This isn't an easy one to answer. I would have said all three and still do. However, the order of importance is possibly more to the point. So let's take a look at them individually.
1. Food - Good food feeds our brains, especially the healthy fats. For a long time now we've been told about the benefits of Omega 3's found in oily fish such as salmon and sardines but we know that Omegas 6 & 9 found in quality oils are also important. Then there is all of the anti-oxidant foods such a berries, turmeric, nuts and seeds (especially walnuts - have you noticed how they are shaped like a brain?)
2. Exercise - this one seems like a no-brainer. Of course we need exercise and there are hundreds of studies that prove the benefits of exercise for the brain. And as an Ageless Grace Brain Health Educator I've seen first hand what movement does. I haven't done my own studies but what I have observed after many years is that the people who appear to have the best cognitive function in old age are more often than not the ones who have continued to exercise regularly no matter what their ability.
3. Sleep - one of the roles of sleep is to clean the brain. While we are sleeping our brain is still very active. The glymphatic system works to deep clean and remove neurotoxins that have built up during the waking hours. This only happens during REM sleep. During this time our brains are also memory encoding, problem solving and maintaining neural pathways.
So, it's still difficult to decide exactly which one is the most important.
According to Dr Mike Headlee DC, sleep is the number one most important of these for the brain. His reasoning is:
a) We can go 3-5 days without food and that is considered a good thing to do. It's called
fasting and in many opinions this is good for us and recommended.
b) We can go 3-5 days without exercise and there is definitely no harm done.
c) But if we go 3-5 days without sleep all sorts of things can go wrong. Our brains
become dull, we can't think clearly. In fact, after 36 hours of no sleep, we function as
we would with a blood alcohol reading of .1%.
I ask the question again - which of these is the most important for the brain - food, exercise or sleep?
Food for thought or would you prefer to sleep on it?