Eating well is vital for our mental as well as physical health. We know how important all organs and cells are for our bodies and what their functions are, however we need to appreciate the leading role of our brain. It controls absolutely everything we do, even when we are asleep. Therefore we need to look after it properly, so it can serve us to its best capacity for years to come.
Below are some examples of foods that could help us with just that:
– Wholegrains: improve the ability to concentrate and focus, by providing the adequate, steady supply of energy, in the form of glucose in our blood to the brain. Wholegrains release glucose slowly into our bloodstream, keeping us mentally alert throughout the day. Complex carbohydrates boost serotenine, a brain neurotransmitter protein that is responsible for the feeling of well being and calming down. Other benefits of wholegrain foods are covered in one of my previous posts: https://myjourneytoawakening.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/wholegrain-foods/
– Essential fatty acids (EFAs): they cannot be produced by our body and must be obtained through diet. Good sources include flaxseed (linseed) oil, soya bean oil, pumpkin seeds, walnut oil and soya beans. They are good for healthy brain function, the heart, joints and general wellbeing. Low DHA (omega-3) levels have been linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss. Just a handful of pumpkin seeds a day provides a recommended daily amount of zinc which is vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills. EFA deficiency or imbalance is believed to be the cause of some brain diseases and mental aging. Soy lecithin is a great source of choline, inositol and phosphorus that are critical for optimum brain function, however it needs to be consumed in moderation and from reputable source.
– Blueberries: apart from many other health benefits, the consumption of blueberries can be effective in improving or delaying short term memory loss. They have the highest ORAC (antioxidant value), thus considered to be one of the best brain foods. They help protect the brain from oxidative stress and may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Diets rich in blueberries significantly improve both the learning capacity and motor skills.
– Tomatoes: there is good evidence to suggest that lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes, could help protect against the kind of free radical damage to cells which occurs in the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s. Cooked tomatoes, as opposed to raw, have a substantial amount of lycopene which is much easier to absorb for our bodies.
– Various vitamins: especially B vitamins, such as B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Elevated levels of homocysteine are associated with increased risk of stroke, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
– Blackcurrants: an excellent source of vitamin C which has long been thought to have the power to increase mental agility.
– Avocados: rich in fats, however they are monounsaturated fats, which contribute to healthy blood flow, therefore a healthy brain. Avocados also lower blood pressure, and as hypertension is a risk factor for the decline in cognitive abilities, a lower blood pressure will promote brain health.
– Sage: known for improving memory, especially as an essential oil, but it is very beneficial to add the fresh sage to our diet too.
– Ginko: used as a tonic to stimulate the mind, improve blood flow to the brain and improve the memory. Ginkgo biloba contains ginkgo flavone glycosides – which have antioxidant properties and help capture free radicals within the brain and optic areas. Apart from stimulating mental functions, it is also believed to help sustain blood fluidity.
– Ginseng: extracted from the root of the ginseng plant, it strengthens bodily functions and the immune system to help people adapt to the physical effects of stress, improve endurance and reduce fatigue. Panax ginseng should be consumed during the day, as a tonic, it is believed that it helps boost mental activity. Siberian ginseng should be taken at the end of the day, as his particular ginseng is known for its calming effect on the brain.
– Nuts: rich in vitamin E which helps prevent cognitive decline. Other great sources of vitamin E include leafy green vegetables, asparagus, olives, seeds, eggs, brown rice and wholegrains.
– Multi-minerals: minerals such as calcium and magnesium play a vital roll in regulating optimum mental capacity, steady mood and protection from tension headaches. They also protect our brain from toxic metals such as lead or mercury.
– Green tea: is one of the best beverages to boost mental power and protect the brain from toxins and free radicals.
– Dark chocolate: it is believed that cocoa has a potent antioxidant, protective effect on our brain.
Other tips for improving brain function:
– Minimising sugar consumption. Overconsumption cause blood sugar fluctuation, which leads to insulin insensitivity and subsequently to an inefficient supply of energy to the brain.
– Avoiding rancid fats, hydrogenated fats and transfatty acids (found in margarine). Bad fats impair optimum brain function and may cause brain damage.
– Drinking coffee in moderation can boost dopamine. It can help improve brain function and elevate our mood. There are strong arguments whether coffee is good or bad for our bodies, it needs to be decided upon a personal circumstance.
– Getting enough sleep. Our brain is rejuvenating during those sleeping hours.
– Physical and mental exercises, are as important for our brain function, as proper nutrients. They have positive effects on the brain on multiple fronts, ranging from the molecular to behavioral level, it’s been proven that even a brief exercise for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. Physical exercise affects the brain on multiple levels. It increases the heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain. It also aids the bodily release of a plethora of hormones, all of which participate in aiding and providing a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells. We’ve already discussed the Importance of Physical Activity in another article.
And most importantly: Avoid excessive worrying, stress and anger. Be happy!!