In recognition of Brain Awareness Week, I wanted to chat about brain health. Did you know that the volume of the brain shrinks at a rate of around 5% per decade after the age of 40?! And after the age of 70, the rate of shrinkage increases!
To add fuel to the fire, in this day and age the shrinking of the brain is even more accelerated with the abundance of toxic pollution, processed foods, and chronic stress we face on a daily basis.
Ladies and gents, I am not here to instil fear in you; I am here to educate you! Even though the brain is incredibly complex and sophisticated, it is still just an organ. Ok, it's an organ made up of a complex network of billions of nerve cells called neurons, but you get the point: you can keep the brain optimal and healthy by eating foods that nourish it and allow it to thrive at its best. Below is a list I've curated with the top foods and nutrients the brain needs to offset the natural aging process, improve memory, protect you from mental illness and depression, and even possibly reverse brain shrinkage:
1. Vitamin E (spinach, mango, avocado, nuts, and seeds) -- Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that acts like a fire extinguisher and thus protects the cell membrane from oxidative damage produced by free radicals.
2. Vitamin B12 (liver, eggs, sardines, lamb, salmon, and nutritional yeast) -- B12 is imperative for energy production and allows for a clear and sharp mind and enhanced mood. Deficiency leads to mental fogginess and memory problems, and a chronic deficiency can lead to common conditions including depression, anxiety, confusion, disorientation, hallucinations, and schizophrenia.
3. DHA rich foods (algae, fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring, halibut, and eggs) -- The human brain is comprised of nearly 60% fat! Fatty acids, especially DHA found in Omega-3s, are among the most crucial molecules that determine your brain's integrity and ability to perform. They are also known to decrease inflammation. Since essential fatty acids cannot be synthesized by the body, they must be obtained from dietary sources like the ones I've listed above.
4. Anthocyanin rich foods (any berries that have a blue, violet, or red pigment such as blueberries, boysenberries, and strawberries) -- Anthocyanins have an antioxidant role against oxidative damage, making them powerful allies in the fight against Alzheimer’s and other cognitive-related diseases.
5. Coconut Oil -- The medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs, found in coconut oil break down into ketones, which can be used for fuel by the brain. Fuel = energy. Energy = improved cognitive function. Coconut oil has also been studied more intensely over the years in relation to improvement in Alzheimer's and dementia and the results have been outstanding! My only request is that you get 100% virgin, cold-pressed organic coconut oil like this one -- quality is key here! Coconut oil has an abundance of health benefits outside of brain health and I briefly mentioned them in my "Alternatives to Palm Oil" blog post -- click here if you want to learn more.
Bonus tip because I love my readers dearly: top food to avoid for better memory is sugar! Not only is sugar proven to be highly addictive (some studies show it can have similar effects on the brain as cocaine) but after numerous years of research, we're uncovering that over time sugar can contribute to a shrinkage of the hippocampus (the seat of memory in the brain) -- which can contribute to a plethora of memory-related issues and diseases. Keep in mind, I'm talking about added sugar, not natural sugar that's found in whole foods!
Lastly, I want to express the importance of holistic health -- the key to brain health is not limited to five specific foods; brain health is enhanced with good sleep-hygiene, daily movement, happiness, love and other positive emotions, as well as an array of whole, organic foods that are as close to their natural state as possible (think Mediterranean diet mixed with holistic health practices!) It's that easy!
Is your current diet abundant in brain boosting foods? Do you need one-on-one support? Let me know below or shoot me an email!
Peace, self-love, and kale,