Brain-Healthy Foods to Keep You Sharp
Which Brain-Healthy Foods Should I Eat?
To keep your brain healthy, think of it as a muscle you need to feed and exercise properly. What should you feed it? How should you exercise it?
To keep your brain healthy, it’s important to fuel your brain with foods rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants protect cells from free radical damage and are an excellent way to improve cognitive skills and slow brain aging.
The other half of this equation is exercising your brain. As we age, some of our brain cells deteriorate — that’s the bad news. The good news is there are things we can do to keep our cognitive functions going for as long as possible.
Here are two items to begin with:
Since three-quarters of our brain is water, not replenishing it often can lead to brain dehydration, which in turn can affect your mental makeup.
A study conducted at Ohio University determined people who drank a lot of water and were well-hydrated scored better on tests measuring their brainpower than individuals who didn’t drink enough H20. So, make sure you’re getting your six to eight glasses of water per day.
Even in ancient times, without the science to prove it, people who ate a moderate diet (much like today’s Mediterranean diet) lived longer and better than their counterparts who ate anything and everything in sight.
A recent study found that people who ate a diet packed with anti-inflammatory and other disease-fighting foods performed exceedingly better on cognitive tests than those who didn’t eat these foods.
What Are Some of These Brain Foods?
Begin each day with a breakfast that’s not only delicious, but also good for your brain because it’s packed with antioxidants. I mix high-quality protein with a “good” fat, which energizes the start of my day.
I combine two things I love:
avocado and eggs — I make either a scramble or omelet.
The protein and monounsaturated fat help blood circulate better, which is essential for optimal brain function.
In his book Superfoods RX: Fourteen Foods Proven to Change Your Life, Dr. Steven Pratt writes that blueberries “help protect the brain from oxidative stress and may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.” The suggested amount is a minimum of 1 cup of blueberries daily.
Deep-water fish like wild salmon, known for their rich, antioxidant omega-3 fatty acids, are also wonderful brain foods. Other fish on the list include trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kippers. The recommended amount is four ounces, two to three times weekly.
Dr. Pratt also suggests eating one ounce of nuts and seeds daily.
They’re excellent sources of vitamin E and have been shown to slow down cognitive decline as we age.
My first pick is walnuts, but you can also enjoy any of these: hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, filberts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, and unhydrogenated nut butters such as peanut butter, almond butter and tahini.
Dr. Pratt’s caveat is that if you’re on a sodium-restricted diet, you should buy unsalted nuts.
Working Out for Your Brain
It’s been proven that hitting the gym and keeping your body fit is the absolute best way to keep your brain active over time. Add some weights to it while you’re at it — you’ll be toning both your body and brain!
Dr. Ken Rockwood, a professor and geriatrician, states:
“Whatever is good for your heart is good for your brain too.” A great adage to remember!
Your body is not the only thing you should be working out; I like exercising my brain by working on either a crossword or Sudoku puzzle. Doing a challenging problem is a surefire way to activate your brain. There are a ton of free online puzzles you can tackle, just search free online puzzles for adults.
Try to set a goal for yourself of learning something new every day. Dr. Rockwood says that is the most fundamental brain workout and the more you do it, the better off you’ll be.
Food for Energy
Just like the muscles in your body, your brain works better when it has a good supply of energy.
Nutritionists state that whole grains, which are low on the glycemic index, keep blood sugar levels stable. This means they release glucose into your bloodstream slowly, which in turn aids in keeping you alert throughout the day.
Suggested amounts are half a cup of whole grain cereal or one slice of bread two to three times daily, or two tablespoons of wheat germ per day.
I love maple and brown sugar oatmeal, which I eat three to four times a week.
Since lycopene and beta-carotene are plentiful in tomatoes, I’ve added them to the list. They’re easy, economical, and one of the best ways to get an adequate supply of carotenoids, powerful antioxidants that eliminate the free radicals that cause inflammation.
Studies have found that people who suffer “senior” moments (mild cognitive impairment) have lower levels of carotenoids like lycopene in their blood. Eating two cups of tomatoes daily should provide you with the amount of lycopene you need to function well.
Here are some other foods to eat that are high in the antioxidants your brain needs:
- Beans: They’re high in fiber and even out glucose levels (the brain depends on glucose for fuel).
- Shellfish: Rich in nutrients such as selenium, magnesium and protein. I try to eat two to three helpings of shellfish a week.
- Garlic: Aside from keeping vampires away, eating as much fresh garlic as you can reduces bad cholesterol, strengthens the cardiovascular system, and feeds your body a protective antioxidant.
- Chocolate: My favorite one on the list — who knew it has brain-boosting compounds loaded with antioxidants? Not only that, chocolate sends your serotonin through the roof, which makes you feel happy.
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