As we learn more about our bodies, many of us are starting to change different aspects of our lifestyle. We are learning more and more just how interconnected our body is with our environment and what we use to fuel our daily activities. Science now supports what common wisdom has always implied – a good diet and getting active are what we need to reduce our risk of the wide variety of different conditions that plague those in the Western world today.
When it comes to our health and wellbeing, we often overlook what is, perhaps, the most important organ in our body: our brain. Brain health should be part and parcel to any health and wellness regimen.
We have all heard the old “use it or lose it” adage when it comes to maintaining cognitive functioning and mental clarity. This means that we need to keep our brains active in order for the brain to continue to operate at it’s proverbial “maximum capacity.” There are many ways to do this, from reading, to brain and word games. But there is more to brain health than even this.
Fuel for the Brain
It is becoming more and more obvious that the food we eat has a profound impact on our health and wellbeing. We are what we eat. We also need to remember that the food we put in our bodies is, for all intents and purposes, the fuel that our bodies use to power our daily activities. Poor quality fuel, just like poor quality food, is going to result in loss of efficiency and optimal functioning. The brain is no different than the body.
When we eat, we need to understand that what we eat is also what fuels our brain activity as well. Science is showing that certain foods do better than others to promote optimal brain and cognitive functioning.
Best Brain Foods
While a natural, whole foods diet will be dramatically better for you than the processed modern American diet, there are specific foods that are known to be optimal for maintaining brain health and vitality. Adding these foods to your regular diet is a great way to include the brain in your overall health and wellness routine. The list of foods described here is, by no means, an exhaustive list of foods that promote brain health, they are some of the most effective and easy to find options available.
In addition to being incredibly tasty, these sweet berries are shown to help reduce age-related degenerative effects on the brain. Blueberries have antioxidant properties, which helps them protect the brain from what is called “oxidative stress.” These berries are healthy and tasty in any form – whether frozen, dried, or fresh. Adding a cup of this tasty fruit to your daily diet is a great way to promote brain health.
Fish High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fatty fish such as wild salmon, sardines, tuna, and other fish, are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Fish is often referred to as “brain food” for this very reason. Almost half of our brain of our braincells have a DHA membrane, and this just happens to be the type of Omega acid found in highest concentrations in these fish. About twice a week is enough to get the brain-boosting benefits of fish. It is important to vary your choice of fish and be careful not to overdo it. There is legitimate concern about the levels of mercury and other chemicals in fish.
All veggies are good for you and all pack antioxidants and other compounds that help promote overall health and wellness. Some, however, pack a bigger punch than others. Broccoli is one of those vegetables. This is an easy veggie to add to stir-fries, pasta dishes, salads, and more.
Loaded with Vitamin C and antioxidants which help get rid of so-called free radicals. Antioxidants also work to reduce oxidative stress in the brain. Broccoli, in addition to being rich in antioxidants, is also rich in Vitamin K, which is shown to help with cognitive functioning. This cruciferous veggie is also high in a substance called carotenoid, which is known to really protect the brain from degradation.
Beans and Legumes
It is well known that beans and legumes (like lentils) are a great way to get low-fat protein and fiber in your diet that’s also cholesterol-free. These are often underutilized, but beans are actually great for a variety of things, including brain health. A half cup of beans or lentils a day helps to regulate glucose levels in the body. The brain is, of course, fueled by glucose and if it has a steady stream of energy, from a healthy source like beans, it functions at a higher level.
Nuts and Seeds
It has long been known that raw nuts and seeds are great for heart health, they can help lower blood pressure, they are packed with healthy fats, and they are a healthy and tasty way to stay full. There are far more benefits to nuts and seeds that just these effects though. There are links between intake of Vitamin E and cognitive decline later in life. Those with a higher intake of Vitamin E show lower levels of cognitive decline. Nuts and seeds just so happen to be rich in Vitamin E.
When thinking about physical, mental, and spiritual health and wellness, it is important not to overlook that organ that drives every aspect of us – our brain. In addition to ensuring that we have a low-stress lifestyle by doing stress-relieving activities like mediation or yoga, there are also foods that we can eat that will help optimize brain health.
These tasty foods not only nourish our bodies, they nourish our brains too. Science is showing that including foods like these in your life, in addition to an overall healthy lifestyle and diet, will help you maintain optimal brain functioning as you age. Cognitive decline is, of course, inevitable to an extent, but we can do many things to guard ourselves against preventable cognitive decline. Eating for your brain is the smart, and tasty, thing to do!