Here's the scoop on brain foods. Like you, I've always heard that certain brain foods can help you think better and improve memory. But I was never quite sure which foods to eat.
Well, after doing lots of reading, I found some answers. It turns out there are several types of foods that can protect your brain, improve how well it works, and even build new brain cells.
First, let me clear up a common myth: yes, you can grow new brain cells as an adult! The myth that your brain stops growing is false.
Lots of new research proves that your neurons (brain cells) can put out new branches and make new connections no matter what your age.
Of course, all cells need nutrients to grow. So including brain foods in your diet gives your brain the building blocks it needs. More neurons and connections in your brain equals a stronger memory and a mind that simply works better.
Much of a brain cell's structure is made up of what are called "healthy fats". The most important of these are the Omega-3 fatty acids. As your brain repairs itself and grows new neurons, it needs an abundant supply of Omega-3s from your diet.
The best sources of Omega-3 fats include cold-water fish such as salmon and albacore tuna. Other foods with Omega-3 are canola oil, soybeans, walnuts, wheatgerm, eggs, and flaxseed oil.
Recent studies have shown that Omega-3 vitamins can greatly improve memory and attention in some people.
As we age, substances in our bloodstream known as "free radicals" attack and break down our brain cells. If you don't fight this, you are likely to experience age-related memory loss when you get older.
Fortunately, there are a lot of foods that contain a helpful substance called antioxidants. These antioxidants merge with the free radicals in your blood and make them harmless. So it pays to eat lots of antioxidant foods every day.
Good sources of antioxidants for your brain include tea (especially green tea), blueberries and other berries, red grapes, tomatoes, broccoli, garlic, spinach, carrots, whole grains, and soy. Asparagus is one of the best sources of glutathione, the "superhero of antioxidants".
Besides neurons, your brain also includes important chemicals called "neurotransmitters". Neurotransmitters are the messengers that carry brain signals from one neuron to the next. You may have a great brain structure, but if your supply of the different neurotransmitters is insufficient your brain won't function properly.
Some components of neurotransmitters, such as tryptophan, can't be made within the body but must be consumed directly from your diet. Others such as tyrosine can be made by the body but still require the right foods in your diet.
The best neurotransmitter-building foods for boosting alertness, energy, and concentration include seafood, meat, eggs, soy and dairy products. To avoid sabatoging yourself, eat the low-fat, low salt varieties (for example, eat lean cuts of meat or low-fat cottage cheese).
As you probably know, most of your body is water. It is very easy to not consume enough water and become dehydrated.
Being even slightly dehydrated causes fatigue, decreases mental energy, and impairs memory.
Drink at least three or four liters (quarts) of water a day. I like to carry around a one-liter bottle and just fill it up whenever I pass a water fountain.
I've also have bottles of water stashed around my house and in my car. These act as constant reminders about drinking enough water.
Certain vitamins and minerals are also important building blocks for your brain. You definitely want to avoid any kind of vitamin deficiency. The best way to do so is to supplement with vitamin and mineral tablets.
The most important vitamins for memory are Vitamins C, B12, and B6. So take a Vitamin C supplement daily and consider taking a B Complex vitamin along with it.
Some important minerals for brain building include Iron (for women, especially) and Calcium. Deficiencies of either of these have been shown to impair learning.
An easy way to get most of your most important vitamins and minerals is to simply take a multivitamin each day. Personally, I take a multivitamin, a fish oil capsule (for Omega-3 fatty acids), a 1,000 mg Vitamin C tablet, and a B Complex vitamin.
Make sure you always take your vitamins with food and not on an empty stomach. Not only will you avoid a stomach ache, but vitamins and minerals need to combine with food in your digestive system or they will be to a large degree wasted.
Fiber is a suprising brain food, but an important one. Okay, fine, it's not really a "food". But fiber does help your brain function at its best. The reason is that fiber helps slow the absorption of sugar from your diet.
Your brain operates 100% on sugar. But the trick is that the sugar must be delivered in a very steady stream and in the proper amount or your brain gets overwhelmed. Eating enough fiber slows your digestion and results in the sugar in your food being delivered into your bloodstream gradually.
Brain foods containing healthy amounts of fiber include:
Dried fruits, including raisins, dates, prunes, and apricots.
Vegetables, such as green peas, broccoli, and spinach.
Peas and beans, including black-eyed peas, lima beans, and kidney beans.
Nuts and seeds, such as flaxseed and almonds.
Whole fruit, including apples with the skin, oranges, avocados, kiwi, and pears.
Whole wheat grains, such as barley, brown rice, and the various whole wheat pastas and cereals.
Many of the high-fiber brain foods are also high in magnesium. A diet lacking adequate magnesium puts you at increased risk of age-related memory loss.
So there you have it. To keep your brain healthy and your memory at its best, simply start eating foods from all of these groups on a regular basis.
Slowly replace the high-sugar, high-fat foods in your diet with these healthy brain foods. Not only will your brain and memory benefit, but your body will, too. I guarantee you will notice a difference!
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