Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How to increase your brain power

Jumping Brain by Emilio GarciaImage by "lapolab" via Flickr
As part of my effort to maintain health the natural way, I have been doing some reading about how to maximize brain and  mind potential, particularly as we age. According to research, it seems that a large part of how we age is up to us. Avoiding  smoking and alcohol abuse certainly are two starting points that can tip the scales in our favor.  What else can be done to fight off the diseases that can cause loss of brain power?

This is the first article in a series related to maintaining brain power. The role of diet in maintaining mental acuity will be
examined.

You are what you eat

Fighting the ravages of age related diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia start with following the tenets of a good diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and cold-water fish.  These foods form part of the spectrum of nutrients and antioxidants that keep the mind young. Refrain from eating fried, salty and highly sweetenedd foods as these contribute to the destruction of brain cells that occurs naturally as we age. Put very simply, these foods have no nutritional value and contribute to mental decline as well as physical decline.

To start, include fruits such as blueberries, apples, cherries and strawberries which are good brain foods. They help to fight off free-radical damage which plays a part in the breakdown of brain cells.

Include vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale, red bell pepper and carrots.  These foods are high in phytonutrients are a very high antioxidant food source. (Antioxidants fight against free radical damage).For best nutrient value, do not over cook the vegetables.  One popular idea is to stir fry them in olive oil, season (with a tasty no-salt seasoning such as Mrs. Dash) or squeeze fresh lemon juice over them and serve over rice.

Fish has always been called the brain food, and with good reason.  Fish is high in omega 3s which
provide fatty acids eicosapentenoic acid (EPA) and docosanexenoic acid (DHA). (Incidentally, the fish get the fatty acids from the algae they eat.)  These fatty acids are essential to brain function. Fatty acids are also important in fighting off inflammation which is characteristic of the degenerative brain disease such as Alzheimer's. ("Is fish really brain food?" http://www.wellnessletter.com/).

Some good sources of omega 3s are: salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout and tuna.  Please note that king mackerel and albacore or "white tuna" are high in mercury.  It is recommended that no more than 6 ounces of these fish be consumed per week. For safety's sake, if you are pregnant check with your primary health provider regarding the mercury issues.

In summary

One of the potent ways to support brain power is through the diet.  I hope some of these suggestions will help those who are seeking information about brain-health foods to start on the path needed to gain physical and mental health. 

Readers are invited to leave suggestions and comments related to brain-health.

In the next article, I will present information on exercises to health boost brain power.


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