Just like any other organ, the brain needs nutrients from food to maintain its functions. We are used to treating food as a thing that determines whether you can get into your jeans. We forget that the brain must be fed in accordance with what benefits it, and that’s just what we are going to discuss.
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Food that can benefit brain function
The brain needs a lot of energy, and its share in daily energy spending makes up more than 20%. However, it does not mean you can eat anything that looks tasty but is made from unhealthy ingredients just because you want it and it provides calories. Here is a list of what food can help slow down cognitive decline.
- Leafy greens. A recent research carried out by a team of scientists from American universities and healthcare centers showed that consumption of at least one cup of leafy greens a day is associated with having age-related cognitive decline slowed significantly. Among these greens are cauliflower, broccoli, and other cruciferous vegetables. The investigators attribute the effect to the vitamins, folate, lutein, and beta carotene found in them.
- Food rich in fatty acids. A good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, among which is Omega-3s, is oily fish, including salmon, which hit the headlines quite a long time ago and remains one of the most recommended fish species, anchovies, mackerel and sardines. If you cannot eat fish for some reason, you can opt for Omega-3s found in plants, such as flax or chia seeds.
- Foods rich in glucose. No, it does not mean you should munch out on sugar and chocolate bars. Glucose is a kind of carbohydrates, you should limit your carb intake and choose healthy food that is also natural, like beetroot, sweet potatoes, whole grains, onions, kiwi and spring onions (which are easy to grow yourself, by the way). In this case, the choice of food is determined by fiber content, which can help stabilize the level of blood sugar which can change significantly after eating the high-carb foods listed above.
- Food providing enough vitamins and minerals. It would be superfluous to enumerate all vegetables and fruits that are beneficial: there are too many of them to list them in one article. However, among the ones which appear to contribute to normal brain function the most recommended fruits are berries, grapefruit, oranges, and apples, because their glycolic index is low. Still, there are dozens of other vegetables and fruits packed with vitamins.
- Olive oil (extra virgin). Olive oil is an essential part of healthy eating, as it contains such nutrients as vitamin E and Omega-3s. Vitamin E is reported to be able to reduce the risk of developing dementia by 67%, if its intake is more than 16 mg a day. When it is combined with vitamin C, the association becomes even stronger.
The good old Mediterranean diet offers all these kinds of food in abundance: whole grains, lots of vegetables, fatty fish and nuts are what make it an eating pattern promoted in many countries. So why not try following it?
A note on genes
Contrary to the common assumption that “it’s all in the genes”, when developing Alzheimer’s disease is concerned, it is not always so. In fact, only 1% of cases are attributed to genetic mutations, and the rest of them are determined by other factors: what we do, what we think, what we eat, how we work, where we live, and what our physical activity is. A human is a combination or body and soul, and food is a major factor. That is why what we eat affects the brain. If we want to keep it functioning the way it should, we must not neglect the factors that shape its performance, and food is among them. Genes can contribute to disease development, but they do not inevitably lead to it, as researchers say. Exercising both your body and mind is another thing which is linked to lower risk of dementia.