Now that the holidays are over do you feel like you’ve blown a circuit in your mind or have overworked your brain? Having a good holiday with family and friends is often worth it, but it does involve extra work and juggling all the extra activities and preparations in your mind. Actually though working your brain more is a way to keep your mind sharp, so even though it feels like you’ve overworked your brain, it’s more likely that you are just physically exhausted or over stressed. Stress is very detrimental to your brain health as it releases cortisol in the body which among other things can cause poor memory and decreased cognitive function. Now that all the holiday hustle and bustle is over it’s a good time to take some time to relax, de-stress, and get your mind back on track. After all, you need your brain and mind sharp just to deal with everything you have to do and remember in normal life and that is sometimes challenging especially as we get older and find ourselves more forgetful and possibly having some decline in your brain power. There are specific things you can do however to keep your mind sharp and support your brain health. Here are a few tips that can help with this.
As we mentioned already, stress is one of the things that can negatively affect brain health. Cortisol released by stress, is especially bad for certain areas of the brain such as the hippocampus which deals with short term memory. This is why it is so important to make time for relaxation and find ways to cope with your stress. It isn’t realistic to think we can totally get rid of all the stress in our lives, but taking up a hobby, listening to music, doing deep breathing exercises, taking up yoga or whatever you find relaxes you is an important step towards not only brain health, but overall general health. Eating lots of leafy greens, halibut, oysters, nuts and seeds can give you the extra nutrition you need to support your body through the times you are coping with stress as these are some of the foods that contain the stress relievers magnesium, B vitamins and chlorophyll. As your body becomes stressed it uses up these stress relievers more quickly so that just when you need them the most, they are the least available to you. When you are under a lot of stress, increase these types of food in your diet.
Sleep It Off
Getting enough good quality sleep is not only helpful in dealing with stress, but also helps your brain work better. If you are not well rested, it is hard to concentrate and remember things. Sleep is also a time for the body to regroup and that includes the brain. You’ve surely heard people say, “Let me sleep on it.” That is good advice as your brain is still working as you sleep and you often make a better decision the next morning when you are well rested and have had some down time to remove yourself from any trauma, drama or emotion of the situation. If you have learned new information, the brain uses sleeping time to store that information for later recall.
Learning Is For a Lifetime
No matter what age you are, it’s never too late to learn something new. This keeps life interesting and helps keep the mind sharp. Take up a new hobby or learn a new skill. If you were fortunate enough to learn to play a musical instrument when you were young, that will also pay off for you as you get older. Children who learn to play an instrument early on show an increase in memory, planning abilities and clear thinking when they are older. If you didn’t experience musical interests as a child, it’s not too late. You can still benefit from learning to play no matter how old you are. Even if you don’t master the skills you start out to learn, it still gives your brain some good exercise and that’s what counts. Brain exercise doesn’t stop with mental exercise either. Physical exercise is also important as it increases blood flow and brain nerve cells as well as reducing heart disease risk which is important for the brain.
Some types of foods are better brain foods than others. The brain demands a lot of nutrition to keep it working properly, but it also is protected behind the blood brain barrier which makes it more difficult to get the nutrition it needs to it. The blood brain barrier is a layer of cells that only allows the smallest fat-soluble molecules and micronutrients to reach the brain. To improve brain health, concentrate on eating foods that have the specific nutrients the brain needs that can also pass through the blood brain barrier. Glucose, specific amino acids, and essential fatty acids are all necessary brain foods.
Glucose – Glucose is the sugars your body makes by digesting carbohydrates. Complex carbs are healthier for you than simple carbs so adding whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice and quinoa, and starchy vegetables like potatoes, beans, peas and lentils to your diet will help feed your brain. Glucose is a small enough molecule to be able to pass through the BBB, but these molecules must first be paired with the appropriate proteins before they will be allowed to pass. Eating whole grains also help in lowering cholesterol levels and create brain power by reducing plaque buildup which increases blood flow to the brain.
Amino Acids – The brain needs protein to function properly however proteins are not able to pass through the blood brain barrier until they break down into amino acids. Fish that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids in not only a great protein source for brain health, but also has the healthy fats that are important for the brain. Studies have found that people who include fish regularly in their diets are at less risk for dementia, stroke and declining mental faculties.
Essential Fatty Acids – Since the brain is 60% fat, it needs healthy fats to nourish it. Besides fatty fish, flaxseed, olive oil, walnuts, chia seeds, dark-green leafy vegetables and bluegreen algae are all good sources for omega-3.
In addition to what you eat to support brain health, it is also important how you cook these foods. For example, baking or grilling your fish is much healthier for your brain than frying. When you do cook with oil, make sure you use the healthy ones like olive, canola, safflower, and sunflower oil instead of butter and other saturated fats. This kind of cooking also helps with lowering cholesterol levels which reduces your risk of dementia.
You can get glucose, essential fatty acids and amino acids for feeding the brain all from AFA bluegreen algae especially the form with the cell wall removed. Bluegreen algae is a rich source of phenylalanine, an amino acid that crosses the blood-brain barrier faster than any other amino acid and has all 20 amino acids our bodies need for the building blocks of healthy nerve cells and neurotransmitters needed for proper brain function. It also provides a perfect ratio of essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, helps maintain normal, healthy blood chemistry that feeds the brain, and provides an ideal balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, complex sugars, and fiber. In addition to AFA bluegreen algae alone, another whole food supplement that lends support to the brain is this supplement with blue green algae that has the added ingredients of bee pollen, vitamin A, enzymes, antioxidants, gluten-free wheatgrass juice, Hawaiian noni, eleuthero, ginkgo, and turmeric. Bee pollen is reported to have a high amino acid content useful for stimulating memory and concentration. Wheatgrass juice has been found to provide nutrients that support brain health and clearer thinking. Gingko has been used for a long time to promote increased memory and mental concentration by increasing circulation and providing increased oxygenation of brain cells. Curcumin, found in turmeric, has been the basis of much research and found to have benefit for enhancing memory, for enhancing nerve growth in areas of the brain and as an antidepressant.
Feeding your brain what it needs, giving it the right exercise and finding ways to deal with stress will keep your brain power working for you. So take a deep breath and relax. Rest your brain and your body knowing that the holidays are over for another year.
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