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LGLWSM Newsletter 034 - Food for Your Brain - You Think What You Eat
March 31, 2010

Thinking is important at any age, whether you’re in a high chair, high school, or in high traffic! The foods you consume can dictate how much you think and how well you think. How well your brain performs can be especially pertinent if you’re got an exam to take, a speech to give, or are being interviewed for a new job! Of course, thinking is important when you’re making a grocery list too!

The foods you consume affect every cell in your body, which means they also influence how well your brain works. Your mood, motivation, and mental performance can be changed in an instant by the foods in your diet.

Your brain is a metabolically active organ, which means its hungry all the time. It wants you to consume foods that give you more brain power. Eat the wrong foods and your brain slows down in protest! It wants you to eat foods that enhance its energy. Eat the right foods and your brain helps you concentrate, fine tune motor skills, motivate you, enhance memory, increase reaction times, relieve stress, and even slow down aging.

Fatty foods aren’t just bad for your heart, they are also bad for your brain. They may also be a major cause of depression and aggression, especially for men. Your brain’s health also depends on how much fat you eat, but also what kind of fat you’re eating.

Your intellectual performance requires specific types of fat to perform well. These are called Omega 3 fatty acids. Its imperative that you include them in your diet for better brain activity.

Omega 3 fatty acids are particularly crucial constituents of the outer membrane of brain cells. It is through these fat-rich cell membranes that all nerve signals must travel. In addition, as learning and memory forge new connections between nerve cells, new membranes must be formed to sheathe (protect) them. All brain cell membranes continuously need to refresh themselves.

The best way to accomplish more brain activity is with a new supply of fatty acids regularly. Your body cannot produce them, so you have to supplement them. Recent research suggests that omega 3's are best suited for optimal brain function.

However, most people consume far too much saturated fat and fail to consume enough omega 3 oils. Even diets that reflect recommended levels of fats can undermine intelligence. Certain oils that are widely touted as heart healthy, are especially troublesome for your mind.

Polyunsaturated oils which are widely recommended as healthful for the heart and commonly used in cooking and frying (corn, safflower and sunflower oils), have almost no omega 3's. Instead they are loaded with omega 6's. You need a proper balance of omega 6's and omega 3's to keep your brain functioning optimally. Cooking with canola oil is recommended, since it contains Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids in the proper balance.

It's possible to boost alertness, memory and stress resistance by supplying food components that are precursors of important brain neurotransmitters. One of them is choline, the fat-like B vitamin found in eggs. Studies show that choline supplementation enhances memory and reaction time in animals, especially aging animals. It also enhances memory in people. Choline supplementation also minimizes fatigue. In one study, choline given during a 20 mile run improved running time by a significant amount. Mood and mental performance are also influenced by the amount of B vitamins in your body. Unfortunately, marginal deficiencies in many B vitamins is widespread in the US.

Research has identified some other ways to influence mental performance:

  • Sugar can make you sharp—although no one can figure out the right dose at the right time.
  • Carbohydrates, especially when eaten with no protein or fat, is mentally soothing.

    More Food for Your Brain

  • For short term memory, drink coffee!

    Coffee is the ultimate brain fuel. Caffeine has been shown to retard the aging process and enhance short-term memory performance. In one study, British researchers found that just one cup of coffee helps improve attention and problem-solving skills. For a change, treat yourself to some gourmet coffee.

  • For long term memory, eat blueberries.

    There are many antioxidants in blueberries that help protect your brain from free radical damage and cut your risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. They can also improve cognitive processing (translation: thinking). Wild blueberries have even more brain-boosting antioxidants than the cultivated variety.

  • To think faster, eat salmon or mackerel.

    The omega 3 fatty acids found in fatty fishes are a primary building block of brain tissue, so they’ll amp up your thinking power. Salmon is also rich in niacin, which can help ward off Alzheimer’s disease and slow the rate of cognitive decline.

  • To energize, eat high protein salad with vinaigrette.

    The oil in the dressing will help slow down digestion of protein and carbs in the salad, stabilizing blood-sugar levels and keeping energy levels high. Build your salad on a bed of romaine and spinach for an added boost in riboflavin, and add chicken and a hard-boiled egg for more energizing protein.

  • To destress, eat low fat yogurt or mixed nuts.

    Scientists in Slovakia gave people 3 grams each of two amino acids, lysine and arginine, or a placebo, and asked them to deliver a speech. Blood measurements of stress hormones revealed that the amino acid-fortified group were not nearly as anxious during and after the speech as those who took the placebo. Yogurt is a good food source for lysine and nuts pack loads of arginine.

  • To concentrate, drink peppermint tea or try flaxseed.

    The scent of peppermint helps you focus and boosts performance, according to recent research. One study found that peppermint makes drivers more alert and less anxious.

    Flax is the best source of alpha linolenic acid (ALA) a healthy fat that improves the workings of the cerebral cortex, the area of the brain that processes sensory information, including that of pleasure. To meet your quota, sprinkle flaxseed on salads or mix it into a smoothie or shake.

    As you age, your wisdom does grow. Aging also helps you filter out bad memories, which is great news for this old gal! However, there are some brain functions that decline because of the loss of neural connections, blockages of blood supply, and decreases in nerve signaling chemicals.

    Exercising for at least 40 minutes four times a week can increase blood flow to the region of the brain with the ability to grow new cells. Researching new subjects or learning new skills also increase mental acuity and alertness. Doing simple word puzzles or brain teasers also helps improve brain function. Keep feeding your brain the foods that supplement your brain power, work out, and keep learning new things. Your brain will keep functioning at an optimal level until you’re old and gray!

    Until Next Time!

    Stay Sweet and Be Beautiful!


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