Posts Tagged ‘brain health’

How to boost your Brain Power

Eat well, think well: It turns out that the Romans were definitely on the right track with their famous saying “mens sana in corpore sano” (a healthy mind in a healthy body).


 

To protect yourself against a variety of age-related conditions that can impair your memory and the general functioning of your brain, a good first step is to concentrate on a healthful diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and oily cold-water fish.

As your brain ages, important nerve cells are less able to protect themselves against highly reactive rogue compounds called free radicals.

Fortunately, the body has a natural defense system to protect itself against oxidative stress: antioxidants.

Scientific evidence for the important role that antioxidants play in maintaining brain health is considerable.


 

What you should eat: As a rule of thumb, to maximize the antioxidants in your diet, you should eat as many different types of fruits and vegetables as possible, especially the lushly colored ones that are rich in compounds called carotenoids and flavonoids.

Fruits with high antioxidant scores include blueberries, at more than 6,552 total ORAC units, blackberries (5,247), red delicious apples with skin (4,275), and sweet cherries (3,365).

Vegetables with high ORAC values include raw ginger root (14,840), raw garlic (5,346), cooked red cabbage (3,145), and cooked broccoli (2,386).

Nuts, including pecans (17,940), walnuts (13,541), and hazelnuts (9,645), are among the highest listed on the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory’s 2007 ORAC chart.

Whole grains, such as whole wheat, oatmeal, and brown rice, are another excellent source of antioxidants because they contain important compounds that possess antioxidant activity.

You can check ORAC scores for particular foods by going to Nutrient Data Laboratory.

For your memory to function smoothly, brain cells need to be able to communicate quickly and easily with one another. As people age, though, nerve cells shrink, nutrient-rich blood supplies to the brain decline, and inflammation often complicates the situation.

Omega-3 essential fatty acids, especially DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), have been found to promote the efficient electrical signaling between nerve cells, help stabilize cell membranes, and even appear to improve mental concentration and fight memory loss.

In a recent report, the International Food Information Council noted that “emerging evidence suggests that a higher level of omega-3 fatty acid consumption may be associated with reducing the risk of bone loss, certain cancers, and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease [DHA is the most abundant fatty acid in the gray matter of the brain].”

What you should eat: Because the body cannot manufacture omega-3 fatty acids, it needs to absorb them from food sources, and some of the best sources are oily cold-water fish; once or twice a week you should try to work salmon, sardines, bluefish, herring, mackerel, or tuna into your menu.

Beyond the basic fruits, vegetables, and cold-water fish, scientists believe other food-based compounds can also help protect your memory and cognitive abilities.

B vitamins: Folic acid and niacin in particular have been found to be important in preserving brain function because they help control inflammation and appear to promote the development of new brain cells.

What you should eat: Food sources rich in vitamin B include lean meats, fish, legumes, dairy products, grains, and green leafy vegetables.

Co-enzyme Q-10 According to Shari Lieberman, PhD, CNS, FACN, coauthor of A User’s Guide to Brain Boosting Nutrients, “Not all antioxidants protect the brain because not all of them pass the blood-brain barrier.” One exception to this is coenzyme Q10, also known as CoQ10.

What you should eat:Good choices for foods rich in CoQ10 include beef, chicken, nuts, and oils.

Alpha-lipoc acid: Another powerful antioxidant that is readily absorbed by the brain, says Dr. Lieberman, is alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), which helps to neutralize free radicals and counter nerve damage.

What you should eat: Spinach, broccoli, beef, yeast (particularly brewer’s yeast), and certain organ meats are good sources of ALA.

While no one has found a way to return aging brains to their youthful ability just yet, it is possible to strengthen your brain’s ability to protect important neurons from degeneration or death.