Give Your Brain a Boost, Eat Real Food
- Giving your brain a boost can be as simple as eating Real foods, so no junk food
That is what research published by the National Institutes of Health indicates, pointing out that your cognitive ability can be influenced by several hormones produced in the brain, and that what you eat is important to maintaining mental function.
“Although food has classically been perceived as a means to provide energy and building material to the body, its ability to prevent and protect against diseases is starting to be recognized,” said study author Fernando Gomez-Pinilla. “In particular, research over the past five years has provided exciting evidence for the influence of dietary factors on specific molecular systems and mechanisms that maintain mental function.”
The study’s authors write that a diet filled with omega-3 fatty acids supports cognitive processes. The authors note that diets high in saturated fat have a negative impact on cognitive processing and increase the risk of neurological dysfunction.
Registered dietitian Desiree Nielson, author of “Unjunk Your Diet” says that an anti-inflammatory diet is beneficial for brain health in middle age. She emphasizes the importance of eating whole pant foods like vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds to keep blood sugars stabilized.
“Quality, not quantity of fat is also critical. I recommend using extra virgin olive oil as your everyday oil, eating more omega 3-rich seeds and eating fewer omega-6 rich oils such as grape seed or sunflower,” Ms. Nielson says.
She also recommends avocados for their high levels of “good” mono-saturated fats, which keep blood sugar levels steady throughout the day.
Avocados also contain vitamin K and folate, nutrients that are vital to preventing stroke. Vitamin K and folate may also aid cognitive function, memory and concentration.
Ms. Nielson says that brain health, especially as we age, is tied to gut health. Anti-inflammatory phytochemicals like those in dark green leafy vegetables, garlic, onions, green tea and berries, all have fibers that are beneficial to bacteria in the gut, which is important for fighting inflammation.
“The vast majority of our immune response – and inflammation is an immune response – occurs in the gut, so having the right kind of bacteria is critical for supporting lowered inflammation,” she says. “From a lifestyle perspective, it is important to stay active, and take steps to manage stress such as spending time outdoors or in meditation. Stress increases inflammatory response.”
Blueberries are 1 type of berry that is beneficial for brain health. The small berry packs a big punch, filled with antioxidant-rich vitamins C, K and fiber. Blueberries also contain gallic acid, which can protect the brain from degeneration and stress.
Dr. Keith Fargo, Alzheimer’s Association director of scientific programs and outreach, says that poor nutrition may increase behavioral symptoms in individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Fargo recommends a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy products.
“Limit foods with high saturated fat and cholesterol,” Dr. Fargo says. “Some fat is essential for health, but not all fats are equal. Go light on fats that are bad for heart health, such as butter, solid shortening, lard and fatty cuts of meats.
“Cut down on refined sugars. Often found in processed foods, refined sugars contain calories but lack vitamins, minerals and fiber. You can tame a sweet tooth with healthier options like fruit or juice-sweetened baked goods.”
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively