By: Deane Alban, BeBrainFit.com
The human brain has been called the most complex structure on planet Earth. Although it weighs in at only 3 pounds it uses approximately 20% of the oxygen and 25% of the calories you consume making it a very hungry organ. After all, there should be a lot going on up there!
Since the brain uses a disproportionate amount of energy, it's vital you give it the best food you can find to meet its nutritional needs, and that means eating real food.
How Your Brain Gets Rusty
Free radicals are unattached oxygen molecules that attack your cells much in the same way that oxygen attacks metal, causing it to rust. They trigger inflammation which is a major cause of aging. They even attack your cells down to the level of their DNA. Your brain is highly susceptible to free radical damage because it uses so much oxygen.
What goes on in your brain is not dissimilar to what happens when an old car rusts. When you can’t remember how to do something and you say you are “rusty” at it, you're actually closer to the truth than you realize!
Antioxidants render free radicals harmless. You get antioxidants almost exclusively from fruits and vegetables with all kinds of berries at the top of the list.
All vegetables are good for you, but some specific types of vegetables are best for your brain.
Cruciferous vegetables contain brain-protecting carotenoids, and sulforaphane, a sulphur-based phytonutrient that can heal brain inflammation.
Colorful vegetables include all types of peppers, beets, and carrots. Peppers are high in vitamin C, antioxidants, and phytonutrients such as beta carotene and capsaicin which improves circulation to the brain. Carrots contain a whopping 490 different phytonutrients!
Starchy vegetables include potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkin, carrots, beets, and winter squash. They are high in fiber and brain-healthy complex carbohydrates, so are particularly helpful at keeping your blood sugar level. Since your brain can’t store glucose, it needs a steady supply of energy and starchy vegetables provide this quite effectively.
Other excellent antioxidant sources are foods such as the widely loved trio of green tea, red wine, and dark chocolate.
The Hidden Omega-3 Epidemic
There is a hidden epidemic of omega-3 essential fatty acids that affects 99% of the population.
The Harvard School of Public Health states that essential fatty acid deficiencies cause up to 96,000 preventable deaths per year. Omega-3s also happen to be one of the top nutrients your brain needs to function at its best, too.
Omega-3s build brain cell membranes, reduce inflammation, and increase brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) a protein stimulates the formation of new brain cells and neural connections.Omega-3s have been found to slow down cellular aging at the chromosome level.
Memory loss, depression, mood swings, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and attention deficit disorder have all been found to improve with omega-3 supplementation.
Our ancestors got omega-3s from the game they hunted, the wild fish they caught, and the plants they foraged. Few of us consume many truly wild foods so omega-3s are in short supply in the modern diet.
But grass-fed animals such as beef, lamb, and bison, free-range eggs, and wild-caught salmon are still reliable sources of omega-3s. Grain raised/feed lot animals have significantly lower levels of omega-3s, but are high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids instead. Chronic inflammation is a contributor to seven of the top ten causes of death including stroke and Alzheimer’s.
Salmon is widely touted as "brain food", but only if it's wild-caught! Wild salmon gets their omega-3s from the plankton and small crustaceans they eat. Farm-raised salmon are fed fish feed made from “undesirable” fish and “chicken pellets”. Chicken pellets are made from chicken parts of all kinds including feathers, beaks and even chicken poop!
Eat Real Food
The best way to get the nutrients your brain needs is to eat real, not processed food, and get your food from reliable sources.
Buy fresh produce at farmers markets, co-ops, and local food producers as much as possible. Obtain your meat and seafood from a reputable source, like US Wellness Meats.
Giving your brain the nutrients it needs is one of the best things you can do to improve your overall quality of your life. Eating with your brain in mind can improve your mood, your memory, and your ability to make better decisions now and lower your risk of serious mental decline in the future.
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Deane Alban is co-founder of BeBrainFit.com and author of Brain Gold: The Anti-Alzheimer’s, Anti-Aging Guide for Your Brain - a powerful but simple brain rejuvenation program to stop premature brain aging and end memory loss and brain fog. If staying mentally sharp for life is a top priority for you, get her free newsletter "Brain Builder", and download a free excerpt of Brain Gold here.