Many of us, jokingly, use the phrase “senior moment.” We’ve almost come to accept that getting older means “losing” our minds. While the aging process can be taxing on the mind's ability to function optimally, taking the right precautions through a progressive, well-planned lifestyle can protect our brains far more than you might think. Years of research reveal that most Americans are not consuming enough brain-boosting nutrients. We need essential vitamins, fatty acids, and minerals to fight the formation of free radicals, which are caused by environmental factors like stress and processed foods. Free radicals aren’t always bad – in fact, our bodies actually produce them to aid our immune systems and assist in hormone production. But free radicals can form in excess, wreaking havoc on cells and tissues that our bodies need to function properly. This process is called oxidative stress. In our brains, oxidative stress can lead to disease. “The most significant cause of degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, are mitochondrial [the energy source of each cell] decay,” says Perfect Personal Nutritional Consultant Sheryl Krohner. Making the right nutritional choices can help prevent destructive oxidative stress. “The good news is, foods that many of us have already incorporated into our eating plans to promote general health and disease prevention can help decelerate this decline,” explains Perfect Personal Exercise Physiologist Christine Waclawski.“Improved memory recall and brain motor function, as well as prevention or delay of Alzheimer’s and related dementias can be enhanced with smart food choices.”
Top Brain-Boosting Nutrients
Many health sources will recommend eating more blueberries, fish, and walnuts for better memory and focus, but they never seem to explain why. Actually, quite a wide variety of brain foods can be incorporated into your diet. We’ve examined the top brain-boosting nutritional components below, along with a list of foods packed with cerebral benefits.
|Water: Are You Drinking Enough?|
Seems almost too simple, right? Yet considering that about 80 percent of your brain consists of water, it’s imperative to stay hydrated—dehydration can produce stress hormones that cause long-term damage to brain cells.
New research reveals a correlation between low Vitamin B12 levels and memory loss, in addition to brain shrinkage. Not all Vitamin B12 forms, however, are created equal; you’ll most likely see Cyanocobalamin listed in parenthesis near the B12 listing in supplements, but Methylcobalamin is the most effective form.The Best Way to Consume Vitamin B12: Meat, Eggs, Dairy, and Seafood.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
|Fresh basil: a surprising source of Omega 3s!|
In a nutshell, fatty acids are the building blocks of fat and oil—two nutrients that society has been conditioned to avoid. Fatty acids like Omega-3, however, are essential in brain function. So much, in fact, that a deficiency can affect your ability to learn and recall information. A balanced diet that includes Omega-3 EFAs helps your body produce and rebuild cells, including vital brain cells necessary for memory and concentration.
Foods rich in Omega-3s: Fish (look for fish like Salmon, Sardines, Halibut, and Mackerel), Nuts (especially Walnuts, Almonds, and Hazelnuts), Flaxseeds, Soybeans, Fresh Basil, and Spinach.
According to Perfect Personal Nutritional Consultant Sheryl Krohner, antioxidants play a critical role in protecting brain cells by fighting free radicals.
|Avocados are a wonderful source of Vitamin E.|
Antioxidant Vitamin E fights and protects against oxidative stress that can lead to Alzeihmer’s disease and stroke. According to a recent study, reported in Neurobiology of Aging, 85 percent of Alzeihmer’s patients were Vitamin E deficient. But before you run out and buy supplements, consider incorporating more Vitamin E-rich foods into your diet.
Vitamin E Dense Foods: Nuts, Eggs, Avocados, Cold-Pressed vegetable oils (like Olive and Canola), Sunflower Seeds, Legumes, Sweet Potatoes, Brown Rice, and Oatmeal.
- Vitamin C -
You may have heard Vitamin C associated with “antioxidant” perhaps more than any other nutrient. That’s because Vitamin C is one of the most dynamic antioxidants; it acts as a sort of Superman, ridding organs, including the brain, of damaging free radicals. And Vitamin C helps other antioxidants – like Vitamin E – retain their potency.
Foods Packed With Vitamin C: Blueberries, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Oranges (and other Citrus Fruits), Pineapple, Red Bell Peppers, and Strawberries.
- Zinc -
|Consider including more fresh garlic in your meals.|
One of Zinc’s main functions is to prevent fat oxidation in brain cells (which leads to brain cell damage) and aid Vitamin E. Most people turn to this mineral during a cold or flu bout, but it’s an essential antioxidant for brain function. Be careful though: consuming large amounts can ironically increase your risk for free radical damage.
Zinc-Powered Foods:Dark chocolate, Pumpkin and Squash Seeds (roasted), Garlic, Oysters, Lamb, Crab, Lean Roast Beef, Wheat Germ, and Chickpeas.
Other Antioxidants that will help protect your brain against plaque and free radicals: Vitamin A and Carotenoids (think foods like Carrots, Tomatoes, Eggs, and Leafy Greens), Green Tea, Garlic, Turmeric, and Ginkgo Biloba.
|Don't forget your Leafy Greens!|
Incorporating a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods is one of the most effective measures against brain fog, memory loss, and shrinkage. And according to Waclawski, don’t forget to fit in those workouts! “Regular exercise and physical activity also plays a vital role in slowing down brain declines – it will help oxygenate your brain. That along with the adoption of a “heart-smart” eating plan will help avoid‘brain-drain’!”