FOOD FOR THOUGHT FOR YOUR BRAIN
Some research has indicated that sweet treats just May enhance our ability to retain information. That’s part of a growing emphasis on using a diet to nurture our brain health. As a society, we are so very comfortable with this idea that we feed our bodies and much less aware that we’re also feeding our brains. Parts of the foods that we eat will end up being the very fabric of our brains, I am sure you have heard the quote food be thy medicine.
What we eat directly affects our thoughts, our mental capacities and our moods. Lisa Mosconi who is the director of the Weill Cornell Women’s Brain Initiative and the author of the XX Brain, says, to function best, the brain requires approximately 45 distinct nutrients. Though our brain produces many of these on its own, the rest can only come from diet. Everything in the brain that isn’t made by the brain itself is imported, from the very food that we eat.
Theirs no other organ in the human body that has the same strict rules. This includes the foods that impact inflammation, oxidative stress and brain shrinkage. (Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants, which fight infection and chronic disease risk; without antioxidants, free radicals can go completely haywire and increase the risk of disease.)
A 2019 study of dementia-free elders in the journal NeuroIMage found that distinct nutrient biomarker patterns were associated with cognitive health and functional brain network efficiency. Mosconi participated in two 2018 studies that found that patients who followed a Mediterranean diet exhibited very few Alzheimer’s changes to their brains than those who ate a western-style diet, characterized by high intake of red meat, refined carbs and saturated fats.
A so-called brain healthy diet includes nutrient-rich foods such as arugula, which is packed with vital nutrients like potassium, calcium, folate and the almighty vitamin C (as opposed to iceberg lettuce, which contains a much smaller amount of healthy components). Raspberries are filled with vitamin C and potassium, while spinach is rich in antioxidants. Specific nutrients impact specific cognitive abilities due to their effects on brain chemistry, says Mosconi. For example, an amino acid that is called tryptophan is needed for the brain to make serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter.
If your diet is too low on tryptophan, that can have a negative impact to your brain ability to make serotonin, with negative effects on your mood. Leafy greens are high in vitamin E, which Mosconi calls an antioxidant brain essential nutrient. Half of a cup of boiled spinach contains about 1.9 milligrams of vitamin E, or 10% of the daily recommended intake. Additionally, the nutrient choline, which is produced in small amounts by the liver, but is primarily obtained from foods such as broccoli, eggs, fresh cod and salmon, is crucial to memory formation.
The brain needs choline to make the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which impacts our muscle movement, thinking and working memory. Low acetylcholine levels have been linked to learning and memory impairments, as well as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Brain-healthy nutrients are consistent with foods found in the Mediterranean and MIND diets, which focus on colorful, varied plates of whole foods.
Though the Mediterranean diet has been recently popularized by the mainstream media and books such as The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook, its origins date as far back as the Middle Ages. Prioritizing omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains and vitamins found historically throughout the region, the diet is bolstered by an array of big-time super foods. Those that includes leafy greens such as kale, foods that are high in healthy fats, including avocados and olive oil and protein-packed fish like salmon, as well as nuts.
In a 2019 U.S. News and World Report evaluation of 41 of the all-time renowned diets, the Mediterranean diet ranked at the top of the list. Typically, foods that are found in the diet are a single ingredient and unprocessed, and the foods have been found to improve cognitive functioning, as well as lower the risk of diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
A study that was published this year in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, found that adhering to a Mediterranean diet was associated with a lower risk of cognitive impairment and much higher scores on tests of cognitive functioning. However, my friends there was not sufficient evidence that the diet would slow an already present decline in cognitive function.
Inspired by the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets is the MIND diet, which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. This eating pattern is specifically geared toward reducing dementia and the overall decline in the brain health that accompanies aging. In addition to fish, leafy greens and healthy fats, the MIND diet encourages a high intake of fruit. Blueberries for example, were associated with significantly lower rates of cognitive decline among older women in recent study that was published in Annals of Neurology.
A 2015 Alzheimer’s & Dementia study found that adhering to the MIND diet was linked to lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease. Yet, another study in 2015 in the same publication found that the diet was correlated with a slower decline in cognitive abilities. The Mediterranean and MIND diets are also consistent with the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department’s of Health and Human services and Agriculture, which call for a diet that is filled with an array of leafy greens, legumes, whole grains, fruits, dairy, eggs, lean meats, and seafood.
Both plans caution against added sugars, and refined grains (such as white bread), margarine and processed or red meats. Additionally, the MIND diet discourages high consumption of cheese, advising that it should be only consumed about once per week. Benefits have also been observed from specific foods. A 2018 study in the Journal of Nutrition, Health &Aging; of nearly 5,000 Chinese individuals over the age 55, for an example, found that the long term high consumption of nuts, was associated with a lower likelihood of poor cognitive function. Peanuts are very rich in unsaturated fats, vitamin E, folate, magnesium and potassium, which provide anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and lipid-lowering benefits. These foods and the right eating patterns have additional benefits beyond keeping the brain shape. The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and folate can positively Impact those with depression and anxiety, according to Kirkpatrick. Also, following these diets is associated with reduced risks of chronic diseases, certain cancers and Type 2 diabetes, since excess body fat can increase inflammation. Inflammation is always the base of any disease, Kirkpatrick says, adding that the impact is especially significant in the brain.
On the opposite side of the spectrum are foods such as the sugary drinks, and refined or highly processed grains (that includes white breads and white pastas), trans fats, sodium and highly processed foods, which contribute to having inflammation in the brain and connected organs and which are detrimental to long-term cognitive health. It is very foolish for us to actually think that what we choose to put in our body through food is not going to have an impact on our brains health, today, and tomorrow, Kirkpatrick says. This isn’t one of those things that will improve overnight this is something that should become a lifestyle.
In this vein, what about the idea that eating peppermint candies will boost memory and cognitive retention? While a widely cited 2008 study in the International Journal of Neuroscience found that participants who were exposed to peppermint oil experienced enhanced memory and processing speeds, however, Kirkpatrick says that more research is still needed to determine how effective peppermint and peppermint oil can be for the brain health.
In a 2017 study from the Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, the researchers studied the effects of cinnamon on mice that had previously been determined to have a lower learning capacity. The mice who consumed cinnamon for one month were able to memorize more quickly and effectively than before. However, similar to peppermint, but more research is still needed to examine the potential cognitive effects in humans.
Getting started on a brain-healthy eating pattern does not have to mean immediately replacing all weekly staples with salads and fish, however. Consider simple swaps and gradually adding more colors to the plate. The deeper the hue of any plant, the more benefits you will get, because you have more phytonutrients, Kirkpatrick says.
There natural compounds are produced by plants and have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. For a simple swap, let us consider replacing White bread with whole grain bread to cut back on refined grains. Munching on a handful of mixed nuts rather than those potato chips or replacing potatoes with sweet potatoes is a mindful, gradual adjustment. Nurturing our brain health is a long term strategy that does not have to take place overnight. My friends you can start really slow, you don’t have to aim for perfection.
Dear friends, it is our personal obligation to take care of our body and our brain, to keep them in the best of health. We now have information that can help with this. I suggest everyone to use this information, my team and I, only want all of you to live a long healthy quality life.
May good health and prosperity be always with.
Humbly yours Paul Earl.