How Food Affects Your Brain: 10 Facts We Now Know

by SKHC Editor on September 3, 2010

You are what you eat. It’s an old adage that speaks volumes on what has become of the American lifestyle. A focus on overly processed foods and a mere brush with fruits and vegetables have lead to an alarming rate in obesity and the detrimental diseases linked to it like diabetes. Documentaries filmed in public schools show children who have no clue what a real potato looks like!

Eating right takes some effort and here are the 10 foods that will make it worthwhile and turn on your brain.

1. Fish. You won’t get fat from it and it improves your immunity, which keeps you healthy and promotes collagen production which keeps you looking younger, longer. When it comes to how fish affects your brain, the results are amazing. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish ease signs of depression. Fish also keeps the memory portion of the brain alert and working well into old age. Incorporate fish into your diet 2-3 times a week to reap the health benefits. If you’re one that loads up on red meat regularly, you’ll notice the difference fish makes your health almost immediately.

2. Vegetables. Vegetables? Good for you? Who would have thought? Vegetables are good for nearly every part of your body (organs, digestive system and more), but they’re also fantastic for your brain. A study of over 3,700 women and men showed that those who consumed at least three servings of vegetables a day retained their mental abilities better than those who had fewer than three servings of veggies per day. The study was conducted over three years and showed the best mental results from those who focused on consuming dark, leafy greens. Case in point? Make a dark, leafy salad a part of every meal.

3. Red wine. Red wine started making headlines a few years ago when we heard it was great for the heart. Thanks to the rich antioxidants in red wine, it’s also the go-to beverage for protecting brain cells. In April of 2010, scientists discovered properties in red wine that help recovering stroke victims. The resveratrol component found in red wine is what protects brain cells from damage during and after a stroke. Researchers have not tested synthetic versions of resveratrol, which is available in health food stores alongside other vitamins, so for now, you’re better off consuming red wine daily to reap the benefits. One glass for women and 2-3 glasses for men are seen as moderate red wine consumption.

4. Strawberries. Feeling forgetful lately? Strawberries may be the answer. Researchers have recently discovered an antioxidant in strawberries that helps preserve the memory and fight Alzheimer’s. It’s the antioxidant properties in strawberries called fistein and it’s said to improve the connection of neurons, leading to a stronger memory. Not only does fistein prevent existing cells from dying, it also contributes to new and strong cell growth. Fistein is also found in peaches, tomatoes, grapes, oranges and onions. Strawberries are also chock full of iodine, which is known to preserve the nerve and brain systems.

5. Walnuts. Walnuts are packed with lecithin, which fasten the transmitters between brain cells. This means you’re alert and ready to go when anything hits. Besides making you think on your toes, walnuts also improve memory and brain power. Lechitin also slows the aging process in the brain, which may prevent Alzheimer’s. Don’t think you have to put away bags of the nuts to benefit from the components. Having 2-3 walnuts a day will suffice, so stash a bag at your desk and use them as your pick-me-up snack when the mid-afternoon slump rolls around.

6. Pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds should be a go-to snack in your household. Pumpkin seeds are packed with zinc, which is good for your brain in a myriad of ways. Zinc helps your short term memory take off and also improves your abilities to concentrate, especially during a high pressure situation. Just a small handful of pumpkin seeds per day will benefit your brain.

7. Blueberries. We know blueberries are fabulous for your skin and immune system, but what do they do for our brains? The antocianines are antioxidants that protect the brain from aging, warding off diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. They also improve your motor skills and learning capacity. Chowing down on blueberries improves your navigation skills, short term memory and coordination too. Wash blueberries and stash them in a bowl in the fridge for a quick, accessible snack or mix them into a smoothie on a daily basis.

8. Sage. This is a major brain food. Sage may not be in your regular diet, but it’s a pretty easy one to fit in when you’re working with proteins at home. Sage improves everything from your short term memory, improves your senses and helps the nervous system. Sage also inhibits the production of the amino acids known for memory loss. So how can you move sage from the produce aisle into your diet? Mince it and use it on pork, chicken or beef. You can also sprinkle it raw onto a salad or steam it in water to extract the oils and sip as a quick DIY tea.

9. Cacao products. Who doesn’t love chocolate? The unprocessed version of the cacao bean is best and will do much more for your brain than a Snickers bar. Cacao beans have flavonoids, which improve brain cell production and blood flow in the brain. The Theomobrine found in cacao beans also improve the “bliss” factor going on in our brains. However not all cacao is created equal. If you are seeking out the cacao that’s going to keep your brain going strong, you need to look for 100% organic non-alkalized cocoa powder. Mix this in with your coffee or a glass of organic or soy milk to get your cacao fill.

10. Olive oil. Like fish, olive oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. It curbs depression and serves as a healthy fat, which keeps your skin, hair and nails in tip-top shape. This fat is responsible for nerve transmission and cell membranes are comprised of fatty acids. Fatty acids also help build brain cells, making them an essential part of your diet.

Making a few changes to your diet will create a serious difference in your brain activity and leave you looking and feeling better. If you had kids, these foods will typically help them be more alert and aware in school and also promote healthy eating habits for the long term.

Article compliments of culinaryartscollege.org

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