I have blogged about various specific nutrients that are good for brain health, and though it may seem backwards, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about the basics of a healthy brain diet.
Most of this information is going to line directly up with suggestions for a generally healthy diet – what is good for the whole body is generally good for the brain. So, though you may have heard it before, here it is again: what changes should you make to your diet to encourage overall brain health?
The first change to focus on is to reduce the amount of high fat and high cholesterol foods. You probably know all about bad cholesterol and good cholesterol – and we need to cut way back on the foods that are full of unhealthy cholesterol. Animal fats are the most common – fatty meats, full fat cheeses, ice cream etc. Also anything deep fried has to be left behind for the most part. These types of fats, and this type of cholesterol clogs your arteries. Not only is this bad for you heart, which you have undoubtedly heard before, but those same arteries carry blood throughout your body and to your brain. The arterial clogs you can get from bad cholesterol may also increase your risk for Alzheimer’s disease – not good!! So it is best to bake or steam your foods instead of frying them. If you deeply feel the need to pan fry, use an oil, like olive oil, that helps increase your good cholesterol.
The next thing to do is, of course, to increase your intake of healthy unprocessed fruits, vegetables, lean meats and fish. These foods tend to be filled with antioxidants and vitamins and nutrients that are essential for the good health of your whole body. Animal studies have shown that diets high in antioxidants not only slow the aging process, in some cases functions were regained over time.
In fact, aged dogs that could not perform one of the more difficult tests at all in the beginning of the study could do so after three years on the diet. "We actually resurrected function out of the aging brain," says Carl Cotman, a member of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives who led the study. "That just blew us away."
Vitamins can also help with brain health by filling in nutritional gaps you may be missing in your diet. If you don’t eat fish, for example, and flax is hard to find, you might take an omega-3 supplement. And almost everyone could benefit from some sort of multivitamin to give us more antioxidant power.
So, cut WAY back on fried foods and fatty animal foods, eat more fruits and veggies, lean meat and fish. Lower your intake of simple carbs and sugars and increase your intake of complex carbs and supplement your diet with a good multivitamin. To get you started, here is a list of some of the many fabulous foods you can fill your diet with to not only assure yourself better health for your body, but also a healthier and happier brain:
- Acai berries
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Beef, lean
- Brewer's yeast
- Brown rice
- Brussel sprouts
- Collard greens
- Flaxseed oil
- Green tea
- Peanut butter
- Red bell peppers
- Red grapes
- Wheat germ