Is Dark Chocolate Really Brain Food?
Our three-pound brain is a very demanding organ. 20% of blood, carbohydrates, and oxygen generated from each heartbeat go directly to the brain. This organ is an energy cannibal. It does not produce its own energy to function, so it is dependent on getting energy from the carbohydrates sent to it. How do you keep up with those demands? Nutrition and exercise play critical roles in keeping our brains energized. But we have to make sure that we are sending the right nutrients to the brain for high functioning efficiency.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Antioxidants
The brain is very vulnerable to oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Free radicals are random Oxygen molecules that do great damage to all our internal organs, skin, but especially the brain. Antioxidants are necessary to neutralize free radicals. The brain is 60% fat; it is the fattiest organ in our body. Omega 3 fatty acids are fats that need to be ingested to fulfill the fat requirement of the brain. Omega 3 fatty acids protect brain cell integrity and support the neural pathways. Neural pathways are lined with fat and this fat aids in the communication function in the brain. Omega 3s are critical for high end brain function.
What kind of foods supply the nutrients that our brain needs?
· Dark colored fruit like blueberries and Pomegranates are super antioxidants and protect the brain from free radical damage.
· Cold water fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and herring provide Omega 3 fatty acids that the brain needs for functioning.
· Avocados have monosaturated fats that contribute to healthy blood flow.
· Nuts, seeds, and whole grains provide a good source of vitamin E – a strong antioxidant.
· Beans can stabilize glucose levels – the source of energy for the brain.
· Dark chocolate (yum) also contains antioxidants important for brain cell integrity.
These are a few foods that supply the nutrients the brain requires for optimal functioning. What happens if you don’t like fish? There are supplements available to fill the gap in nutritional deficiencies. However, the body likes natural food better. Your body can process food sources and utilize what it needs. Supplements may not be used properly, cause interactions with medications, or might not be enough or too much of the active ingredient for effective results. Eating with a brain healthy diet in mind will ensure that you get what your brain needs.
The MIND diet is held as the standard for brain health. The focus on fruits and vegetables, fish, little red meat, olive oil, whole grains, beets and nuts are just what our brain needs to stay healthy.
Here are a few brain-healthy cookbooks where you can find brain healthy recipes:
· Change Your Brain, Change Your Body Cookbook by Dr. Daniel G. Amen
· The Grain Brain Cookbook by David Perlmutter, M.D.
· FOOD – What the Heck Should We Eat? By Dr. Mark Hyman