time survived on.
Umm Mundhir bint Qais Ansariyyah said: “I made some greens and barley for the Prophet (ﷺ), and the Prophet (ﷺ) said to ‘Ali: ‘O ‘Ali, eat some of this, for it is better for you.’” [Ibn Majah]
The benefits of eating grains are vast. Focusing just on the effect on the brain, grains such as barley, oats and whole grain flours are high in vitamin B6 and thiamine content. Thiamine has been shown to have positive effects on cognitive brain function, including improving reaction times. Being mildly deficient in thiamine can reduce your cognitive abilities.