The brain is the most complex organ we have, and also one of the most important. As we get older it is even more important to keep it healthy! The brain naturally changes as we age, but the mission of our brain never changes. It helps us make sense of our world and oversees our daily operations of life. The brain is the seat of our consciousness. It governs our capacity to think, learn, reason, and remember. It also is the control center for virtually every other bodily process that we have. It makes sense that this organ requires excellent nutrition to function at optimum capacity.
Nutrition and the Brain:
We often think about the health of our hearts, bones, skin, and intestines. Most of us probably spend more time thinking about whether our food contains enough fiber for our GI tract than we do about whether or not we are getting enough nutrients for our brain. The link between diet and heart health is well known. But a growing body of scientific evidence suggests what we eat can also have a direct influence on the brain. The research in this area has grown so much that is has been given a name, “neuro-nutrition”. There is now proof that consuming certain foods can change our moods, help us think faster, and that a healthy diet can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Our brains are always “on”. It takes care of your thoughts, movements, breathing, heartbeat and your senses. It works hard 24/7, even while you’re asleep. This means your brain needs a constant supply of fuel. That “fuel” comes from the foods you eat; and, what’s in that fuel makes all the difference. Simply put, what you eat directly affects the structure and function of your brain and, ultimately your mood. Like an expensive car, your brain functions best when it gets premium fuel. Eating high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from stress (free radicals).
The Best Foods for the Brain:
Avocados: Carrying extra belly fat doesn’t just strain your back; it puts a burden on your brain as well. Just as belly fat helps cause the formation of plaque in your coronary arteries, it also clogs up the arteries feeding the brain – a contributing factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Ironically, the best way to fight fat is with fat. Avocados, for example, are packed with artery scrubbing, hunger-dulling healthy fats, that also help keep blood sugar levels steady. Containing both vitamins B,C,K and folate, they help prevent blood clots in the brain as well as help improve cognitive function, especially both memory and concentration. A study in Nutritional Journal found that participants who ate a half of a fresh avocado with lunch reported a 40% decreased desire to eat for hours afterward.
Beets: This vegetable seems to be an intimidating food for many people, even vegetable lovers. This is unfortunate, because these root vegetables are some of the most nutritious plants you can eat. Beets contain betaine, which supports serotonin (a mood stabilizer) production in the brain. Beets also have a potent dose of folic acid in them which stabilizes emotional and mental health. They reduce inflammation, are high in cancer-protecting antioxidants, and help rid your body of toxins. The natural nitrates in beets actually boost blood flow to the brain, helping with mental performance, creating a sharper mind.
Blueberries: Proving that great things do come in small packages, blueberries have so many health benefits while tasting like an all-natural candy. They are one of the highest antioxidant rich foods known to man, including vitamins C, K, and fiber. Because of their high levels of gallic acid, blueberries are especially good at protecting our brains from degenerating from stress.
Walnuts: Walnuts are one of the top nuts for brain health, due to their large concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. A study published by The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging found that walnut consumption can actually boost memory and cognitive function in adults ranging from ages 20-59. According to the study, individuals who had a daily serving of walnuts scored higher on cognitive tests that those who did not.
Bananas: The banana is a healthy alternative to processed foods, and it is 99.5% fat free. Eating a banana helps the brain function at its best. Bananas release energy slowly, and this helps the brain stay alert. They contain tryptophan which works for elevate the mood by stimulating serotonin production.
May’s Discovery Series at the Kensington Sierra Madre:
Come join us for this month’s Discovery Series discussion that The Kensington, Thursday, May 9th from 2:00-3:00 p.m. We will discuss more foods that are good for brain nutrition and function. We will also address the worst foods for your brain. We will have suggestions on how to get started on the road to a healthier brain including food alternatives for breakfast, lunch, dinner and desserts. Handouts will be available for “Alternative Food Choices”, and “Memory Boosting Foods”.
Presented by the HealthPRO-Heritage Rehabilitation Team in partnership with the Kensington of Sierra Madre