I hope y’all are well and healthy.
Last Friday, on my last appointment of the day, my client and I were working on some cognitive/neuro-muscular exercises… You know, dual-task stuff… do this-movement-and-add-another-one-at-the-same-time kind of thing. Exercises that will engage our brain and light up our neurons. As I tell my clients, exercises that will make you smarter.
So I asked him client a question…
He immediately said muscles. Nope. Our brain is the hungriest organ in our body. Despite making up only around 2% of our overall body weight, (our muscles make up 30-40%) our brain consumes about 20% of our body’s total energy requirement. But to develop, and maintain healthy brain function, a full complement of micro-nutrients in sufficient quantities is essential.
Carbs are broken down into glucose and our brain uses glucose as its main source of energy. Needless to say, diet fads that claim little to no carbohydrates can put your brain at harm.
Researches show that deficiencies in some nutrients contribute to poor brain and mental health. Additionally, there is not a single point in the lifespan, from conception to old age, where nutrition does not play an important role in brain structure, development, and mental health.
For example, we know that it is important for women trying to conceive to take folic acid (a form of vitamin B) to prevent some birth defects. Our brain also needs essential omega-3 fatty acids to form the structural building blocks of brain cell membranes.
The body is unable to synthesize or produce adequate amounts of these fatty acids, so they must come from our diet. Fortunately, they are abundant in cold/deep-water fish such as tuna, sardines, mackerel, salmon, and trout, and one 140g serving of mackerel supplies enough omega-3 for a week.
Now, except for tuna, and maybe salmon, those are my least favorite fish to eat, so I must rely on a daily dose of fish oil supplement.
The good news is that omega-3 intake does have a protective effect on cognitive decline, but the bad news is fish consumption in the United States is below recommended levels, and a study in the UK found that less than 5% of UK children are consuming adequate amounts of fish oils.
Polyphenols are another class of nutrient with beneficial effects on brain function. “Polyphenol-rich” foods include tea, coffee, dark chocolate, berries, herbs, spices, and wine. In placebo-controlled trials, these foods increased brain blood flow and enhanced performance on tests of attention, memory, and processing speed.
There is even good evidence that improved nutrition can support emotional well-being. A landmark Australian study showed that increasing fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains and oily fish in the diet reduced depression severity.
But what about foods to avoid?
We already know there is no good news about sugar-sweetened beverages. In healthy individuals, these drinks rapidly increase markers of inflammation and may even impair function in the hippocampus, which has negative effects on learning and memory.
Other studies have shown that the typical Western diet can have negative effects on the brain within a week. So we should try to think of sweets, refined cereals, fried food, fast food, processed meats, and sugary drinks as ‘”once-in-a-while” or ‘fun foods’ and limit their consumption.
In conclusion, our brain is hungry, and not only can we feed it, for the sake of our continuing brain development and mental health; it is imperative that we do.
Here are the best brain foods:
Try to eat these every week to keep your grey matter healthy.
1. Raw unsalted nuts: 1 serving per day
2. Oily fish: At least one 140g serving per week
3. Whole grains: 5 to 6 servings per day
4. Legumes: 3 to 4 servings per week
5. Berries (fresh or frozen): 1/2 cup at least 3 times per week
6. Leafy green vegetables: A small salad bowl daily
7. Dark chocolate: 2 to 3.5 ounces per week
8. Wine: No more than 5 ounces (148 milliliters) per week
We also know that daily exercise and physical activity promotes brain and mental health, and protects us from cognitive decline. Here is an excellent article about exercise and brain health:
And this is where we come in strong!
Call or email us today to set up a complimentary appointment to keep your muscles and your brain going healthy and strong!
See you next week.