Do You Know How to Nourish Your Brain?
As they say - you are what you eat! The foods we eat or don’t eat impact our brain, mental health and mood. That is a lot to comprehend. How can one aspect of our lives mean so much and make such an impact?
Our brain is very specific in its needs. It needs oxygen, carbohydrates and blood. Our brain is the fattiest organ in our body; it is 60% fat. So we need to send good fat to it also. High protein foods help balance blood sugar and insure a steady supply to our brain.
Here is a list of dietary needs for our brain for it to function on a high level:
1. Fatty Acids: As I just mentioned – our brain is 2/3 fat and so it requires a steady stream of fatty acids to keep cell membranes intact and insulate nerves. Omega-3 fatty acids are the best fats for the brain. A diet high in these fats helps prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
2. Antioxidants: Vitamin C and E – they protect delicate brain structures from free-radical damage, particularly to the fats that insulate nerve cells.
What is free-radical damage you might be asking? Free radicals are atoms,
or groups of atoms with an odd (unpaired number of electrons and can be
formed when Oxygen interacts with certain molecules. Once free radicals
brain is especially vulnerable to free radical attack. Antioxidants – bind up
those rogue oxygen molecules so that they won’t do anymore damage. That
is why you see so many food products labeled as antioxidants. They are
very important to brain health.
3. B-Complex Vitamins: These vitamins keep your brain healthy by reducing the level of homocysteine, a byproduct of protein metabolism that promotes inflammation in the brain and the body. Excess homocysteine can cause inflammation within blood vessel wall, decreasing blood supply to the brain, and can also directly damage brain cells that control coordination and reaction speed.
4. Protein: high protein foods help to balance blood sugar and ensure a steady supply of glucose to the brain. Not to get too involved in this – but this like an important fact to know. Tyrosine, an amino acid in protein foods, such as meat, fish and tofu, is a precursor to the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, brain chemicals that affect your moods and energy levels. L-tryptophan, in poultry, milk and eggs is a precursor (starts out in a form that will become) of serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter that boosts mood and energy levels. L-tryptophan, in poultry, milk and eggs is a precursor of serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter that boosts mood and improves the quality of your sleep.
5. Glutamine, found in protein rich foods, contributes to the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, an important neurotransmitter for reducing anxiety.
What Is the Best Diet for Your Brain?
We just covered all of the essential components of the food we eat that affect the brain in many ways – wellbeing and mental health.
There are actually bad mood foods: these are highly processed snack and take out food products rich in sugar and fats.
I know that I just told you that our brain needs sugar and fats – but it needs the right kind of these nutrients.
There is a diet that fits all the criteria required for our brain to function properly. This diet has been widely researched over the past few years and is recognized as being – just right – for a healthy brain.
The MIND DIET – a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. The Alzheimer’s Association has given strong support to the MIND diet. In fact, one of your attachment – The MIND Diet List was put together by the Alzheimer’s Assoc. It gives you the breakdown of foods you should eat and how many times per week you should eat them. You can keep track of your week’s dietary intake and see how you do. One of the activities I am suggesting is to keep a journal of what you are eating. The truth in front of you – speaks volumes.
Some of the components of the MIND Diet are:
· Lots of plants - especially dark leafy vegetables and dark skinned fruits.
· Legumes, beans, and whole grains are included in this category.
· Lots of healthy fat from cold water fatty fish such as, mackerel, salmon, sardines, nuts and olive oil
· Low in red meat and dairy.
Since the Mediterranean diet is a large part of this diet you can reference books on the Mediterranean diet to help guide you.
Whole food diets protect against Alzheimer’s disease, slow aging, and help prevent depression and anxiety.
Is Dark Chocolate Really Brain Food?
Dark Chocolate!! Woohoo! Dark chocolate is full of flavonoids – some serious antioxidants that protect your brain. The cocoa content should be high and the quality of the chocolate should be good. If the cocoa content isn’t high enough then there is the possibility of increased bad fat exists. If you shudder when you eat high cocoa content – keep giving it a try. You will get used to it and it becomes quite a treat.
Red Wine and the Brain
There has been so much written about this topic – and what is written depends on when it was written.
Controversy still swirls over resveratrol – it is found in the skins and seeds of red grapes. Resveratrol has been found to protect the brain from damage after a stroke.
The controversy arises from one of the primary researchers who falsified his results. This has compromised the entire field of research – everything is being questioned.
Research continues though, because there are still some promising benefits – but the studies have been small. A small study does not present enough data to determine if the findings are significant or not or if they would generalize to the larger population.
However, these research studies found: reduced stroke and lowered incidence of cardiovascular disease.
Again – moderate drinking rules apply (1 glass of red wine/day).