We automatically think of the stomach when we think of hunger, but did you know that the brain uses around 20 percent of the body’s calories? And we know by now that not all calories are created equal. The brain needs specific support to stay healthy and help you concentrate throughout the day. Stress, inflammation, and general wear and tear on our brain cells can lead to problems with memory, concentration, and even symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Eating a brain-boosting diet will not only help keep your brain functioning at its best, but it will also provide many benefits for the whole body.
Have you heard the term “brain food”? Brain food is a real thing. The brain requires certain nutrients to stay healthy, and eating a diet rich in the right brain foods can have a big impact on short and long-term brain function. Here are some basics to keep your brain healthy!
A diet rich in healthy fats is imperative for proper brain function. Omega 3, Omega 6, and Omega 9 fatty acids are all important sources of dietary fats. Each source provides the body with its own specific benefits.
Omega-3’s are most widely known as the “good fats”. Omega 3 fatty acids help build and repair membranes around each cell in the body, including brain cells. They are anti-inflammatory, and a diet high in Omega 3’s has been shown to improve memory, reduce arthritis, and even lessen triglycerides and blood pressure. The human body cannot produce Omega 3’s, so it is essential you include them in your diet.
The following are some of the best sources of Omega 3’s:
- cod liver oil
- flax seeds
- chia seeds
- hemp seeds
Studies show that Omega 3s are the most important fats for brain health. Click here if you’d like to learn more about the benefits of other omegas, like Omega 6 and Omega 9!
As we age there is a natural decline in the antioxidant defense mechanisms of the body. Free radicals can increase the vulnerability of the brain to the negative effects of oxidative stress. These may include changes in memory recall, concentration and even energy levels. Antioxidants help fight free radicals and can counteract neuron damage caused by oxidative stress.
Chronic inflammation and the overall immune response is in part controlled by the brain and certain receptors. Antioxidants help support the longevity of these receptors.
Colorful fruits and veggies are full of brain-boosting antioxidants and phytochemicals that powerhouses for your brain. Some of the best options include:
- dark chocolate
- green tea
Swap out a sweet potato for a potato, or red onion over white onion to add more color to your plate!
Did you know that the brain is approximately 75% water?! Some individuals tend to “burn” through their water supply faster than other individuals so be sure to focus having a good water habit. Try to keep a glass of water out at all times. Seeing it will remind you to take a sip, even if you don’t feel thirsty. By the time you feel thirsty, you are often already dehydrated.
You can eat your water, too. Certain foods have high water content that can help you stay hydrated while also getting other important brain nourishing nutrients:
- coconut water
- plain yogurt
- skim milk
- bell peppers
- vegetable broths & soups
You can significantly increase the nutritional value of broths and soups by adding lots of vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes!
Try adding a brain food focus to the BYG life-enhancing practices you’ve already learned. Fueling your brain with the proper foods can keep your brain healthy and happy and improve so much more than just your memory and concentration. A daily routine of these practices will ensure your body can optimize the fuel you give it:
- Your brain needs calories! Make sure you are eating enough – not too much, and not too little
- Regular exercise
- Get enough sleep
- Stay hydrated
- Active stress management through regular yoga, mindfulness and meditation practices
- Reduce/eliminate alcohol intake
Did you notice we didn’t mention sugar? Glucose (a simple form of sugar) is a primary energy source for the brain, however sugar should not be considered “brain food”. The latest research is now calling Alzheimer’s disease “type III diabetes” due to the impact of sugar and its connection to brain function. Stay tuned – we will be dedicating a special series on sugar and its effect on your brain!
12 foods to boost brain function: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324044#summary
Oxidative Stress and the Aging Brain: From Theory to Prevention: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK3869/
Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2805706/