Monday, May 7, 2012

Superfoods For A Super Brain

We’ve all had days when we didn’t feel like we were ‘on our game.’ And as we age, both our bodies and our brains grow old as well. But by making smart food choices, we can preserve our precious gray matter longer and improve brain function. Here are some brainy choices for keeping our noggins in tip-top shape.

PET scan of a normal human brain
PET scan of a normal human brain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Blueberries have been shown to shield the brain from stress, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Research has also shown that diets rich in blueberries significantly improved both the learning capacity and motor skills.

Avocados, though considered a ‘fatty fruit,’ contribute to healthy blood flow and decreased blood pressure, lessening the chances of developing hypertension, which can lead to a stroke.

Deep-water fish, such as salmon, is a wise, freshwater fish choice. It’s abundant in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are essential for healthy brain function.

Nuts and seeds are good sources of vitamin E, an important vitamin needed by your brain to stave off declining cognitive functions. Cashews, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower and sesame seeds and almonds are all great choices.

Whole-grain breads, brown rice, and oatmeal also contribute to a healthy brain by reducing the risk for cardiac disease. (Sprouted grains are the most nutritious and easy to digest.) By promoting a healthy heart and improved blood flow, the brain is sure to thrive via excellent oxygen and nutrient delivery through the bloodstream. Complex carbohydrates also supply the brain with a steady stream of glucose that enhances brain function. It's important to avoid simple carbohydrates often found in white breads, processed grains, or junk food because the glucose gives the brain a short-lived sugar high, often followed by a crash that makes you feel hungry and tired.

Freshly brewed tea also has potent antioxidants, especially the class known as catechines, which also promotes healthy blood flow. Since black and green teas do contain caffeine it’s important to consume sensibly and in moderation.

Chocolat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Dark chocolate has powerful antioxidant properties, contains several natural stimulants, which enhance focus and concentration, and encourages the production of endorphins, which helps improve mood. Again, moderation is the key.

One final note: Don't stress out about trying to add foods that are good for each part of your body individually into your diet. This can seem really overwhelming, with all the different nutritional recommendations out there. Instead, recognize that foods that are good for your brain are also good for the rest of your body. Consuming a variety of these foods daily will not only keep your brain healthy and functioning well, but your entire body as well. So just enjoy them, knowing you're doing a great thing for your overall health and your brain at the same time!
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