Our brains are amazing, biological machines that work tirelessly, day and night to help us perform even the simplest of tasks, such as breathing. The brain is responsible for many different, passive bodily functions and is also the place where our feelings, thoughts and memories reside. Could you imagine how frightening it would be if we lost even just a little of our cognitive power.
It sometimes seems as if the world is against us in our quest for brainpower and productivity as even the smallest things, like too much TV time, can prove to be an enormous risk to our cognitive abilities. Most people probably can’t find it in themselves to limit their time watching TV, as it offers a relaxing conclusion to the day. Luckily, there are many things that you can eat to enhance your brainpower and productivity that don’t cause you to give up your favorite pastime.
Brain Food: Fill Up on Your Vitamin K
When you were younger, your mom probably would always tell you to eat your spinach and would often threaten to take away dessert if you didn’t. Despite a mother’s best efforts, most children often refuse to eat vegetables, with many being brought to tears at the thought of Brussels sprouts, kale and spinach.
As it turns out, our brains need certain types of vitamins and minerals in order to function optimally. Our brain loves good and wholesome foods, especially dark green, leafy vegetables.
As we get older, our brains can become greatly affected in various ways, including dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Studies conducted at the Rush University Medical Center have shown that those who eat leafy green vegetables are proven to have a smaller risk for brain disorders in the future.
Researchers from Rush University have found that vitamin K, folate and lutein, all of which are abundant in leafy green vegetables, have a significant impact on lowering the chances of cognitive decline.
Vitamin K plays an essential role in combating Alzheimer’s and mental deterioration. The main function of vitamin K is to regulate calcium in the bones and brain. Recent studies suggest that patients with low levels of vitamin K regulated calcium can add to some damage that contributes to Alzheimer’s.
It’s easy to get your daily dose of vitamin K. Watercress, for example, has 106 percent of your daily vitamin K in only one cup. And, garden cress has 339 percent of vitamin K per cup.
Here are some examples of foods rich in Vitamin K:
- Turnip Greens
- Brussels Sprouts
- Swiss Chard
According to the latest dietary guidelines, a typical person will require five to thirteen servings of fruits and veggies a day. That leaves a lot of room for you to get your leafy greens in.
But, what exactly is a serving size of leafy green vegetables? Well, it all depends on how you plan to prepare it. If you cook your veggies, a serving is considered half a cup. If you eat them raw, a typical serving is considered to be one cup.
Superfoods: Reasons You Should Enjoy Those Chia Seeds
Chia seeds have made quite a name for themselves in the 21st century as many people come forward to testify to their amazing properties. Renowned experts such as Dr. Oz have made a point to proclaim the benefits of chia seeds. But, what exactly makes this seed so great?
These seeds have about five times more calcium than milk; they also have boron in them, which contributes to the utilization and distribution of calcium throughout the body. Chia seeds have risen as a super food because of the amazing benefits that it has on your mind and body.
These seeds have even been proven to keep your brain clean of plaque that contributes to cognitive deterioration. In addition, chia seeds also contain a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega fatty acids are important, not only to children, but to adults, as well. As we get older, our bodies become less sturdy as when we were younger. Our systems begin to wind down as we get age and our brains, more than anything, are the recipients of many negative side effects of aging.
Our brains are composed of 60 percent fat and omega 3 is the most abundant type of fat present in the brain. As we get older, our body’s ability to produce fatty acid gets less proficient; which is why doctors recommend increasing your daily dose of omega 3 as you age.
In recent years, doctors have begun to stress the importance of omega 3 instead of its overly used cousin, omega 6. We live in a society of fast food and grease-dipped entrees, which can cause many folks to go overboard on their omega 6 fatty acids.
But, who can resist a nice serving of hot, greasy, fries? Or, a hot, fatty pizza straight from the oven? Most of us are too much of a foodie to give up these things. However, you should be able to limit them or start using different ingredients that will promote a healthy body.
Certain oils in your favorite dishes can be switched to more health benefiting ones, such as chia oil and olive oil.
Chia oil is extracted from the seeds and contains about eight times more omega 3 than an average serving of salmon. These chia seeds can pack a big punch, but how much do you need to eat exactly? I wish the answer was simple, but frankly, it depends on the individual.
In most cases, people will eat ¾ of a tablespoon or one whole tablespoon per day. And no, you don’t have to swallow it like medicine. Many foodies have created ways to enjoy their chia seeds. Some solutions are as simple as sprinkling it over yogurt or ice cream.
You Can Have Your Chocolate and Eat It, Too
Chocolate lovers will rejoice in this one. Yes, the rumors are true, chocolate is good for your health. However, this is where it gets a little disappointing; milk chocolate lovers beware, as the following health benefits are typically dark chocolate exclusive.But, for those of us who enjoy the pleasures of bittersweet dark chocolate, you will love to know that, in moderation, your daily chocolate fixes can be good for you.
The thing that makes dark chocolate so wonderful for our bodies is a property called “flavonols.” Flavonols work in the body to promote and improve blood vessel functions. Just by eating chocolate, you can increase the blood flow to your brain by eight percent. The increase in blood flow can have the following effects on your brain:
- Healthier nerve channels.
- Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Increased activity and awareness.
Dark chocolate also works wonders on other areas of your body, and is shown to be beneficial to a healthy and happy heart.Chocolate also works as an antidepressant for people because it activates activity in the pleasure center of the brain. By eating chocolate, our brain releases gratification hormones, or endorphins, throughout our body to better improve our moods.
Although it is easy to go overboard on chocolate, it’s best to eat it in moderation or risk it going straight to your thighs. Studies show that the flavonols are so powerful in chocolate, that you can get all the benefits from a “Hershey kiss” portion, or just one or two small squares.
Berries for Your Brain
Some health nuts may already know the benefits of berries for the body. But, what about the benefits they have on your brain? Researchers in the American Chemical Society, have found that eating more berries can prevent Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and age-related memory loss.
Your brain is picky about the things it lets in. The brain is surrounded by a blood-brain barrier (BBB) that keeps it protected from many harmful toxins. The BBB is a selectively permeable barrier that allows good things in and keeps bad things out.
Antioxidants provided by berries are important to the brain because it cleans up any free radical agents produced by oxidation. Many researchers believe that the antioxidants found in these delicious fruits may also be able to reverse some of the damage that aging causes on the brain tissue.
In order to get the full benefits of the antioxidants, here is a list of some amazing foods that everyone should try:
- Red Grapes
- Black Beans
- Kidney Beans
The list goes on and on. Like in the other sections, it is hard to provide you with the exact number of servings of antioxidants you should get in per day. It all depends on your body and how much you, or your doctor, think you should eat.
Keep in mind that your body needs about three to five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. This should give you plenty of opportunity to reach for an antioxidant rich food. Serving sizes of antioxidant rich foods varies. For instance, a serving of blueberries is one cup. A serving size of black beans is half of a cup.
Feed Your Brain Whole Grain
Whole wheat or whole grain? This has been the debate of the century, especially when you go to the grocery store. But, as it turns out, both have healthy benefits for your mind and body. When you see the word “whole” on the label, it just means that the manufactures used the whole kernel when making the bread.
Whole grain means that the bread can be made of any whole-grain kernel and not necessarily wheat. Whole grain bread can be made from oats, wheat and barley.Sadly, despite the overwhelming evidence of the benefits of whole grains, many people, will suggest that grains are bad for you. However, the benefits of whole grain shave been documented time and time again.
Even for those who have a gluten intolerance can still enjoy the benefits of whole grains. Grains that are suitable for those with gluten intolerance are:
- Non-Contaminated Oats
- Wild Rice
Whole grains provide many benefits to the body and brain, because they are rich in complex carbs and have some omega-3 in them. From a previous section, you should already know the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids have on your body, but here are some more:
- Your heart health.
- The prevention of Alzheimer’s.
- Protection against memory loss.
- Promotes healthy blood vessels in your brain and body.
- Protects your body and brain against sugar spikes.
There are also some amazing psychological effects that whole grains have. Due to the amount of vitamin B in whole grains, there be better blood flow to your brain, so it can also improve your moods, as well as your cognitive function.
Vitamin B has been proven to increase blood flow to your brain and protect your brain against Alzheimer’s. In fact, new research suggests that most B vitamins can reduce brain shrinkage up to 90 percent.
Get Moving to Keep Your Brain Healthy
With the rush of everyday life, it becomes difficult to perform the advised 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Working out can be one of the last things on a person’s mind when they get off from a long day of work. Physical activity can contribute to your health in the following ways:
- Helps with weight loss and maintenance.
- Combats heart disease and high blood pressure.
- Helps prevent certain cancers.
- Helps prevent type 2 diabetes.
- Exercise releases endorphins to improve your moods.
- Enhances your muscle strength.
- Strengthens your endurance and mental focus.
Though we know that physical exercise can keep us young and fit, it still does not seem to be enough to encourage some of us to get out and move. You may find it especially hard to get moving when you get home from work, or finish a day of caring for your family, but if you make a point to schedule activity, especially with your friends, it could get you going and keep you active.
Finding the willpower to move even an inch when you get home from work can be difficult, but when you consider how much exercise can help your body and brain, it becomes just a little easier. In recent studies conducted by the University of British Columbia suggest that heart pounding activities can contribute to a bigger hippocampus.
The hippocampus is a section in the brain located in the medial temporal lobe. The hippocampus is important when it comes to the aging process because many of us lose its functions; which is to convert short-term memory into long term memory and the storage of long term memory. In addition, exercise can also affect the brain in the following ways:
- Encouraging a better night’s sleep.
- Ensuring the growth and repair of your blood vessels.
- Preventing memory loss.
- Reducing your risks of Alzheimer’s.
- Improving your mood through the release of endorphins.
- Encouraging the growth and survival of new brain cells.
If your mission is to empower your brain, exercise is an easy first step. Exercising provides so many life-long lasting benefits for a mere 30 minutes of activity a day.If you’re anything like most people, then maybe it’s hard to push yourself to work out. There are several things that you can do to get yourself more comfortable with regular activity. For example, you could:
- Join an exercise class. Classes like spinning and dance are a great way for people to have obligations to go and get their activity in. If you’re paying for a class, you’re more likely to show up so you don’t waste any money. Smart, right?
- Use online apps. Apps like myfitnesspal, can track your progress.Apps can be a great way to get you motivated to move. Myfitnesspal and other similar sites have been used by thousands to help each individual meet their workout goals.
- Get a personal trainer. Hiring a personal trainer can be expensive; but, if you have the money for it, it can be an encouraging way to get moving. Hiring a personal trainer can be smart for people who enjoy exercise classes, but want a more personalized training program.
- Get a friend involved. As stated before, many of us find it hard to get up and get moving, even when considering how amazing the benefits of exercise are. In order to help yourself, make plans to run around a park with a friend or two. Or, try taking your dog out for a walk each day. It will be good for both you and your dog.
Go Nuts for Nuts
Nuts are amazing little buggers packed full with healthy fat, oils and protein. Just like chia seeds, nuts contain a good amount of your daily omega-3 fatty acids. Not only are they tasty and filling, but they are also full of brain feeding vitamins such as vitamin B6 and vitamin E.
B vitamins and vitamin E are proven to protect the brain against age-related memory loss by eliminating free radicals in the brain tissue.
However, not all nuts are created equally. While most nuts have the same health benefits, some can pack a harder punch.
- Walnuts:Walnuts are probably the top pick on any pro-brain food list. Why? That’s because these small nuts contain a significant concentration of DHA, which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid. Walnuts have the topic of many researchers. In fact, during an animal study, scientists learned that walnuts promoted the natural waste removal process in the brain.
This caused a significant reduction in chronic protein deposits in the brain. In addition, studies show that mothers who receive enough DHA typically have more intelligent children.
- Almonds: Almonds have a big concentration of vitamin E. Vitamin E, as stated before, is one of the two biggest contributes to combating age-related memory loss.
- Pistachios: These small nuts are a common favorite among health nuts; no pun intended. This is because of how much you can consume and how little calories there are. When you manage to pry these little buggers open, you can consume about 25 before you reach 100 calories. That’s a lot by nut standards.
But, the reason why your brain loves pistachios is because of their oiliness. The healthy oils in pistachio nuts have been shown to preserve the amount of fatty acid in the brain, protect the blood-brain barrier, and reduce inflammation.
- Macadamias: This round nut contains a good amount of oil and fatty acids. A fatty acid called palmitoleic acid is an important component in myelin, which is a fatty layer that protects the nerve cells throughout the brain and body.
Macadamia nuts are hailed because they have a considerable amount of palmitoleic acid. In addition, macadamia nuts have oleic acid, which may be connected to lowering blood pressure.
- Hazelnuts: Hazelnuts are also a great source of vitamin E and healthy oils. The concentration of vitamin E in hazelnuts is just about the same as they are in almonds. Not only does vitamin E protect your brain against Alzheimer’s and memory loss, but they also enhance your brain’s proficiency. In a lab study, subjects who took vitamin E did significantly better in memory and spoken tests than those who didn’t take vitamin E.
A word of caution to you nut lovers out there, most nuts contain anti-nutrients. Sadly, you can’t just pop them back like candy, eat too much of them, and get all the benefits. Though this shouldn’t be of major concern, because no one would eat enough nuts to get many damaging effects. However, to ensure the best potency of the oils and vitamins with little negative drawbacks, you should soak raw and fresh nuts in water overnight.
As you continue to go through the chaos of everyday life, eating healthy and exercising, feeding your brain is probably the last thing on your mind; however, empowering your mind does not have to be so complicated. By living a healthy lifestyle and eating the rainbow, you can keep your brain healthy for a long time.