Nutrition can alter the health status of the general population. The World Health Organization, in fact, strongly emphasized the role of unhealthy eating habits, along with sedentary lifestyle and cigarette smoking as a risk factor for the onset of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory and metabolic disorders. The foods we eat can have a significant impact on the structure and health of our brains. Eating a brain-boosting diet can support both short- and long-term brain function. The brain is an energy-intensive organ, using around 20 percent of the body's calories, so it needs plenty of right fuel to maintain concentration throughout the day. Let's now look into one of the best diets for a healthy brain.
The Mediterranean Diet
The main characteristics of this diet, summarized today in the iconography of the famous food pyramid are daily consumption of carbohydrates and plant foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and legumes), olive oil as the primary source of fat, low consumption of red meat, moderate consumption of wine, usually with meals. Recent studies and researches have shown that the Mediterranean diet led to a substantial reduction of overall mortality, of mortality and/or incidence of cardiovascular diseases, neoplastic diseases, as well as of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. Here are some of the foods that benefit the brain.
AvocadosAvocados, a source of healthful unsaturated fat, are bursting with nutrition that makes them great for heart and brain health. Full of monosaturated fats, avocados help promote blood flow, which is beneficial for the brain. They're also full of folate, vitamins B, C, and E, and potassium, making avocados an excellent food for helping to lower blood pressure and managing high blood pressure, which is linked to cognitive decline. Try adding a quarter of an avocado a day into your diet, like adding just 1/4 to 1/2 of an avocado to one daily meal as a side dish. Other sources of healthful unsaturated fats include:
- almonds, cashews, and peanuts
- flaxseed and chia seeds
- soybean, sunflower, and canola oils
- walnuts and Brazil nuts
Freshly Brewed Tea/ Coffee
Two to three cups a day of freshly brewed tea -- hot or iced -- contains a modest amount of caffeine which, when used judiciously, can boost brain power by enhancing memory, focus, and mood. Tea also has potent antioxidants, especially the class known as catechins, which promotes healthy blood flow. Bottled or powdered teas don't do the trick, however. The researchers found that caffeine causes an increase in brain entropy, which refers to complex and variable brain activity. When entropy is high, the brain can process more information. Coffee is also a source of antioxidants, which may support brain health as a person gets older. It has to be freshly brewed. Teabags do count, however.
Fish and other seafood contain several healthful constituents, including specific proteins, unsaturated fats, vitamin D, selenium, and long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which include eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5 omega-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (22:6 omega-3). Omega-3s also contain anti-inflammatory substances and are essential for brain function. In humans, EPA and especially DHA are synthesized in low amounts (5%) from their plant-derived precursor, linolenic acid (18:3 omega-3). Thus, tissue levels of EPA plus DHA are strongly influenced by their direct dietary consumption. Average EPA plus DHA contents of different seafood species vary by 10-fold. Fatty (oily) fish such as anchovies, herring, farmed and wild salmon, sardines, trout, and white tuna tend to have the highest concentrations.
Dark chocolate has powerful antioxidant properties, contains several natural stimulants, including caffeine, which enhance focus and concentration, and stimulates the production of endorphins, which helps improve mood. Antioxidants are especially important for brain health, as the brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, which contributes to age-related cognitive decline and brain diseases. Dark chocolate contains cacao which encourages neuron and blood vessel growth in parts of the brain involved in memory and learning. They may also stimulate blood flow in the brain.
Although no single accepted definition of whole grain exists, whole grains generally comprise bran, germ, and endosperm from the natural cereal. Bran contains soluble and insoluble dietary fibre, B vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, and tocopherols; germ contains numerous fatty acids, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. The endosperm provides primarily starch (carbohydrate polysaccharides) and storage proteins. Whole grains, such as oatmeal, wholegrain bread, and brown rice can reduce the risk of heart disease. While wheat germ is not technically a whole grain but it contains fibre, has vitamin E and some omega-3s. Consumption of wholegrain oats reduces cholesterol without reducing high-density (important) cholesterol. Consistent with physiological benefits, higher whole grain consumption is associated with a lower incidence of diabetes mellitus, and possibly stroke.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are good sources of vitamin E. It is essential as higher levels of vitamin E correspond with less cognitive decline as you get older. Because as a person ages, their brain may be exposed to this form of oxidative stress, and vitamin E may, therefore, support brain health in older age. Add an ounce a day of walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, filberts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, almond butter, and tahini. Raw or roasted doesn't matter, if you don't prefer salty ones, buy unsalted nuts. Research has also proven that Vitamin E intake in proper quantity reduces the risk of Alzheimer's. After going through all this, you must be curious to find out what an optimal diet would be. Don't worry. We've got you covered.
Limit excessive caloric intake from any sources
Given the importance of obesity and overweight in the causation of many chronic diseases, avoiding excessive consumption of energy from any source is fundamentally essential. Because calories consumed as beverages are less regulated than calories from solid food, limiting the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is particularly important.
Increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables
Strong evidence indicates that high intakes of fruits and vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, as well as of many of the most important types of cancer. Moreover, fruits and vegetables represent the primary source of fibre and are a source of vitamins, particularly B-group and antioxidant vitamins.
Favour the consumption of cereal products in their wholegrain, high-fibre form
Grains in whole grain, the high-fibre form has double benefits. First, the consumption of fibre from cereal products has consistently been associated with lower risks of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. High consumption of refined starches exacerbates the metabolic syndrome and is associated with higher risks of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. Replace saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids. Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats will reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases by lowering serum low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Also, polyunsaturated fats (including the long-chain omega-3 fish oils and probably alpha-linolenic acid, the primary plant omega-3 fatty acid) can prevent ventricular arrhythmias and thereby reduce fatal coronary artery disease. Limit consumption of sugar and sugar-based beverages Sugar has no nutritional value except for calories and, thus, has negative health implications for those at risk of being overweight. Furthermore, sugar contributes to the dietary glycaemic load,which exacerbates the metabolic syndrome and is related to the risk of diabetes and CHD. Limit sodium intake. The principle justification for limiting sodium is its effect on blood pressure, a significant risk factor for stroke and coronary disease. According to WHO, an upper limit of 1.7 grams of sodium per day (5grams of salt per day). Is the optimal amount one should consume.
The Final Verdict
In conclusion, there is a vast amount of literature, to date, that reports a healthy dietary habit to be one of the most potent preventive measures for the general population as well as for the population of patients with a manifested disease. Diet can decrease the risk of mortality and reduce the incidence of some of the most critical disease states, but also can determine a better and longer life with better psychological well-being and higher perceived health status. So put your Smart Brain to use and eat healthy, increasing your lifespan for a Smarter Brain.