by Kimberly Allen, RN
It’s a fact that as each birthday goes by not only do we age chronologically but our body ages as well. As people continue to fight the battle against age both physically and mentally much research has been done looking for the best way to accomplish it. There have been numerous studies that have shown regular exercise can slow the aging process of the body as well as the brain. There have also been several studies showing how the brain reacts to certain foods. One study determined that a diet that is high in saturated fats caused damage to the neurons that control of energy. There have also been several studies that indicate when you eat can be as important as what you eat. One well known example is that school children have been shown to have improved learning skills and memory when they eat before school.
Research has indicated that you can significantly improve your brain health and maintain it even as you age chronologically if you add certain “smart foods” to your diet. Blueberries have also been called “brainberries”. Studies have shown that blueberries assist in protecting the brain from oxidative stress. Blueberries have also been shown to diminish the effects of certain conditions that are age related like Alzheimer’s. Studies have also indicated a diet that contains blueberries daily significantly increases motor skills and learning capacity.
Wild salmon is a deep water fish that is high in the omega-3 essential fatty acids that are crucial to brain function. Other fish that contain significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids are herring and sardines. Eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids three times a week can significantly improve your brain health.
Nuts and seeds are rich in vitamin E as well as several other nutrients including protein, fiber and antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals. Research has shown that eating an ounce a day can improve cognitive function. Nuts also improve the health of your heart and blood vessels which in turn improves oxygen flow to the brain resulting in improved brain function.
Avocados are felt to be nearly as good as blueberries by many researchers. Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fat which improves blood flow. When your blood flow is healthy your blood pressure is lower and your brain is receiving more oxygen which results in improved cognitive function. However, as avocados are high in calories experts say that you should eat no more than 1/4 to 1/2 of an avocado no more than once a day.
Whole grains are also important because they improve cardiac function and if there’s good cardiac function that means there’s good blood flow to the brain. Good blood flow means increased oxygen which in turn improves cognitive function.
Drinking pomegranate juice and freshly brewed tea can also enhance your focus and memory as well as your mood. They are also loaded with antioxidants which have numerous health benefits. And don’t forget water. Believe it or not drinking water increases your alertness.
Saving the best for last, dark chocolate has lots of powerful antioxidants as well as natural stimulants that improve focus and concentration. Dark chocolate also activates endorphin production which improves your mood. The key to dark chocolate is that you only need up to one ounce per day to receive all the benefits you need. Unfortunately this is one of those instances when more is not better.
Eating the right foods can help you maximize the use of your brain. As with many other things if you don’t use it you’ll lose it . In this case the more you use it the more you stimulate new cell growth as well as create new connections. It also improves your memory and problem solving skills.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.