" To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear." - Buddha
The brain is the control center of the body. It is in charge of keeping the heart beating, lungs breathing, and allowing us to move, feel, and think. it works 24/7 even when we are asleep and hence requires a constant supply of fuel. This fuel comes from the food we eat. The foods that we eat play an important role in keeping the brain healthy and smart. Our brain will function the best when we put the best fuel in it. This means that we need to eat an excellent quality foods which contain vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and anti oxidants which nourishes our brain. As we age, the body ages along with us and so does the brain. In order to increase the chances of maintaining a healthy brain, we need to eat the right and smart foods.
Foods to eat for a healthy brain
Curcumin, an active ingredient in turmeric can directly enter the brain and benefit the cells. It can pass through the blood-brain barrier. It is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that may benefit memory especially in people with Alzheimer's. It helps clear the amyloid plaques which are present in the brain of people suffering from Alzheimer's. Curcumin boosts serotonin and dopamine which help improve mood. It also improves depression symptoms like an antidepressant. Curcumin boosts neurotrophic factors that help the brain cells to grow.
2# Dark Chocolate:
Few brain-boosting compounds including flavonoids, caffeine, and antioxidants are found in dark chocolate and cocoa powder. Flavonoids are antioxidants and gather in the area of the brain that deals with learning and memory. These compounds may enhance memory and decrease age-related mental decline. It is observed that people who eat more chocolates perform better in several mental tasks than those who rarely eat it. Chocolate is a mood booster and provides positive feelings.
Nutrients in nuts like healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamin E are beneficial for brain health. Vitamin E protects cell membranes from free radical damage. This helps in slow mental decline. Nuts improve cognition which helps prevent neurodegenerative diseases. Nuts also improve heart health. A healthy heart is always linked to a healthy brain. Research claims that women who eat nuts regularly have a sharper memory.
Fish like salmon, trout, and sardines are rich in omega - 3 fatty acids. The brain uses omega - 3s to build brain and nerve cells and these fats are essential for learning and memory. It slows down age-related mental decline and helps ward off Alzheimer's disease. Baked or broiled fish contains more gray matter. Gray matter contains most of the nerve cells that control memory, emotion, and decision making. If the brain doesn't get enough omega 3 fatty acids leads to learning impairments.
The coffee contains two main components caffeine and antioxidants which help our brain. Caffeine has a few positive benefits on the brain. It increases alertness by blocking adenosine, a chemical that makes us sleepy. It improves the mood by boosting neurotransmitters like serotonin. It sharpens concentration. A study has shown that drinking coffee for the long term reduces the risk of neurological diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.
Blueberries deliver anthocyanins which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. These act against brain aging and neurodegenerative disease. The antioxidants that accumulate in the brain contribute to improving communication between the nerve cells. Blueberries improve memory, balance, ability to learn faster, and avoid short term memory loss.
7# Broccoli, Spinach, and other leafy greens:
Broccoli contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidants along with vitamin K which help in boosting brain health. Vitamin K is an essential fat for forming sphingolipids, which is a fat that is densely packed in the brain cells. Choline in broccoli improves memory. Dark leafy green vegetables are nutritional powerhouses. It is found that spinach slows age-related problems and cognitive deficits. The high levels of iron in Spinach help to restore energy and improve the function of red blood cells. Kale is a green leafy vegetable rich in vitamin K, vitamin A, Vitamin C, and mineral manganese which help in the improvement of the cognitive function of the brain.
8# Pumpkin Seeds:
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, and also powerful antioxidants. Each of these nutrients is essential for the benefit of brain health. Zinc is necessary for nerve signaling. The deficiency of zinc leads to many neurological conditions like Alzheimer's disease, depression, and Parkinson's. Magnesium is necessary for learning and memory. The deficiency of magnesium leads to neurological conditions like migraines, depression, and epilepsy. Copper is used by the brain to help control nerve signals. The deficiency of copper leads to a higher risk of neurodegenerative diseases. The deficiency of iron leads to brain fog and impaired brain function.
Oranges are rich in vitamin C. Vitamin C is a key factor in preventing mental decline. A study shows that vitamin C-rich foods protect against age-related mental diseases like Alzheimer's disease. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight the radicals which damage brain cells and also supports brain health.
Eggs are a good source of nutrients like vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate, and choline which are related to brain health. Higher intakes of choline are linked to better memory and mental function. It is an important micronutrient body uses to create acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and memory.
11# Green Tea
The caffeine in green tea boosts the functioning of the brain. It improves alertness, performance, memory, and focus. Apart from caffeine, green tea also contains L - theanine which is an amino acid. It can break the blood-brain barrier. It increases the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA which helps reduce anxiety. It also increases the frequency of alpha waves which helps relax in the brain. Green tea also contains polyphenols and antioxidants that protect the brain from mental decline and reduces the risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
12# Avocados and whole grains
Every organ in the body depends on blood flow, especially the heart and the brain. Avocados and whole grains cut the risk of bad cholesterol and heart disease. they reduce the risk of plaque build-up which enhances the blood flow firing up the brain cells.
Beans contain complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamin B, omega fatty acids, and proteins which stabilizes glucose levels and curbs fatigue. This helps improve concentration and memory. Fiber helps keep you full longer and gradually releases sugar helping to concentrate and improves memory. Beans are valuable to our brains and nervous system as they help the neurotransmitters to pass signals between the nerves.
14# Cherry Tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes contain carotenoids that improve cognition and memory. They also contain lycopene which protects from depression - causing inflammation which can boost the mood. These protect the brain from free radical damage to the cells.
Beetroots contain betaine which supports a mood stabilizer called serotonin. They also contain folic acid in them which stabilizes emotional and mental health. Nitrates in beetroots improve mental and cognition by dilating the blood vessels and increasing the blood flow to the brain. It improves blood flow to the frontal lobe of the brain which is associated with higher level of thinking, decision making and memory.
16# Coconut Oil
Coconut oil apart from being used to cook food and for beauty treatments is used to boost brainpower. It has a high concentration of triglycerides which are broken down as ketones and are used as fuel for brain cells. The fatty acids in the coconut oil burn the fat and provide energy to brain and body. It contains medium chain triglycerides which are used by the liver to turn into ketones. Ketones have powerful benefits on the brain and can be used in the treatment of epilepsy, Alzheimer's disease, and other conditions.
17# Concord Grapes:
Concord grapes are available for a short time every year and hence can be used in the form of juice. Grape juice is beneficial for old age people with brain-related issues. It has a positive impact on memory function and also increases blood flow to the areas of the brain linked with memory. They are also anti-inflammatory which reduces pain. It improves memory function in adults with mild cognitive impairment and reduces blood pressure. Grape - enriched diet protects against the decline of metabolic activity. Grape polyphenols help in promoting anti oxidant and anti inflammatory activities.
The extracts or essential oils of the herb sage help memory as well as mood, attention, and executive function. Sage is rich in nutrients like vitamin K, and anti oxidants. The antioxidants in sage buffer brain's defense system. it also reduces the breakdown of acetylcholine levels which has an important role in memory. It improves problem solving, reasoning and other cognitive abilities. It also elevates mood, increases alertness, calmness and contentedness.
Milk provides choline, a nutrient that is important for brain health. This is why breastfeeding is encouraged till the baby is two years old so that there is early brain development in the infants.
Olive oil prepared from olives have now become an essential oil in cooking. These contain polyphenols that lower the risk for certain neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and stroke. Olive oil boosts brain power and halt the progression of the effects of aging on the brain.
Oats contain iron, zinc, potassium, vitamin B, and nutrients to help the development of the brain. It is observed that children who ate oatmeal for breakfast scored 20% more than the children who ate sugary cereal. The antioxidants help reduce inflammation which can cause long - term problems for brain and the function of the brain.
Lentils contain folic acid and vitamin B which help boost cognitive performance. It decreases the amino acid homocysteine levels. Higher levels of amino acid homocysteine impair brain functioning.
23# Cayenne Pepper
Rich in capsaicin, hot peppers are natural fat fighters and pain relievers. It reduces stress and improves concentration. Capsaicin receptors in the brain release calming endorphins. Endorphins have painkilling and tranquilizing effects on the body.
24# Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin C, fiber more than oats, vitamin A more than a cup of carrots, and also are rich in potassium. They possess anti-inflammatory agents and anti-oxidants. Studies in animals have shown that anthocyanins in purple sweet potatoes protect the brain from reducing inflammation and preventing free radical damage.
25# Soy Products
Soy products are rich in antioxidants called polyphenols which reduce the risk of dementia and improve cognitive abilities in the regular aging process. The nutrients in soya is linked to improvement in cognitive and memory functions. Di peptides derived from soy foods help minimize memory degradation and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.
Peanuts and peanut butter are rich in vitamin E which protect the nervous system of the brain, helping the brain to function properly. Peanuts are an excellent source of niacin which protects against Alzheimer's disease and age - related cognitive decline. Unsaturated fat in peanuts gives energy, reduces fatigue and helps to stay alert.
Amla is rich in vitamin C and helps improve the blood flow regulating memory and cognitive function. It protects the brain cells and helps in reducing stress, aging, and toxins. Amla has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and memory-boosting properties. It promotes cognition and learning.
Anti-inflammatory compounds in ginger reduce oxidative stress. Studies have shown that those who consume ginger in their daily diet have better working memory and reaction time than those who don't.
29# Flax seeds
Flax seeds are rich in magnesium, vitamin B, omega 3 fatty acids, and fiber. These help to focus better and give mental clarity over things. Omega 3 fatty acids are needed by the brain to develop, grow and maintain itself. Omega 3 is necessary for transmission and reception of brain signals. It helps in the communication between brain cells. It is essential to treat depression, mental disorders, memory loss, inattentiveness, and Alzheimer's disease. It improves brain function, reduces inflammation and improves circulation. It also helps lower cholesterol and balance blood sugar.
Supplements like vitamin B, Vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, and magnesium can be taken only in case of deficiency. They enhance brain power, strengthen cognitive thinking, boost memory, promote alertness, increase creativity, level mood swings, promote future brain health and minimizes risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Natural supplements are beneficial for many areas of the brain. They improve the cognitive function, mental health, and other benefits without any side effects.
Foods to Avoid to keep the brain healthy:
In order to keep the brain healthy and smart, it is necessary to know the foods to avoid along with foods to eat so that brain health can be improved.
The foods to avoid to keep the brain healthy are:
Excessive intake of sugary drinks like soda, energy drink, sports drink, etc. have adverse effects on health. Along with this, higher sugar levels in the blood increase the risk of dementia, reduction in brain function, learning, memory, and formation of brain neurons. Diet high in sugar increases brain inflammation and memory impairment.
Refined carbohydrates include sugars and highly processed grains. These types of carbohydrates usually have a high glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL). Foods with high GI and GL impair brain function and memory in both children and adults. Studies also showed that a higher intake of fat and refined sugar results in poorer memory. It also leads to mental impairment and dementia in older people.
Trans fatty foods
Trans fat foods are unsaturated foods which cause a harmful effect on the brain. Natural trans fats do not have adverse effects but artificial trans fats are found to increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease, poorer memory, lower brain volume, and cognitive decline.
Highly processed foods contain high sugar, added fats, and salt. These foods are usually high in calories and low in nutrients which leads to weight gain. This weight gain has a negative effect on the brain. Increased fat is associated with brain tissue damage. The factors like lower levels of sugar metabolism and brain tissue damage mark Alzheimer's disease. Processed foods reduce the production of a molecule called a brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is important for long-term memory, learning, and growth of new neurons. Therefore reduction of these molecules leads to a negative impact on the brain.
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener. This has been linked to behavioral and cognitive problems. It is made of phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol. Phenylalanine crosses the blood-brain barrier and disrupts the production of neurotransmitters. It is a chemical stressor and increases the brain's vulnerability to oxidative stress. A study showed that people consuming aspartame had higher levels of irritability, depression, and performed worse on mental tests. Another study showed an increased risk of stroke and dementia. Long term intake of aspartame leads to an imbalance in antioxidant status in the brain.
Alcoholism results in a reduction of brain volume, metabolic changes, and disruption of neurotransmitters. People consuming alcohol have a deficiency in vitamin B1 which can lead to a disorder called Wernicke's encephalopathy which in turn develops into Korsakoff's syndrome. This syndrome causes severe damage to the brain including memory loss, eyesight problem, confusion, and unsteadiness. Teenagers who drink alcohol have abnormalities in the structure, function, and behavior of the brain.
Mercury rich foods
The primary food source for mercury in humans is seafood. High levels of mercury disrupt the central nervous system and neurotransmitters. It also results in damage to the brain due to the stimulation of neurotoxins. In fetuses and children, mercury can disrupt brain development and cause destruction of the cell components leading to cerebral palsy and other developmental delays.
According to a hypertension journal, sodium packed foods like soya sauce restricts blood to the brain and negatively impacts focus, organizational skills, and memory.
Ice-cream has artery-clogging saturated fat and high levels of sugar. The saturated fat and sugar-rich diet can diminish cognitive skills and verbal memory.
Foods rich in sodium
High levels of sodium in the blood increases the salt content in the body. It reduces the blood flow in the brain and impaired cognition. People with high levels of sodium have difficulty in recognizing objects, imbalance in the body. A study on mice fed with sodium-rich food showed an accumulation of protein in the brain which was linked with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. There may also be a risk factor for declining brain function with age.
Many other substances in food are also dangerous to the brain. Out of all the foods listed above, alcohol causes huge damage to the brains and high levels of mercury permanently damage the brain. However, it is not necessary to avoid these foods completely as some of these foods contain other nutrients essential for the body.
In general, the brain requires proteins, Vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, omega 3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, antioxidants, proteins, and caffeine to keep the brain healthy and smart.
Apart from all these brain require water. Water plays an important role in making the brain healthy and smart. It helps to keep our body and brain healthy, fit, and fine. The best thing to do to keep our brain and body healthy is to eat fresh, healthy, nutrient-rich, and whole foods. Exercise is also a must to keep our brain healthy and smart.
"The brain is the man, its health is essential for normal living. Its disorders are surely the most profound of human miseries; and its destruction annihilates a person humanly, however intact his body." - Anonymous quote.