Use it or lose it. The saying holds true when it comes to protecting your brain’s cognitive health. Cognitive health refers to skills such as learning, memory, decision-making, abstract thinking, reasoning, insight, and even appreciation of beauty. By following a healthy diet and living a healthy lifestyle, you can help maintain optimal cognitive functioning.
Brain enhancing foods
— B for Brain: B vitamins are vital for normal brain and nerve function. Evidence suggests that low blood levels of B vitamins, such as B1, B6, B12, and folic acid (or folate), may be linked to cognitive impairment. Thiamin (B1) helps maintain proper function of the nerves, muscles, heart, and the brain. Pyridoxine (B6) helps to utilize energy in the brain and nervous tissues which is essential for regulating the central nervous system. Cobalamin (B12) is used in new cell synthesis and maintains the sheath (coating) the surrounds and protects nerve fibers and promotes normal cell growth. A study conduct in Sweden and published in Neurology 2001, found subjects with low levels of vitamin B12 had twice higher the risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
— Be sure your diet contains ample amounts of B vitamins for a healthy brain! For a great source of B1, B6 and folic acid choose whole grains, legumes, fortified cereals, beans, peas, strawberries, spinach, sunflower seeds, bananas and tomatoes. You’ll find B12 in lean beef, trout, salmon, tuna, pork, chicken, eggs and low-fat dairy.
— Minerals, such as iron, magnesium, zinc and calcium, help maximize brain function. Sources of iron and zinc are found in lean beef, beans, lentils and other whole grains. Dairy products and dark leafy green vegetables are great, natural sources of calcium. Leafy green vegetables are also wonderful sources of magnesium.
— The brain also relies on high quality proteins in order to maintain a strong support system. Select lean beef, chicken, fish, eggs and low-fat dairy products. Avoid any protein that has been fried, which includes meat, chicken or fish, because they contain high amounts of saturated fats. New research from the University of Toronto shows that high-saturated fat diets starve the brain from its energy supply.
— Essential fatty acids are the most critical components to boosting brain power. Your brain is made up of approximately 60 percent fat. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is the most prominent fat in the brain, especially in the nerve cells in the cerebral cortex. A study in the medical journal Neurology conducted in 2006 tracked 899 healthy men and women free of dementia for nine years. They found that those with the highest blood levels of DHA from fish intake of 3.0 servings per week had about half the risk of dementia compared to those with lower levels. In the diet, DHA is found mostly in fatty fish, cod liver oil and algae. Also the Omega 3 eggs you’ll find at Henry’s Farmers Market contain about 150mg of DHA per egg.
Brain boosting supplements:
— Acetylcarnitine can cross the blood-brain barrier and has been shown to revitalize brain function via energetic pathways. Several studies suggest that supplementing with Acetylcarnitine delays cognitive decline and improves overall function especially in seniors. Taking 1,500 mg a day may improve memory, mood, and responses to stress.
— Phosphatidylserine (PS) has been shown to improve memory, cognition, and mood in seniors. At least 23 human trails, of which 12 were double-blind and involved almost 1,200 subjects, showed that PS statistically improved the learning and recall of names and faces, telephone numbers, and misplaced objects, as well as paragraph recall and the ability to concentrate. Suggested doses of PS are 300 mg per day.
— Fish oil supplements are important for a healthy brain and nervous system. Most fish oil capsules at Henry’s Farmers Market are derived from fresh, cold water fish and are free from contaminates such as pesticides, PCB’s and heavy metals. Taking fish oil capsules daily, about 1,000 mg to 3,000 mg, are a great alternative if you don’t consume a lot of omega 3-rich fish in your diet.
Please note: These recommendations are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or pharmacist. If you’re taking medication, please talk to your healthcare provider before taking any type of supplementation.
Every day you have the power to make healthy decisions that affect you and your cognitive health.