27 Feb Why we should be nourishing our brains through our diet
Have you ever been on a diet to boost your fitness? Have you followed a nutritional regime to maintain a healthy heart, bones and energy? And so, do you follow a diet that boosts your brain power?
The food we eat shapes our bodies, but it also shapes our brains. Our brain connections – our dendrites form our thoughts which maintains our body’s processes and forms our behaviour and beliefs. If we eat junk food, fried foods, stodgy carbs we not only put on weight and put pressure on our hearts but we feel sluggish, and lack focus.
We are literally thinking what we eat.
The brain is often forgotten when we are managing our diets, but this is the organ which requires the most nourishment and energy. It takes up 20% of the body’s energy and, unlike cells elsewhere in the body which are replaced, the brain cells remain all our lives – they are irreplaceable. The brain requires specific nutrients to maintain our brain health and connections as research into fish oil and the benefits of Omega 3 and Omega 6 have shown. However, research is now exploring the further links between the brain and the gut, and how what we eat can nourish the brain and prevent cognitive decline and even lowering the risk of the development of Alzheimer’s.
So should we just take a supplement?
Taking fish oil as a supplement to maintain the brain has been popular during the past ten years. However, a very comprehensive trial of 4000 participants in 2015 The AREDS2 Randomized Clinical Trial concluded that Omega 3 fish oil supplements did not slow down cognitive decline. The research is now proving the brain benefits far more effectively from the nutrients from our diet.
“As a society, we are used to the idea that we feed our bodies, and that our diet shapes our waistlines. But many of us forget that the same diet also feeds our brains, and that the food we give our brains shapes our thoughts and actions.”
Lisa Mosconi has collated this recent research in her new book Brain Food: How to Eat Smart and Sharpen Your Mind. Mosconi is the Associate Director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic of the Department of Neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and was the founder and director of the Nutrition and Brain Fitness Lab at New York University.
Mosconi’s advice is to eat specific foods within your diet to maintain the brain so that the natural nutrients are released most effectively.
Omega 3 and Omega 6
Eat a portion of fatty fish such as mackerel, sardines, salmon or anchovies several times each week. If this isn’t possible, eat a portion of flaxseeds or chia seeds sprinkled on your muesli or in yoghurt.
This carbohydrate is the only energy source directed at the brain – if you or you know someone who suffers from Diabetes, you know the importance of maintaining glucose levels. It is vital that we all nourish our brains with glucose to maintain energy.
Eat regular portions of whole grains, beetroot, kiwi fruit, onions, spring onions, and sweet potatoes. Replace sugar with raw honey, coconut sugar or maple syrup to boost your brain’s energy with natural glucose. Three tablespoons of raw honey will give your brain all the glucose it needs for the day.
Tryptophan is an amino acid which enables the brain to produce serotonin which is essential for our moods, controlling appetite, and maintaining our memory. As tryptophan cannot be produced by the body, we must include this amino acid in our diet. It is most commonly found in chia seeds, oats and cacao.
Eat two tablespoons of chia seeds each day to provide your body with all 200mg of tryptophan which the body needs.
Vitamin E has been proven in large scale research to be an important protector against dementia. Elderly people who consumed more than 16mg a day of vitamin E had a 67% lower risk of developing dementia compared with those who consumed little to none. If vitamin E is consumed with vitamin C it forms an even more powerful protection.
Use extra Virgin Olive Oil as a salad dressing. This is packed with Vitamin E as well as Omega 3.
And remember to eat foods high in the B vitamins such as spinach, eggs and lentils to prevent memory decline.
The research on the causes of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are making new breakthroughs in this decade particularly in finding the contributory factor of environment and diet. The studies continue, and one day, hopefully the scientists will make that ultimate breakthrough.
Meanwhile, we can take responsibility and eat as healthily for our brains as we eat for our hearts, bones, and weight loss. We can consume nutrients to maintain our dendrites, boost memory, and concentration.
Food for thought(s).