The brain is one of the most important parts in the body. It is responsible for voluntary and involuntary body functions, such as movement, personality, heart rate, emotions, mood, thoughts, and storage of knowledge. You may start noticing how important the brain is as you age and start having symptoms like memory problems appearing more and more, but you don’t have to wait until you start having problems to do something. Maintaining healthy brain function and keeping your brain in good working order are things you can start early. According to Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, and other experts, there are nutrients that the brain needs for healthy brain function and foods that are good food for the brain as well as foods that are bad food for the brain and interfere with brain function. Magee points out that diet plays a big role in the chemical and physiological structure of the brain and this has an effect on our behavior. Since diet is so important in maintaining healthy brain function, it is number one on our list of 5 things to know about maintaining a healthy brain.
1. The Brain Needs Specific Types of Foods
You can literally eat your way to a healthier brain. Glucose, essential fatty acids and specific amino acids are necessary as good food for the brain. If you find that you have problems staying mentally focused, alert, or find yourself moody, depressed or experiencing brain fog, it may be that your brain is nutrient or oxygen deprived. 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. The solution is to concentrate on eating foods that have the specific nutrients the brain needs that can also pass through the blood brain barrier. According to Mark Hyman, MD and other nutritional experts, omega-3 fatty acid is one of the best food for the brain and 99% of people don’t get enough of this fat. Instead, our diets consist of an overabundance of omega-6 from oils such as corn, soy and safflower and the typical junk food/fast food diets many people indulge in and not enough omega-3 that in the past humans got from fish, wild game and wild plants. Studies including one from the University of Pittsburgh in 2006 reported findings that participants had increased risk of mild depression and mood difficulties if they didn’t have enough omega-3 fatty acid intake. Deep water fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, avocados, nuts and olive oil are all good sources of omega-3 to add into your diet.
The other two nutrients that are good food for the brain are glucose and amino acids. 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. In the amino acid category, glutamine, GABA, isoleucine, phenylalanine, arginine, taurine, methionine, valine, lysine, glycine, leucine, alanine, and histidine are essential for a healthy brain. These protein building blocks can be obtained by eating lots of fruits, vegetables, unsaturated oils and whole grains.
2. AFA Algae Has Nutrition To Help With Brain Function
Since we are on the subject of nutrition for the brain and how it needs lots of glucose, amino acids and essential fatty acids, we have to point out that AFA bluegreen algae contains all of these. It 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. The brain’s main source of energy is glucose. It also needs protein however and proteins are not able to pass through the blood brain barrier until they break down into amino acids. AFA bluegreen algae has the amino acids that are 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 support of AFA bluegreen algae as good food for the brain, we cite studies such as ones by Gabriel Cousens, MD that report AFA bluegreen algae used with Alzheimer’s patients has shown improvement in symptoms like hand tremors, attention span, judgment, reasoning and short term memory. 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, Hawaiin 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. It is also being studied and used in relation to treating Alzheimer’s.
3. Your Brain Needs Exercise
Physical exercise not only keeps your body fit, but also keeps your brain fit. There are several reasons exercise is important for a healthy brain. First, exercise helps keep your weight down and excess weight is a contributor to diseases that affect the brain such as stroke and Alzheimer’s. Regular exercise helps reduce the risk of plaque buildup in your arteries and keeps the pathways clear for blood circulation thus reducing the risk of heart attack. When blood circulation is compromised, the brain doesn’t get the oxygen and nutrients delivered to it that it needs. No matter what your lifestyle or physical restrictions are, it is important to do some kind of exercise that will get the heart rate going and blood pumping. If you have physical restrictions, check with your healthcare provider to see what types of exercises you can do safely to accomplish this. Studies report there is a link between how active a person is and cognitive ability, so find some way to pause in your day to get your body moving.
4. Wine Can Give Your Brain a Boost
This is certainly not a tip for anyone who has a problem with alcohol, is on medication that doesn’t mix with alcohol, or who is pregnant, but for those who don’t or aren’t, there have been many studies showing health benefits of drinking one or two glasses of wine a day. Too much alcohol of course is not good for you and especially not for your brain. Overindulgence can lead to definite negative results on various brain functions and brain cells. But studies such as one conducted in France with 4,000 people over age 65, have reported that those drinking one or two glasses a day of wine showed 45% less risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Part of the health benefits of wine are attributed to resveratrol. If you are not a wine drinker, you can also get this flavonoid in red grapes or red grape juice.
5. Stress Will Eat Your Brain
Anxiety, anger, depression or anything causing you chronic stress can destroy the memory parts of your brain. When we are under stress it triggers the release of cortisol in the body. This raises blood sugar levels and blood pressure. That is the reason that we often crave sugary and fatty comfort foods when we are stressed. This extra cortisol release can lead to the body storing body fat which can lead to weight gain, interfere with getting good quality sleep, reduce energy levels, and be responsible for poor memory and decreased cognitive function. Depression in particular leads to an increase in cortisol in the blood which is carried to the brain. Brain imaging shows that this increase in cortisol has detrimental effects on particular areas of the brain such as the hippocampus which deals with short term memory. Eating foods with magnesium, B vitamins and chlorophyll can help your body deal with excess stress. 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. 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. If you struggle with depression, seek help from your healthcare provider as there are various treatments that can help.
Don’t wait until you find yourself suffering with brain fog or loss of memory and cognitive brain function. Start feeding your brain the nutrition it needs to stay healthy now. If you are already experiencing some of these symptoms, give some or all of these tips a try and give your brain the support to do the best job it can for you.