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Foods for Brain Health

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

What does the food that we eat have to do with our brains? Turns out, quite a bit! Brain foods matter! But why? Chronic inflammation has been linked to many diseases (anxiety, MS, autoimmune, high blood pressure, to name a few). Our gut helps keep inflammation under control AND the gut hormones are secreted into our blood which in turn circulate systemically where they affect our brain function (as well as a variety of other organs). Brain foods are also rich in antioxidants, good healthy fats, and vitamins and minerals that keep our brain at its fittest.

So what is a person to eat in order to keep the brain in tip top shape? First of all, here is what NOT to eat: Sugar. Processed sugar. Adults eat more than 26 teaspoons of sugar on average DAILY, without realizing it. This is due to the fact that it is in so many processed foods and beverages. Staying away from processed foods, nutrient depleted breads and crackers, pretzels, etc. is very important. Sprouted grain breads and sprouted whole grains are best (I love One Degree brand sprouted steel cut oats, I even use this in my chicken soup instead of rice). What we do need to eat: healthy fats and high quality proteins, and lots of fruits and vegetables. Here is a list I compiled for you (and it includes chocolate!)

  1. WILD SALMON: Salmon is one of the most nutritious, brain food-friendly foods (they are called “schools” of fish for a reason) due to its omega-3 fatty acid content, which helps to improve mood and focus. Do NOT consume farm raised salmon which is full of toxins, artificial color, antibiotics, and more. I like Henry and Lisa’s brand canned wild Alaskan salmon because it’s so handy too keep, and easy to top on a salad, or to make salmon cakes out of.
  2. WALNUTS: The only nut to be shaped like our own brains! Just munching on a few walnuts a day can improve your cognitive health. Their high levels of antioxidants, vitamins (especially vitamin E) and minerals may also help ward off Alzheimer’s
  3. AVOCADOS: They contain the good kind of fat which our brain needs. Do not be duped by a low fat diet. We need the proper fats for a variety of proper bodily functions, and the top one is our brains. Did you know that in the 90’s when the fat free and very low fat diets were recommended by the AHA, depression rates soared? And so did prescriptions for Prozac, specifically for women. That is because they replaced the fat with starch and sugar (who remembers “Snackwelts”). They also contain both vitamin K and folate which may help prevent blood clots in the brain (protecting against stroke) as well as help improve cognitive function, especially memory and concentration. They are also rich in the B vitamins as well as C which are not stored in the body. They are a fruit, and contain the lowest amount of sugar and the highest amount of protein.
  4. BONE BROTH: Our ancestors knew what they were doing for sure. Every culture utilized a bone broth whether it be chicken and beef or fish from the Asian regions. Bone broth helps to heal the gut, which in turn is good for your brain. The collagen helps reduce inflammation and the proline and glycine are good for the brain as well.
  5. DARK CHOCOLATE: Dark chocolate (70% or more) is full of flavonols, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They can also help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to both the brain and heart. Add the powder to smoothies or yogurt, or grab some organic chocolate at your health food store.
  6. BLUEBERRIES: are one of the highest antioxidant-rich foods known to man, including vitamin C and vitamin K and fiber. They also have been found to have high levels of gallic acid (has been found to inhibit neuronal death) and helps to reduce inflammation. Frozen and wild are easy to keep in the freezer and added to smoothies and other recipes.
  7. VIRGIN UNREFINED COCONUT OIL AND EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL: Are other healthy fats which have also been shown to be a natural anti-inflammatory, suppressing cells responsible for inflammation. Coconut oil specifically can help with memory loss as you age and destroy bad bacteria that hangs out in your gut due to its anti- fungal and bacterial properties. I make scrambled eggs with coconut oil, you can also put some in a smoothie, or melt onto your sweet potato! Real extra virgin olive oil is also a wonderful fat for the brain due to antioxidants (polyphenols) which can help to improve memory as well as reduce toxic proteins that have been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.
  8. GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES: Are loaded with vitamins and A, C and K which help right inflammation and keep bones strong. Getting regular helpings of leafy green brain foods like spinach, kale, dark lettuces, bok choy – can help keep dementia at bay according to new research. In the study, which evaluated the eating habits and mental ability of more than 950 older adults for an average of five years, those adults who ate a serving of leafy green veggies once or twice a day experienced slower mental deterioration than those who ate no vegetables, even when factors like age, education and family history of dementia were factored in.
  9. TURMERIC: Turmeric contains a chemical compound called curcumin which is a powerful anti-inflammatory. It also has been found to improve the brains oxygen intake as well as it can increase a certain growth hormone in the brain which aids in reducing chances of developing Alzheimer’s. It is an extremely powerful antioxidant which also helps prevent other diseases and kicks up your immune system. I enjoy making “Golden Milk” with this magical ancient spice.
  10. WATERCRESS: Some historians believe that watercress was grown around Hippocrates first hospital at or around 400 BC. Because he knew about its remarkable healing abilities. A member of the mustard family, watercress contains quite a large amount of folate, as well as vitamin C, A, B12, and calcium. All these help with repairing brain tissue and preventing cognitive changes. Chop some up and add to salads or throw into a smoothie!

Here is a recipe that contains some of the foods above. It is a delicious spread you can use as a dip or spread on a sandwich, top a salad, put on a sweet potato, toss with rice or pasta, the choices are endless! I love to serve with vegetables as a dip. One-quarter cup of walnuts provides more than 100% of your Omega-3s. This entire recipe is a Mediterranean inspired food, proven as the healthiest diet on the planet!

WALNUT SPREAD

  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tblsp. lemon juice
  • sea salt and pepper
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced (or garlic powder, just 1/4 tsp or so

-Drain beans and reserve liquid. In food processor, combine 1/4 cup reserved liquid with all other ingredients. Cover and process. (You may need to add more liquid as you go along to make it nice and smooth) Serve with raw vegetables, crackers, or spread on your next healthy sandwich ………whatever you enjoy! MANGIA!!

Enjoy!

In health,

Suzie

Call our office at 617-328-6300 to make an appointment and figure out a customized plan that fits your unique needs or to ask our nutritionists any questions!