Feed Your Brain

by Sue Taggart

We are constantly being reminded to eat right for our heart health, to lower cholesterol and avoid diabetes, but our brains are more sensitive to food than any other organ of the body. As the brain depends on healthy arteries, the same kinds of foods that are good for the heart are also good for the brain. And, by eating right to feed your gray matter, you will also help reduce your waistline—it’s a win-win, since carrying extra weight is bad for the brain. Studies have indicated that when people become overweight they are at increased risk for memory problems. Scientists are not sure if memory problems are linked directly to being heavier, or the health issues associated with additional weight like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and inflammation are responsible.

The brain, which also controls our mood and the “feel good” brain chemicals, can be boosted with a well balanced diet too. The food choices you make every day can affect your brain and your mood. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the typical American diet, high in salt, sugar, fat and processed foods are not good for our mood and our cognition and that whole foods are a better dietary option—a no brainer really!

Here are some brain-boosting foods to include in your daily diet.

Protein – eat some with every meal as protein produces amino acids essential for healthy brain function:

  • Lean meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Tofu
  • Beans

Omega-3 rich foods – the brain is 60% functional fat that protects the neurons and helps the brain function. Healthy fats are essential for a healthy brain:

  • Canola Oil
  • Wild salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseed
  • Dark leafy greens

Antioxidants – as the brain produces a tremendous amount of oxygen it’s vulnerable to oxidative stress. Eating foods high in antioxidants to help reduce free radical damage is imperative for memory, learning and cognition:

  • Green tea
  • Colorful fruits and veggies such as berries, pomegranates, apples, grapes, sherries, garlic, kale, spinach, red cabbage and brussels sprouts
  • Dark chocolate
  • Red wine

Magnesium – deficiencies in this mineral can contribute to age-related memory decline, so make sure eat magnesium rich foods like:

  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Oat bran

Just as important as feeding your brain, is sleep—uninterrupted sleep will have your brain firing on all cylinders. So, whatever it takes for you to get a good night’s sleep, it’s critical. Eight hours is an optimal amount according to a number of studies conducted at Harvard from 2000 to 2005. Students were found to remember the things they learned the day before better if they had at least six hours sleep, but even better with a full eight hours.

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