You are what you eat, right? That’s what we’ve always heard. Which means your brain is also what you eat.
Cognitive decline is a normal part of aging. It happens to all of us in our “golden years” of adulthood. But according to a study published in the Journal of Neurobiology of Aging, the process may actually begin in our 20s and 30s. But that doesn’t mean that you have to sit back and just take it! New research is showing that the keys to supercharge your brain and slow cognitive aging just may lie in the foods you eat.
Feed Your Brain
Your brain uses 20 percent more nutrients than any other organ in the body. Feed your brain the right nutrients and you just may reshape its ability to think clearly, focus, and age gracefully.
But what should you feed your brain? Concentrate on adding these three groups of nutrients to your diet:
2. Vitamins & Minerals
3. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Antioxidants fight the effects of free radical damage. Free radicals are a normal part of cellular life. However, to be at your healthiest, you’ll want more antioxidants in your body than free radicals. It may be the difference between successfully fighting against disease, and succumbing to one.
Chronic inflammation is a huge part of the health puzzle. Temporary stress, like the kind that happens when you get chased by a bear, is normal, and for our own good. But chronic stress lingers, and lingers, and provides the perfect foundation for numerous diseases.
Getting ample amounts of vitamins and minerals will help reduce chronic inflammation. And as a bonus, vitamins C and E, in particular, are also powerful antioxidants. And finally … The brain is nearly 60% fat. It operates best when fueled by fat. So feeding it fat—definitely a good idea. And the superstar fat for optimal brain function is, hands down, omega-3 fatty acids.
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
There are two types of omega 3s that really impact brain health—EPA and DHA. And of the two, DHA is easily the standout. Your brain’s neurons are rich in DHA. However, your body doesn’t produce DHA efficiently. Which means you have to get it from food.
DHA is involved in all of your chemical and electrical messaging. This brain to body communication is the bedrock of all bodily functions. Any interference in this communication can literally cause problems anywhere in your body.
DHA is also the most abundant fatty acid in your cells’ membranes. When you get enough DHA in your diet, learning and memory are enhanced. When you don’t get enough, your brain function is diminished. It’s that simple.
The good news is that your brain fog can be cured. Salmon, sardines, and other fatty fish are easily your best choices when it comes to omega-3 fatty acids. A can of sardines a day will have your brain doing cartwheels. And yes, that is a challenge.
Food Sources of Omega-3:
2. Vitamin D
The Sunshine Vitamin isn’t only good for bone health. Vitamin D plays an important role in nerve health. Proper neurotransmitter function has much to do with how we feel emotionally. And low levels of vitamin D make it more difficult for the body to form new neurons.
Vitamin D is also a powerful weapon when it comes to fighting inflammation. One study at the University of Manchester in England found a direct correlation between cognitive function and vitamin D levels.
The study involved more than 3100 men age 40-79 spread across eight European countries. The researchers found that lower levels of vitamin D corresponded with slower information processing speeds. And this difference was particularly heightened in those over 60.
Food Sources of D Vitamins:
3. B Vitamins
B vitamins are known as happy vitamins. They have been shown to improve mood and mental sharpness, and create more emotional balance, while deficiencies have been linked with depression and mental illness.
Perhaps the most important role for the B vitamins is their ability to break down fats and proteins, which allow for proper nervous system functioning. Several of them even provide their own specialized brain benefit.
B6 aids in the production of neurotransmitters. B12 helps the body produce more red blood cells and nerves. And folic acid (B9) plays an important role in mental and emotional health by helping the body produce more DNA and RNA—our genetic material.
Food Sources of B Complex Vitamins:
4. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant, as it helps protect cell membranes from oxidative damage from those pesky free radicals. And when the cell membrane is healthy, the rest of the cell usually is as well.
Because the brain is mostly fat, and because it consumes most of the body’s oxygen, it’s much more susceptible to free radical damage. Think of how an apple quickly turns brown after you slice into it. That’s oxidation!
Vitamin E also protects against nerve cell degeneration, which helps to preserve brain function, and aids in slowing age-related cognitive decline.
Food Sources of E Vitamins:
Green Leafy Vegetables
5. Vitamin C
Your brain has 86 billion neurons that all communicate to each other via neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters affect every area of your health and life, from focus, memory, and concentration, to mood, cravings, addiction, and sleep. Vitamin C is essential for the production of these neurotransmitters.
Heavy metals tend to accumulate in the brain. In fact, aluminum has long been thought to contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin C acts as a powerful detoxifier, as it can cross the blood-brain barrier to remove much of that heavy metal accumulation.
Food Sources of Vitamin C:
Give your brain the nutrition it needs, and your brain will reward you with focus, clarity, mental sharpness, and a much happier, healthy life.
About the author
Nick Mistretta is a freelance copywriter, content marketer, and author of the ebook, 25 Superfoods For Super Health. He helps small businesses turn strangers into friends, friends into customers, and customers into loyal customers.
Antioxidants help protect cells and prevent free radicals in the body
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Vitamins B6, B12, folate, chromium, adaptogenic herbs support energy and vitality
Flaxseed and spinach provide brain-healthy nutrients