Boost Your Brain Power with Smart Foods


Smart foods for your brain

What you eat affects how clearly you think and concentrate.


Remember the old saying, 'You are what you eat". The brain is a hungry tissue. Though it makes up only two percent of total body weight, it uses up to 30 percent of the day's calories. Adequate nutrition thus becomes a major consideration for mental function.

 What you eat affects how clearly you think and concentrate, your intelligence level, memory and reaction time, how well you sleep, react to stress, or perceive pain, how likely you are to fall into depression or how quickly your brain ages. The food that you provide your brain with also influences how you react to the hormonal changes during menstruation, childbirth, and menopause, and even how sexy you feel.
So are you eating brain smart foods? With so many choices and so many different reports, finding the right food source for brain health can often be a trying chore. From my research, studies and experience, I've found that many common foods still seem to be the best sources. A well-balanced diet provides the building blocks for brain health and growth. However there are certain foods which are good for the brain.

Memory boosters 
Best foods to improve memory are antioxidants, because they fight free radicals the body makes as it processes oxygen. Our brain generates large number of free radicals per gram of tissue, more that any other organ in the body damaging the cells. Antioxidants protect neurons in our brain by keeping blood vessels supple and open, ensuring the flow of nutrients to the brain. 

Vitamin C: It is a well-known and powerful antioxidant. It can reduce the risk of plaque formation in the arteries and block the effects of free radicals that can reduce blood flow to the brain and impair memory. Vitamin C is found in parsley, sprouts, citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli, potatoes, kiwi, red peppers, cabbage and leafy greens. 

Vitamin E: It not only prevents deterioration of the brain, but also helps to restore brain function. It is found in nuts and seeds, nut oils, peanut butter, wheat germ, whole wheat and other grain sprouts. 

Spinach: Spinach research has finally caught up with mom's advice: Spinach turns out to be full of antioxidant power. James Joseph, chief of the Neurosciences Laboratory of the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, finds spinach beneficial in slowing down cognitive deficits and age-related problems in the central nervous system.

Vitamin B12: It is often called the "brain food". Inadequate intake of any B vitamin, including vitamins Bl, B2, B6, B12 and folic acid, literally starves the brain for energy and leads to confusion, irritability, and impaired thinking, concentration, memory, reaction time and mental clarity. Since the acid content of the stomach decreases with age, older people have more difficulty in absorbing B12.

Vegetarians too have a problem maintaining B12 levels because plants can't make or store B12. Therefore, these two groups of people have a particular need to take B12 supplements to maintain full memory function. To boost Bs, include several daily servings of B-rich foods, including nonfat milk and yogurt, wheat germ, bananas, seafood, whole grains and green peas. In addition, take a moderate-dose multiple vitamin and mineral. 

Go fresh: Most fresh fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants which help maintain balance, coordination and memory function and should be included liberally in the diet. According to a 2005 study by Harvard University researchers, fruit and vegetable intake is inversely related to cognitive decline -- the more fresh foods you eat, the better your chances of maintaining brain health.

The Harvard group followed a cohort of female subjects from 1976 to 2001 and tracked their eating habits along with mental function over four decades. They found that the women who ate the highest amounts of green leafy vegetables (such as broccoli, greens and spinach) had the slowest mental decline. 

Oily fish: If your mother told you that eating fish would make you smart, she was right. Oily varieties of fish -- such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and herring -- are high in the EFAs known as omega-3 fatty acids. These good fats are crucial components of our brain cells and improve learning powers and memory.
Sardines also have the added benefit of containing the nutrient choline, a brain chemical that is fundamental for memory. 

Soy magic: Soy products provide choline, a nutrient that builds neurotransmitters that pass electrical impulses between brain cells. Egg yolks, peanuts and liver are more good sources of choline. Soy found in natural products such as soymilk or in soy isoflavone supplements -- is also valuable for improving verbal and non-verbal memory, as well as mental flexibility. 

Go nutty: Some foods pack a big nutritional wallop into a little space. Almonds must be close to the top of the list. Particularly nutrient dense, almonds contain a variety of goodies long known to be critical to mental health. Among them are the B vitamin folate and the amino acid tyrosine, a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Then there's magnesium, which contributes to many enzymes that power the brain's intense metabolic activity 

Keep moving: Apart from good diet a daily exercise schedule helps brain function at its optimum. A regular exercise program boosts your circulation, bringing oxygen to the brain. It raises natural serotonin levels, reducing the likelihood of memory-zapping depression.
It balances the rest/sleep cycles necessary for healthy mental functioning. A University of California study of nearly 6,000 women age 65 and up showed that those who did the most walking every week were least likely to show signs of cognitive decline.

Meditation and Relaxation: If you want to keep your brain awake and alert, you'll need to calm down. Meditation and relaxation exercises are the antidote to the brain's ability to think clearly when it is stressed, tired or emotionally distracted. These two brain relaxers create an environment in the brain that allows it to boot up quickly and efficiently and remain at peak performance throughout the day. Because stress has such a strong negative effect on memory, learning to relax is one of the first steps taught in memory classes. 

Zappers
Fats and Proteins: Excessive intake of fats and protein affects memory function. You can boost memory power by reducing your intake of fats (found in butter, oils, nuts and processed bakery goods) and protein (found in fish, red meat, milk, eggs and cheese). 

Sugar and carbohydrates: If you take in too much sugar or too many carbohydrates, the increased levels of serotonin will make you sleepy, lethargic and less able to recall details.

Alcohol: Long-term use of alcohol at high levels definitely impairs memory. Alcohol further impairs memory by causing specific nutritional deficiencies. Alcohol itself directly causes a nutritional deficiency in even casual drinkers because it impairs the processing of some vitamins, particularly Bl. The deficiency of B1 has direct and profound effect on memory processing. If you have a drink or two each day, you can give your memory a helping hand by taking a multiple vitamin that includes 50 to 100 mg of Vitamin BI. 

Coffee and Cigarettes: If you smoke cigarettes and drink coffee, you are setting yourself up for long-term memory loss. Over the time, smoking causes or enhances the deterioration of blood vessels and this keeps the brain from receiving a healthy blood supply. Not only does this lead to an increased risk of stroke, but also it will slowly, affect the brain's ability to think and remember. 

Sleep deprivation: Lack of sleep definitely affects the brain's ability to hold onto information. Without adequate rest, the body's natural balance of the brain chemicals is disturbed, thus making it difficult to remember. 

Stress: Stress is a primary memory zapper, especially when it's chronic. It interferes with the supply of glucose, the fuel that powers the brain. When this happens, new memories are hard to lie down and existing memories are hard to retrieve. Stress is not only experienced in tense situations; it can be manufactured in the body by the things you eat. Stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine, fatty processed foods loaded with preservatives, put a tremendous amount of stress on the body that can trigger the stress response.

GAUTHAM RAJESH

AUTHOR OF THIS POST.