Brain Foods


Experts now report that up to 66% of your brain power today and down the road is entirely in your control if you eat right, move enough, and engage in the right activities.
On the other hand, poor diets not only fail to provide essential brain protectors, but add insult to injury by flooding the brain with harmful substances. For example, saturated fat clogs blood vessels, which are then less able to transport oxygen to the brain. Some essential brain foods include:
1) Fatty fish: A wealth of research is accumulating on a fat commonly found in fish, called DHA, and its effect on brain function. DHA accounts for 97% of the omega-3 fats in the brain. It is the critical omega-3 for normal brain development and function throughout life, from infancy to the senior years and might lower Alzheimer’s risk by up to 60%. This omega-3 not only protects against dementia, but protects the brain from damage in general, too. Recommendations: Include at least two servings of fatty fish in the weekly diet or supplement with at least 220 milligrams of DHA daily.
2) Colorful fruits and Vegetables: The brain consumes more oxygen than any other body tissue, which exposes it to a huge daily dose of oxygen fragments called oxidants, which attack, damage, and destroy brain cells. The wear and tear after decades of oxidative damage contributes to the gradual loss of memory and thinking associated with aging. Colorful produce is the very best source of antioxidants. The research overwhelmingly shows that the more color-rich produce you eat, the better you think, the lower your risk for dementia, and the higher your score on memory, judgement, and reasoning tests. Recommendations: Aim for 9 servings a day for starters.
3) Coffee: Within half an hour of drinking a cup of coffee, you’ll notice a boost in thinking. You think more clearly, are more alert, have a faster reaction time, and can concentrate better after a cup of coffee. But, caffeine is effective only up to your “jitter threshold;” adding more coffee after this and you’re too buzzed to think clearly. Recommendations: Keep caffeine intake to three cups of coffee or less a day.
4) Iron-Rich Foods (women only): If your thinking is on a down-hill slide, you could be iron deficient. This mineral carries oxygen to tissues and is a component of numerous brain enzymes that help regulate brain function. When iron levels decrease, the brain and nerve cells are starved for oxygen, resulting in fatigue, memory loss, poor concentration, lack of motivation, shortened attention span, and reduced work performance. Recommendations: Eat lots of iron-rich foods, cook in cast iron pots, and get your iron levels checked (serum ferritin and TIBC tests). If levels are low, supplement.
5) Vitamin B12-Rich Foods: This vitamin is critical for maintaining the insulation sheath around nerve cells that allows messages to zip quickly from one neuron to the next. Low B12 levels are associated with memory loss. Recommendations: Foods rich in this vitamin include chicken, fish, meat, and milk. Also, supplement.
6) Breakfast: People who eat a nutritious breakfast (e.g. whole grain cereal, milk, and fruit), think more clearly and perform better at school and work compared to breakfast skippers. Recommendations: Eat a nutritious breakfast every day.
Huhn S, Kharabian S, Stumboll M, et al: Components of a Mediterranean diet and their impact on cognitive functions in aging. Frontiers in Aging and Neuroscience 2015; 7:132./Morris M, Tangney C, Wang Y, et al: MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimers & Dementia 2015;11:1015-1022.


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