Looking to boost your brainpower or preserve your memories? You may want to start with nutrition and hydration. Nutrition plays a critical role in both long and short term brain health. The brain is composed of 100 billion brain cells, called neurons, that require a steady diet of good healthy fats, protein, complex carbohydrates and micronutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. While many know we need to drink water regularly throughout the day to stay hydrated, some may not realize that water is essential to optimal brain health and function and that even mild dehydration has a negative effect on brain performance. In short, our bodies need healthy nutrition and a good amount of water daily for optimal function. Unhealthy food choices can damage the brain and the body, and can cause every organ and cell of the body to work harder to maintain physical and mental functioning.
The better you feed your brain, the easier it is for your body to support elevated brain function and stabilize blood sugar and energy levels. Ideally, one should start with a nutritious diet at a young age and continue throughout life to get the most therapeutic benefit, but now is as good a time as any to change your diet to positively influence your long term health. In fact, studies of women who followed a healthy diet during middle age showed that they were 40% more likely to live well into their 70’s without chronic illness and physical and mental health challenges. It’s safe to say, we would all want to maintain our mental edge well into our golden years.
Growing research suggests that eating a healthy diet, such as the traditional Mediterranean diet, can help boost our cognitive function and may help to prevent age-related brain atrophy, thereby reducing the risks of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The Mediterranean diet incorporates low amounts of dairy and meats and high amounts of healthy fish, plus fruits, veggies, olive oils, legumes, whole grain complex carbs, nuts and, of course, a nice glass or two of red wine. On the other hand, the standard American diet is composed largely of unhealthy fats, processed foods, added sugars, simple carbs, unlimited amounts of meat and low amounts of fruits and vegetables, which does not support a healthy, nutritious diet or a healthy brain.
Why is the Mediterranean eating plan so powerful for physical and mental health?
- The diet helps to lower inflammation and oxidative stress, underlying causes of age- related chronic diseases and cognitive loss.
- The high fiber grains, fruits and vegetables help to slow digestion and improve glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity, while providing antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals.
- Diets high in antioxidants may improve memory by fighting the free radicals that can damage brain neurons.
- Fish provides essential fatty acids, so important for maintaining normal cognitive functions, mental clarity, concentration and focus.
- Dairy products provide vitamin D, which aids the growth of new neurons, supports memory functions and improves mood. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to poor memory and cognitive function.
- Nutrient-rich complex carbs provide glucose, the brain’s principal source of fuel. Complex carbs are the body’s main source of energy and help keep blood sugar levels stable, while elevating brain function. Simple carbs have no nutritive value and cause blood sugar to spike rapidly, followed all too soon by a crash that can leave you feeling depleted of energy.
- The diet contains natural sugar not added sugars. Natural sugar found in complex carbs breaks down slowly to provide longer lasting energy. Excessive glucose in the form of added sugar can increase free radical inflammatory stress on the brain and can be detrimental to brain functions, such as attention span, short-term memory and mood stability.
If changing your diet could slash your risk of developing cognitive decline and neurogenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s, would you do it? A study recently published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, found that following a combination of the Mediterranean and the Dash diet, appropriately named the MIND diet, can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 53% in those who closely follow the diet. The study showed that even those who follow the diet moderately well can reduce their risk of cognitive decline by about 35%.
Very similar in content to the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet is aimed at preventing high blood pressure and is highly recommended by the National Institutes of Health and The American Heart Association. The diets are similar in nature and either is considered a top nutrition plan for heart and brain health and function, as both diets are nutrient and vitamin rich and high in fiber. The Mediterranean diet is slightly richer in heart and brain healthy fats and omega-3’s, while the Dash diet is lower in sodium and fats.
Whichever way you choose to go, the combination of moderate daily exercise and a brain and heart healthy diet plan can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke and offer favorable protection against the risks of developing Alzheimer’s. While a number of factors may contribute to cognitive decline, including genetics, environment and lifestyle, good nutrition is now believed to be a very effective prevention measure.
Vitamins and minerals that boost brain power include antioxidant vitamins C and E, B complex vitamins, which support neurotransmitter production and help to preserve brain function and mental acuity, and magnesium, which helps to protect the brain against neurotoxins.
Professional Supplement Center offers these and other great products that support healthy brain function:
Cognitive Rx™ by Complimed – This very comprehensive anti-aging brain health formula provides nutritive support for healthy mental function and memory, as well as antioxidant support for brain and nerve tissue. Gluten and dairy free vegetarian formulation.
Super Lion’s Mane by Mushroom Wisdom – Long used in Traditional Chinese medicine to promote immune and digestive health, Lion’s Mane has been shown to inhibit the formation of toxic peptide in brain cells and stimulate the synthesis of nerve growth factor (NGF), which may protect nerves in the brain and body from age-related deterioration. Wheat, soy and dairy free formula.
Vital Brain Powder by Vital Nutrients – This product supports brain health and vitality and cognitive function, including mental focus, memory, concentration, positive outlook and overall brain wellness. Gluten and dairy free. Contains soy.
Pro DHA™ 1000 mg Strawberry by Nordic Naturals – This pure, high potency formula promotes neurological health and supports healthy mood, memory and cognitive function. Sourced from purified deep sea fish oil and third party tested for toxins or contaminants. Gluten and dairy free, Non-GMO formulation.
Adopt a Mediterranean diet now for better health later. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/adopt-a-mediterranean-diet-now-for-better-health-later-201311066846
New MIND diet may significantly protect against Alzheimer’s disease. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-03-mind-diet-significantly-alzheimer-disease.html
Mediterranean Diet Linked to Larger Brain Volume.
Have You Fed Your Brain Today?
Healthy Brain for Life.
Mediterranean Diet for all.