10 power foods for your brain

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Brain Function | Thursday, March 05, 2015 - 08:31 AM

foods-for-brain-healthEven as you read this, your brain cells are drenched in a mix of nutrients or toxins that have been absorbed from the food you consumed. It’s extremely important that you increase the nutrients in this mix and reduce the toxins.

Because these toxins can, over time, help the formation of plaque in your brain tissue that can trigger degenerative diseases like dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Please don’t for a moment think that as you have lived a healthy life all these years, you are safe from Alzheimer’s disease. No one is immune to this deadly affliction. In 2014, there were over five million Americans with Alzheimer’s. Of which over 200,000 were under the age of 65. And the incidence is growing. By a rough estimate, there will be close to 16 million Alzheimer’s patients by 2050.

This rapid growth is because we are seeing that baby boomers are hitting old age and they are experiencing the delayed effect of the fast food revolution they grew up in. The fast food fad brought really unhealthy foods into our diet.

As you age you will find more and more instances of brain fuzziness where you don’t feel sharp and remember things. The thing is, it does not have to be this way.

Just as unhealthy food has created a huge problem, healthy foods and memory boosting foods can help prevent, reduce and sometimes even erase the problem. Once we start eating the recommended foods for healthy brains, the nutrients absorbed from them will fight against the toxins and their bad effects. And this can happen at any age – young, middle-aged, or old.

In general, healthy brain foods are fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, eggs, beans, and if you eat meat, try fish more often. But there are certain foods that are especially good for the brain and it will be smart thinking to include these in your daily diet. So without further ado, here are…

10 foods for healthy brains

1. Honey

Sugar is a bad word these days, but we must not forget that sugar is the main energy source for our bodies and one of the main sources of fuel for our brains. The solution to this sweet dilemma is – honey.

Unlike refined and processed sugars that are harmful in many ways, this natural sweetener comes with a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are good for boosting brain health. Honey has the biological capacity to fight free radicals, bacteria and inflammation. The reason this 100 percent brain fuel tops my list is because it can be so easily incorporated into your daily meal plan.

2. Kale

Over the last few years, kale has become very popular with health food enthusiasts. This cruciferous plant comes in dozens of varieties and is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. It is rich in phytonutrients that help decrease inflammation, and it is loaded with vitamin C, and vitamin A, both of which are essential for brain health.

The problem with kale is it has a bitter taste and as many of us have not grown up with it, we don’t know how to cook it, or include it in our diet. You can start with adding kale to your smoothies, salads, even tacos. Or if you want to really kale it up, there is a great book called Fifty Shades of Kale.

3. Fish and omega-3 fatty acids

Eating oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and trout can significantly boost your memory. As these fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, scientists around the world are stressing a fish-rich diet to help maintain optimal brain health. Omega-3 fatty acids are some of the most highly concentrated fats in the brain and known to play a vital role in the structure and functioning of the brain, especially when it comes to memory.

While most fatty fish are a power food for the brain, it is important to eat them correctly.

Boiled or baked fish have higher omega-3 fatty acids than fried fish because the fatty acids are destroyed in the high heat of frying. It’s interesting to note that people who consumed fish at least twice a day have more grey matter in the memory and cognition areas of the brain.

4. Mussels

These delicious bivalve mollusks have the most impressive nutritional profile of all shellfish. Mussels are a perfect brain food because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (DHA), which is a building block of the nerve cells responsible for thoughts and feelings.

Mussels are also packed with vitamin B12, a nutrient vital to protecting your brain health, boosting neurotransmitters like serotonin, and preserving your memory as you age. Mussels even contain levels of iron, folic acid and some rare trace elements that boost brain health. They are readily available, inexpensive, and are sold alive so they are always eaten fresh.

Here is a simple quick recipe to get you started: Rinse and scrub some mussels, toss them in a pot with a few cups of water, some herbs, garlic, and a little white wine, cover, and steam them. Mmmm.

5. Whole grains

Like everything else in your body, the brain needs energy to function. And since your brain cells never rest (even when you are sleeping) they need more energy-rich food than other cells. An adequate, steady supply of energy helps you to concentrate and focus.

The best way to get this steady supply of energy is by consuming whole grains which have a low glycemic index. When the glycemic index is low, the glucose is released slowly into the bloodstream, keeping you mentally alert throughout the day. Opt for “brown” cereals, wheat bran, granary bread and brown pasta.

6. Beans 

Beans are the most under-recognized health food. The brain is dependent on glucose for fuel, and since it can’t store the glucose, it needs to have a steady stream of energy – which beans can provide.

Any beans will do, but lentils, black beans and garbanzo beans are especially good. Garbanzo beans are one of the best food sources of magnesium (aside from kelp and green leafy vegetables). Magnesium boosts brain cell receptors to speed the transmission of messages. It also helps in relaxing blood vessels, which allows more blood flow to the brain. Make sure to have at least ½ a cup of beans every day.

7. Blueberries

These popular berries have one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits, vegetables, spices and seasonings. They are also rich in vitamin K, manganese, vitamin C, and copper. No wonder some doctors refer to them as “brainberries.”

Studies show that blueberries help memory by protecting the brain from oxidative stress. They may also reduce the effects of age-related memory loss. I recommend you take raw blueberries – rather than those blueberries used in baked desserts – because, as with every fruit, raw blueberries provide you with the greatest nutritional benefits, and even the best flavor.

8. Avocados

Avocados are almost as good as blueberries in promoting brain health. Many nutritionists call avocado the perfect food for its nutrient-rich content. Avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, C, D, E, K and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folate) as well as potassium – all of which help neutralize free radicals and the buildup of proteins to fight memory loss.

What’s more Avocados are sodium-free and cholesterol-free. However, you must remember, that while avocados benefit memory, they have a high calorie content, so don’t go overboard with it.

9. Freshly brewed tea

Whether it’s “high tea” in London, “sweet tea” in Georgia, or the famous chai from India, tea is the most popular beverage around the world. It’s not often that something so rich in health benefits is so popular.

But the thing with tea is, if you want to get the most health benefits from tea, it has to be freshly brewed. Bottled and instant powdered teas don’t do the trick. Tea leaves are rich in phytochemicals and flavonoids. And the process of brewing extracts these nutrients from the leaves.

The flavonoids and other compounds from tea can delay or even prevent brain aging by fighting against the damage from oxidative stress in cells containing dopamine. Dopamine is the brain chemical related to attention, mood, learning and movement. It’s not a surprise that people who consume green tea regularly have significant increase in longevity.

10. Dark chocolate

I’ve always loved chocolate since I was a kid, for obvious reasons. But as a doctor, I’m loving it even more for all its health benefits.

Dark chocolate has powerful antioxidant properties, contains several natural stimulants, including caffeine, which enhance focus. Caffeine also stimulates the production of endorphins, which helps improve mood. There’s more: Chocolate has flavonoids found in the form of epicatechin which improves various forms of brain function.

But as chocolate is rich in calories, go easy on it. One-half ounce to one ounce a day will provide all the brain benefits you need.

Finally, food for thought

While eating all this great food is good, you have to remember that you also need to get rid of all the toxic baggage your brain has collected over the years. So it’s equally important to do away with the bad foods. So foods rich in saturated fats like bacon, pizza, along with foods rich in trans-fats like donuts, muffins, and all processed food have got to go.

Between the foods to eat and the foods to avoid, you can chart out you own diet plan based on your body’s need. There are a lot of other brain-healthy foods out there, especially nuts. The nuts good for memory are walnuts, Brazil nuts, peanuts, hazelnuts and almonds. Learn about them, and you can mix things up a bit, and add flavor and crunchiness to your meals.

That about sums it up, so I’ll sign off here with a line I heard at the end of a TV ad: “Eat Healthy, Think Better.”


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