We’ve become so much more aware that taking care of our mental health is a priority. But do you also know that the food and drinks you consume play a principal role in your cognitive aka brain health?
Lifestyle choices and what we eat can be the cause of health conditions or the cure to them. Everything we experience has an influence on how our brain adapts to and copes with different situations in life, including how we receive and react to information.
1. What influences our brain function?
Think of it this way – the brain is the command central for your whole body. It controls your senses, motor skills, thoughts, emotions, and organ functions. So, by doing a disservice to it you decrease your overall health and vitality.
Your brain health is not only determined by how you choose to live and use it now but it is largely pre-determined by other factors such as; genetics; your environment growing up; traumas and significant events in your life; and your general mindset. All of these can be potential risk factors contributing to cognitive decline.
Various cell abnormalities, neurological conditions, and traumas can affect brain development. These disruptions in normal brain growth can cause a myriad of diseases, starting from headache and migraine, depression, stroke, memory loss, dementia, epilepsy, or tumors – to developing Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
The human brain gets coded already during conception. At that moment, your cells download all the information not only from your parents but from several generations before them. In fact, it is thought that we carry the emotional and biological coding from up to seven preceding generations.
Stress causes disruptions in normal brain function. The more stress you experience the more it affects your mind in a detrimental way. This is why it’s important to reduce the amount of anxiety and worry you let into your life. The coping mechanisms you develop will greatly control and improve your resistance to any trying situation that life may throw at you.
With famine and malnutrition rates being so high, and lack of treatment availability, developing nations make up the lion part of the global burden for neurodegenerative diseases. With the leading cause for “disability-adjusted life years”—or DALY—and the second leading cause of death globally being neurological conditions, it is especially important to do our part in keeping our environment healthy; meaning our meals free of toxins and our groundwater free of contamination.
2. How to take care of your brain health?
Six pillars of brain health:
Those, who exercise regularly, have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Physical activity at any age helps our brains get fresh oxygen thus improving blood flow, learning capabilities, and overall mood. Just 30 minutes of exercise can have a big impact on your quality of life.
It is critically important in today’s day and age to take care of your mental health. Meditation has been used for several millennia to relax the mind and cope with stress. It allows your brain to take a break from constant focusing and thinking. Following your breath, a few minutes a day can be a natural counterpart to treatment for anxiety, depression, and dementia.
While more and more studies use artificial intelligence to help treat neurological disorders, it’s equally as important to not let technology do all the work your brain is supposed to do. Mental exercise – like a puzzle, a crossword, or a math problem sparks up your brain from an inactive state and provides vital stimulation.
Your brain is yet another reason to prefer natural foods. While processed food kills brain cells and is one of the largest contributors to health decline, fresh produce improves and repairs brain health.
Cigarettes, alcohol, and overindulging are all guilty of killing brain cells and causing health problems. Both smoking and drinking alcohol release poison into our bloodstream, causing memory decline, impaired brain function, and other neurological diseases. Abusing sugar intake, however, raises our body mass index and causes obesity.
Enough sleep and rest are irreplaceable for strong brain health. During sleep your body and brain replenish and re-energize, helping you retain fresh memories—or “data”—by making new brain connections. No wonder you feel “fresh” after waking up – it’s vital to give your mind sufficient rest.
Engaging in social activities encourages mental stimulation and improves mood. Research has shown that spending time with other people, having thought-provoking conversations and laughs can all lower the risk of dementia, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer’s disease in older adults. New research has also found that people who interact more socially have slower rates of memory loss than others in the community.
3. What foods are good for brain health?
As mentioned, diet plays a key role in your brain health. Consumption of natural versus processed foods improves your overall mental health, including helping with memory and learning. Eating the right nutrients in a sufficient amount is paramount for your blood-brain barrier (BBB). The BBB is like the security guard of your brain – keeping out harmful toxins while allowing in helpful substances. Improper diet, however, can cause a leaky blood-brain barrier, causing a plethora of problems in your whole body.
Leafy greens and dark green vegetables like kale, spinach, collards, and broccoli have a number of brain-healthy nutrients including vitamin B12 and phosphorus. Several mushrooms, including the Lion’s Mane mushroom, are a true dominant when it comes to memory and cognitive health.
Omega-3s can be essential brain food to reduce the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. This fatty oil is a helpful memory aide all throughout your lifespan. Research has found that a fatty acid deficit could cause mild cognitive impairment both in children and in older patients.
Fish like salmon, trout, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. As well as plant-based diet alternatives like blackcurrant seed oil, sea buckthorn berries, and several nuts and seeds like walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin-, and chia seeds, but also soybeans.
Algae is the only known vegan/vegetarian alternative source to provide the right kind of omega-3s for your brain. Astaxanthin supplement is made of algae and comes in capsule form.
Fruits & berries
Berries are known to contain lots of antioxidants that protect brain cells from free radicals. Research has strongly suggested that blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, and strawberries all have an excellent score to prevent age-related memory decline and neurological disorders. A study where children drank regular berry smoothies proved that blueberries especially benefit memory and attention span. Plus, they’re critical for heavy metal detox and are believed to be the most powerful food to fight Alzheimer’s disease!
Oranges and kiwi fruit contain a considerable amount of vitamin C that can improve mood and fight infections, while pomegranate and bananas give your brain an energy boost. Avocados are linked to preventing stroke and lowering blood pressure.
And as a bonus – curcumin, or turmeric, is a magical anti-inflammatory helpful for a myriad of health issues. Regular use can help maintain a healthy brain.
4. Nutrient compounds to help with brain health, and where to get them from
B1 (thiamine) – nutritional yeast, pulses and legumes
B5 (pantothenic acid) – mushrooms, avocado, nuts and seeds
B9 (folate) – nutritional yeast, eggs, aronia (chokeberries)
B12 – leafy greens, broccoli, eggs
Copper – pumpkin seeds, raspberries, sea buckthorn berries, Chaga
Iron – Lion’s Mane mushroom, pumpkin seeds, raspberries, nutritional yeast, aronia, sea buckthorn berries, Chaga
Omega-3s – astaxanthin, fish, blackcurrant seed oil, sea buckthorn berries, nuts
Magnesium – spinach, avocado, banana, almonds, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, blackcurrants, aronia, lingonberries, sea buckthorn berries, Lion’s Mane
Phosphorus – raspberries, Lion’s Mane
Resveratrol – peanuts, blueberries, cranberries, cacao. Can’t not mention astaxanthin which’s antioxidant capacity is 3000x stronger than resveratrol’s.
Sulforaphane – broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage
Vitamin C – blueberries, citruses, raspberries, blackcurrants, lingonberries, sea buckthorn berries
Vitamin D – healthy amount of sun exposure, D3 supplement
Vitamin K – broccoli
Zinc – pumpkin seeds, Chaga, Lion’s Mane
5. How can I boost my brain health?
- At least 30 minutes of cardio every day.
- Spend time in nature.
- Become aware of what you consume. Eat well, feel well.
- Make social connections.
- Reduce stress.
- Get enough sleep.
- Regular health checks to control cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.
- Limit alcohol and smoking.
- Do occasional sudokus or other puzzles.
5. How to lead a brain-healthy life?
Evaluate your overall health and consider some lifestyle changes, if necessary, to maximize your brain fitness. Do, what brings you happiness – whether it be listening to or playing music, running, or painting. Get those endorphins going!
Growing older is natural but it’s up to us to also ensure healthy aging for our brains. Treat this as a new era in your life, where you take charge, and heal instead of harming your body.