Eating well is good for your mental as well as your physical health. The brain requires nutrients just like your heart, lungs or muscles do. But which foods are particularly important to keep our grey matter happy?
1. Opt for wholegrains
Like everything else in your body, the brain cannot work without energy. The ability to concentrate and focus comes from the adequate, steady supply of energy - in the form of glucose in our blood to the brain. Achieve this by choosing wholegrains with alow-GI, which release glucose slowly into the bloodstream, keeping you mentally alert throughout the day. Opt for 'brown' cereals, wheatbran, granary bread and brown pasta.
2. Eat oily fish
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) cannot be made by the body and must be obtained through diet. The most effective omega-3 fats occur naturally in oily fish as EPA and DHA. Good sources include linseed (flaxseed) oil, soya bean oil, pumpkin seeds, walnut oil and soya beans. They are good for healthy brain function, the heart, joints and general wellbeing. Oily fish contains EPA and DHA in a ready-made form, which enables the body to use it easily. The main sources of oily fish include salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kippers. Low DHA levels have been linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and memory loss.
3. Binge on blueberries
Evidence accumulated at Tufts University in the United States suggests that the consumption of blueberries may be effective in improving or delaying short term memory loss. Widely available, so there's no excuse.
4. Eat more tomatoes
There is good evidence to suggest that lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes, could help protect against the kind of free radical damage to cells which occurs in the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer's.
5. Add vitality with vitamins
Certain B vitamins - B6, B12 and folic acid - are known to reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Elevated levels of homocysteine are associated with increased risk of stroke, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease. A study of a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment found that after two years of intervention with high doses of B6, B12 and folic acid there was significantly less brain shrinkage compared to a subset given placebo treatment.
6. Get a blackcurrant boost
Vitamin C has long been thought to have the power to increase mental agility. One of the best sources of this vital vitamin areblackcurrants.
7. Pick up pumpkin seeds
Just a handful of pumpkin seeds a day is all you need to get your recommended daily amount of zinc, vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills.
8. Bet on broccoli
A great source of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function and improve brainpower.
9. Sprinkle on sage
Sage has long had a reputation for improving memory and although most studies focus on sage as an essential oil, it could be worth adding fresh sage to your diet too.
10. Go nuts
A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiologysuggests that a good intake of vitamin E might help to prevent cognitive decline, particularly in the elderly.Nuts are a great source of vitamin E along with leafy green vegetables, asparagus, olives, seeds, eggs, brown rice and wholegrains.
Although research linking diet and dementia is still in its infancy, there are a few important relationships between nutrients and brain health that are worth exploring. Having a nourishing, well rounded diet gives our brain the best chance of avoiding disease. If your diet is unbalanced for whatever reason, you may want to consider a multivitamin and mineral complex and an omega-3 fatty acid supplement to help make up a few of the essentials. If you are considering taking a supplement it is best to discuss this with a doctor or qualified healthcare professional.
A healthy mind is a busy mind. Work on the skills you build here brain training out in the real world. Here are some ideas on activicties and exercises that you can do offline that are known to increase long term brain health which includes improved memory, recall speeds, logic, reasoning, problem solving, and also just how to be a more fun and engaged person to be around!
Read something new every day. Challenge your brain by reading an article (like this one!) on something you aren't familiar with, or try reading a different type of literature like a poem or Shakespeare.
Get trivial. Once a week, get together with your friends and play Trivial Pursuit or another trivia-based game. Remembering historical facts or pop culture tidbits can help work that brain of yours in new ways! You can even try each day!
Eat brain-feeding foods. Nosh regularly on foods that are high in healthy fats, such as walnuts or salmon, both of which contain essential . Not only are they good for you, they're tasty too!
Keep up with your workouts! In many of the brain research studies, those who were the most fit reaped the most brain benefits, so keep exercising regularly and challenging your body.
De-stress regularly. Your brain can be negatively affected by stress, and studies performed at Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital found that regular and practice can increase the size of the hippocampus.
Hit the hay early and often. Studies have found that you need an average of eight hours of sleep a night for optimal brain function. It's also really good for your overall health and fitness—not to mention your mood!
If you like crunching time at the gym alone, opt for circuit work outs, which both quickly spike your heart rate, but also constantly redirect your attention. Hitting a wall or mentally exhausted? Doing a few jumping jacks might reboot your brain.
Talk with people. Talk with people about things you or they know about. Talking about politics, religion, and other challenging topics (having real discussions, not just arguments), can be a great basic brain workout.
Write something. Writing requires loads of thinking! You can write made-up stories, write down the things that have happened to you or write articles on the topics you know and love!
Turn off the television. Television tells you what to think and how to think it, basically putting your brain on autopilot. That's why it's so relaxing! If you want to keep your brain from stagnating, the first thing you have to do is turn off the tv. If you really want to watch, use your brain while you watch. Choose to watch educational programs and if you watch popular programs, choose ones with complex plot lines or character interactions. Think about these while you watch and try to analyze them or guess what happens next.
Learn a new language. Learning a language is like a hack for your brain, opening up all sorts of pathways. This exercises the part of your brain that stores language information, even making you better at speaking your own language.Pick up a new hobby. Learning a new skill is also a great way to give your brain a workout. For example: Learn to play a new instrument!Creative skills especially, like music, dance, and visual art, will exercise different parts of your brain and all have incredible benefits.Build things. Whether you're building robots or a new bench for your hallway, using your brain to figure out how to make something (especially from scratch with no instructions) is a great workout. Get some basic building skills and then get your brain limber with some practical creativity.
Go back to school. Going back to school is a great way to get that brain working again and more education has obvious benefits. You don't even need to get a whole degree. Your employer may be willing to help you finance classes that further your job skills, or you can just take a single class in a subject that interests you.
Join an interest group. Join a group or club for people with the same interests as you. This can be a hobby club, a political group, a Bible discussion group, or anything like that. Talking with people with similar interests will get you using your brain and your skills.Increase your vocabulary. Learn new words from a word-a-day calendar or dictionary. This exercises the language portion of your brain.
Play sports. Learn exercises or how to play new games to increase your hand-eye and body coordination. Tai-chi and pinball are both examples of this.
Change up your routine. Try commuting with varied routes, to prevent the brain from feeling too neglected as the result of a monotonous day. You can also change how you work, by introducing an exercise ball or other factor into how you work.
Switch your dominant hand. Use your left hand if you are right handed, and reverse, to stimulate the parts of your brain that control your muscles.
When exercising, try to walk-backward(reverse direction of the usual walking pattern) to tease the sphere of the brain.
Aerobic exercise is great for body and brain: not only does it improve brain function, but it also acts as a "first aid kit" on damaged brain cells. When looking to change up your work out, look for an activity that incorporates coordination along with cardiovascular exercise, such as a dance class.
Exercising in the morning before going to work not only spikes brain activity and prepares you for mental stresses for the rest of the day, but also produces increases retention of new information, and better reaction to complex situations.
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