Nutrition For Brain Health

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This post has been a long time coming, especially since our family has been affected by brain tumors and brain surgery quite recently. I had quite a few people reach out to me wanting to know how to help and or what they could do to protect against this for their family. Unfortunately, brain tumors are slightly under researched and little is known about what causes them to form. There are several different types of brain tumors, all located in different regions of the brain making it especially difficult to know what triggers their onset. However, we do know the incidence of brain tumors is very expansive across all ages, genders, and ethnicities. So what CAN we do about our brain health and making sure our cognition stays strong throughout our lifetime?

Brain health is among the top most important health issues we face today. Without our brain in good health, the rest of our body wouldn’t be able to function like it does. Nutrition plays an important role in the development of healthy brains, especially during pregnancy. However, it doesn’t stop after birth. We can keep our brain sharp and strong throughout our lifetime with key vitamins and nutrients, making sure our diet works with our body to promote longevity.


 

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Prenatal nutrition is talked about a lot, which simply indicates the importance of proper nutrition for your baby. This short nine month window of time is only the start to new human life, major organs are forming and the brain is only one of them.

Folate or Folic Acid prevents brain and neural tube defects in a growing fetus

  • Sources: Chicken liver, Lentils, Pinto Beans, Chickpeas, Spinach, Black beans, Enriched grains and cereals

Omega-3 fatty acids helps develop the fetus’ central nervous system and brain

  • Sources: Flaxseed oil, Flaxseeds, Chia seeds, Walnuts, Salmon, Herring, Sablefish, Anchovies, Mackerel, Bluefin tuna

Vitamin D & B12 develops cognitive skills and motor abilities

  • Sources: (vitamin D) Rainbow trout, Salmon, Swordfish, Tuna, Halibut, Sardines, Rockfish, Dairy, Shrimp, Egg yolks, Mushrooms, (vitamin B12) Beef liver, Clams, Crab, Sardines, Oysters, Salmon, fortified cereals, chicken

Eggs for Infant Brain Development

  • Recently found in a study, eggs introduced to infants around 6 months of age were found to have higher concentrations of choline and DHA (omega-3 fatty acid; docosahexaenoic acid) biomarkers. Eggs provide so much more than just a healthy breakfast, they provide essential fatty acids, proteins, choline, vitamins A & B12, selenium, and other nutrients. Thankfully, the latest nutrition research has cleared up the cholesterol conundrum and we can see eggs in a brand new spot light as healthy, affordable, and appetite pleasing. So go ahead, reach for the plate of scrambled eggs and whole grain toast tomorrow morning.

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Brain fog can happen to anybody, and most certainly happens to me too. It’s the moments when you can’t quite recall something quick enough and we get frustrated because it’s on the tip of our tongue. The brain, like any other part of our body, gets tired and needs to rest- or refuel. Brain fog can also be indicative of your body needing some specific and key vitamins.

The Brain’s First Source of Energy

The brain primarily runs on glucose, which is the first preference for fuel. The source of glucose in our diet primarily comes from carbohydrates. Without the proper amount of carbohydrates in the diet, the brain can revert to using ketones (broken down from fat). Keeping enough complex carbohydrates in our diet is an important factor for keeping our brain running effectively. Ever notice you feel tired, sluggish, or your brain is lagging a bit when you’re hungry and haven’t eaten in several hours? This could be indicative of low blood sugar and not enough glucose fuel for your brain.

Omega-3 fatty acids have been scientifically proven to help with cognitive function. Sources of Omega-3 FA can be found in sardines, mackerel, herring, salmon, anchovy, bluefish, tuna, flaxseed, and canola oil.

Anthocyanin’s such as dark cherries, berries, and red grapes act to help neutralize free radicals and boost antioxidant defense. Anthocyanin’s help with brain, vision, and heart health.

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There have been several studies published about the effect of nutrition and prevention of Alzheimers. When we stop and think a bit about this phenomenon it makes some sense. We know nutrition plays a role in brain health, so nutrition playing a role in preventing Alzheimers plays along the same lines.

Our cognitive function naturally declines with age but it’s suggested through ongoing research that one serving of green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, lettuce, etc) per day may aid in preserving those precious past memories. The study further suggests that one serving of green leafy’s per day showed an equivalent of being 11 years younger cognitively. Talk about wanting an extra plate of salad to go with that pizza slice!

Furthermore, research has connected low levels of DHA, which is a type of omega-3 fatty acid, to cognitive decline and a higher risk for other serious conditions such as alzheimer’s. The key is to maintain a consistent level of DHA in your diet from foods such as fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, and albacore tuna) fish oil, or other algae supplements. The long term exposure to DHA can help to improve memory, increase cognitive abilities, and reduce cognitive decline.

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The brain is such a hardworking organ, in order for it to work properly we need to supply it with the right foods and nutrients. Our brain works endlessly for us, giving us life and allowing us to be who we are, I think it’s about time we focus a little more on the condition of our brain health instead of focusing so much on the outward appearance of our bodies. After all, ‘no amount of physical beauty will ever be as valuable as a beautiful mind.’

AVOGoodLife

 


Sources

Article: Brain Health and Fish; eatright.org

Article: Leafy Green Vegetables May Boost Cognition; Today’s Dietitian 

Article: Eggs May Improve Infant Brain Developement; Today’s Dietitian 

 

 

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Anna says:

    Do you have any lentil recipes? I bought some because I have heard of their health benefits but can’t seem to find a recipe that looks good to me.

    1. thehealthychew says:

      I don’t think I have any lentil recipes but I have several with beans and legumes. However, I would check out the website lentils.org because they have all the latest research on health benefits and an entire section just for recipes! Hope this helps!

      1. Anna says:

        Thank you! That website is great and lentils are on the meal plan for this week.

      2. thehealthychew says:

        Wonderful, so glad to hear that website helped! They always have good recipes and great information!

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