Tag Archives: brain food

13 Superfoods For Your Brain

Eating in some cultures is very important. It is a time when friends and family gather and enjoy a meal together. The Spanish even have a special word, sobremesa, to describe the time spent together after finishing the meal and talking with one another. Experts claim that the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest in the world, and thanks to a global market, we’re able to get a taste of this diet from around the world.

We all know how important it is to eat well, both for our physical and mental health. I don’t think I would be wrong in claiming that in the last couple years, there has been a surge in the amount of attention given to “brain foods”, the foods that help our brain work smoothly and at top level. The brain is like an orchestra. It has to be coordinated to work properly, and in order to be well-coordinated, we have to give it the proper nutrition. Our brain needs a ton of different nutrients that give it energy to do all of the many different tasks that it has to handle everyday.

We know that we want to give our brain the food it wants, but where can we start? Do apples make us smarter? Maybe onions keep our brain happy? What’s the deal with tomatoes? We’ll try to take away some of the mystery (and help you plan your grocery trip) below with some superfoods for your brain.

Get a delicious quinoa salad recipe here.

13 Superfoods For Your Brain

Whole-grain foods

When you can, choose the whole grain option. Whether it’s rice, pasta, quinoa, bread, or wheat, choose whole-grain. The brain, like we mentioned earlier, needs a lot of energy to be able to pay attention and concentrate all day long. Normal white bread or pasta, while undeniably delicious, releases glucose soon after eating, which means that all of the energy that you consumed is either not used, or not used efficiently. Whole-grains, however, release the glucose slowly, helping us stay alert and focused longer.

Fish

Oily fish, like salmon, tuna, sardines, and anchovies, along with seafood are rich in Omega 3 (specifically DAH), which helps protect our brains from cognitive decline and have been shown to improve memory and concentration. In fact, some studies have shown that low levels of DAH are related to Alzheimer’s Disease and memory loss.

Check out Bon-Appetit‘s recipes for easy weeknight fish dishes

Blueberries

This small blue fruit is considered a super-fruit by nutritionists and natural therapy-lovers alike, and now science has stepped in and jumped on the band wagon. Blueberries are one of the fruits that contain the highest amount of antioxidants (they’re what help our body get rid of free radicals that build up in our brain and cause aging and cell death), which helps our brain stay young and health. Some studies, like the one conducted at Tufts University in Boston showed that a blueberry-rich diet improved memory loss and reverted loss of balance and coordination in elderly rats, which helped rejuvenate their brain.

Try this delicious blueberry smoothie recipe

Nuts

Nuts sometimes get a bad wrap. It’s true, they have quite a bit of fat, but they’re also packed with vitamins and minerals that our bodies need. While maybe we don’t need to eat a Costco sized container in one sitting, we should try to make nuts part of our daily diet. Among the vitamins that many nuts provide, complex B vitamins are especially important for keeping our brain running well. Vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid (B9) improve oxygenation, which helps transport nutrients to cells and decreases homocysteine in the blood. High levels of this aminoacid are related to cognitive deterioration and Alzheimer’s Disease. Nuts also have a ton of vitamin E, which helps prevent cognitive decline in the elderly.

So, you know what do to. Grab a handful of nuts and sprinkle them on top of some of your favorite foods: oatmeal, salads, or just right out of the package. You’ll get some great vitamin E and B which will help prevent cognitive decline.

Mix up your nuts with this great spiced nuts recipe!

Broccoli

Broccoli is one of the richest foods in vitamin K, a super vitamin that improves memory and cognitive ability in general, as well as helping with the learning process. Other greens like kale or Brussels sprouts are also rich in vitamin K.

You can cook broccoli in a few different ways. Try making a soup, saute them, add them to a stir fry, steam them, or even eat them raw!

Take your pick of any of these amazing broccoli recipes

Avocado

A personal favorite. Avocado is the perfect final piece to any great dish… I put it on soups, salads, sandwiches, rice…It fits in well anywhere and it’s got a ton of vitamins to keep our brains working well. Guacamole, for example, is rich in vitamin E and omega 3, and some even say that its antioxidant powers are similar to those of the magnificent blueberry. The avocado’s downside comes from its notorious fat and calorie levels. Yes, we need to watch out for the calories, but it contains monosaturated fats which actually help blood circulation, lower blood pressure, and help with hypertension (which is a risk factor for cognitive decline).

Maybe you don’t have to eat quite as many avocados as me, but half an avocado a day won’t hurt you and can be great for brain health.

Give any of these creamy avocado recipes a try!

Go Tropical

Beta-Carotene or pro-vitamin A is one of the best vitamins for improving memory and protecting our neurons. We can find pro-vitamin A in fruits like mango and papaya, but also is orange vegetables like carrots and pumpkins. Now is a great time to go tropical! Make some delicious mango smoothies, or cut some up and put it on top of a fresh salad. It’ll give it some color and will provide you with important nutrients that your body and brain need.

Check out any of these mouth-watering mango recipes

Chocolate

There are (luckily) multiple benefits to eating chocolate. Chocolate can help improve memory and heart function. Cacao is rich in flavonoids, a powerful antioxidant that keeps our cells from maturing aging prematurely. It also naturally contains caffeine which helps improve concentration and stimulates the production of endorphins which makes us happy :).

So, does this mean you can eat chocolate like there’s no tomorrow? I’m sorry, but not quite. Even though it has multiple beneficial properties, experts advise that you eat it in moderation. You can get all the beneficial effects by eating just one ounce of chocolate a day, so no need to fill up on it. Just remember: it has to be dark chocolate, not white or milk chocolate.

I don’t think you need a recipe to eat chocolate…

Green Tea

Eastern cultures have been enjoying green tea for hundreds of years. It’s recently been proven to be a superfood..er, drink. It is beneficial for multiple different organs and systems in the body. Focusing on brain health, green tea is a super powerful antioxidant, which a lot of catechins and isoflavones that help prevent cardiac and cerebrovascular problems, as well as Alzheimer’s disease.

Some studies have said that catechins help to reduce amyloid protein levels, which is what is responsible for cell death in Alzheimer’s. It is also related to an improve state of alertness (increases concentration and makes mental processes easier), and memory.

Check out this recipe to spruce up your average green tea with a citrus mint tea recipe!

Chia Seeds

These nutty flavored little seeds pack a whole lot of nutrients. Originating in Central America, it has recently be converted into a crowning jewel of superfoods. It has high amounts of vitamins and minerals, and is also one of the best sources of vegetable Omega 3, which helps brain function and neuron health, and prevents aging. You can put them in a glass of water with lemon (antioxidant and detox), or put a spoonful in oatmeal on on top of a salad. There are a ton of recipes to use with chia seeds. What’s your favorite?

Get some ideas for your chia seeds here.

Pumpkin

We usually think that pumpkin is used for 2 things: Halloween or pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. But pumpkin really is one of those foods that you just can’t do without. You can make cream of pumpkin, bake it like squash, or add it to any of your favorite sautes. Pumpkin is a powerful antioxidant and is rich in folic acids. It’ll keep you sharp, improve processing speed, and help improve memory.

Try any of these delicious pumpkin recipes, perfect for fall!

Tomato

Lycopene (a powerful antioxidant) is what makes tomatoes so good for our brains. Multiple studies have shown how lycopene is an ally against cerebrovascular diseases and strokes, it specifically reduced the risk of hemorrhagic strokes and brain damage. You can eat it raw, or cooked, in salsas or soups or as a garnish. It’s fresh and perfect for the summer!

Check out my personal favorite tomato soup recipe here

Olive Oil

Last, but certainly not least, we have olive oil. Our Mediterranean neighbors believe it a liquid from the gods, and they’re not entirely wrong. Olive oil is an antioxidant that protects our brain from free radicals. It is also great for heart health and blood circulation, which allows the brain to get all of the nutrients and energy that it needs to function. Keep in mind that there are different types of olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed, meaning it carries the most benefits.

Now that we have our basket full of yummy, healthy foods, it’s time to try new recipes! As you can see, there are a ton of different foods that help keep our brain healthy and strong, and there are a ton more that we didn’t include on this list. What are your favorites?

5 Things That Can Hurt the Brain

5 Things That Can Hurt the Brain

5 Things That Can Hurt the Brain

The brain is a vital organ that must be kept in the best shape. In my previous blog post, I briefly touched upon certain brain myths. In this post, I am going to write about things that can severely hinder your brain. Some of the things are internal, and one can easily rectify them. However, there are some external factors beyond our control that can damage our brains. Without further ado here are 5 things that can hurt the brain.

1. Alcohol and Cigarettes: Delayed reaction time, memory problems and slurred speech are some of ways the brain can be impaired. However, many of these symptoms are temporary, and they go away pretty quickly. On the other hand, people who are heavy drinkers are more vulnerable to brain damage. The most common consequence of heavy alcohol use is liver disease. People who smoke cigarettes are more likely to get a stroke. A stroke occurs when blood flow to a certain part of the brain stops. CogniFit offers a specific brain training program designed to reduce the effects of cognitive decline following a stroke.

2. Lack of Sleep: Doctors generally recommend we get around eight hours of sleep each night. When we are sleeping, our bodies repair and new cells are created. When people don’t get a proper night’s sleep, their cells are not being regenerated and communication with the brain decreases. Both long-term sleep deprivation and short-term sleep deprivation have severe consequences on the brain.

3. Lack of Physical Activity: Many people have sedentary lifestyles, and this is detrimental to their health and well-being. In fact, this type of lifestyle is one of the leading causes of preventable death worldwide. A lack of exercise can lead to chronic diseases, and has been linked to the obesity epidemic in the United States. Some ways a sedentary lifestyle can affect our health include: high blood pressure, diabetes, colon cancer and osteoporosis.

4. Not Having Breakfast: They say Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Is it true? Yes. Not having breakfast every morning can affect the amount of blood sugar you have in your body. The amount of vital nutrients in your body decreases when you skip breakfast. Make sure you have vitamins every morning, and have foods that contain a good amount of protein. Also, try to eat the best foods and nutrition for a healthy brain.

5. Low Mental Stimulation: Technically, the brain is a muscle. With that said, the brain needs to be exercised in order for it to be in the best shape. One way to increase brain stimulation is to play brain games. However, please make sure the brain games you play are scientifically validated. CogniFit’s brain games are scientifically proven to enhance your brain.

Brain fitness in the elderly

Brain Fitness and the Elderly

In today’s society, brain fitness is becoming more and more popular. Brain games are important for everyone of all ages, especially for senior citizens. Why? As we age, our brains tend to deteriorate. Memory loss, slower reaction time and less focus are some of the common things that happen when we get older. With all of this said, brain games are showing up in many retirement communities where brain fitness centers are built, so the elderly can utilize them.

These fitness centers usually have many computers, specific expensive dedicated brain training devices and a training instructor, who consider brain exercises very important. There are simpler and cheaper solution around like the CogniFit personalized brain fitness program which works on a regular Windows or Mac computer using the Internet browser. The International Business Time, CNN Health and NBC list the CogniFit program in the top 2 best app to train your brain. In addition, the CogniFit program is self-explanatory so you do not require an instructor. What else? The CogniFit personalized brain fitness program is one of the few programs that is scientifically validated.

Doing brain exercises can have many benefits. In fact, there are so many benefits; I am going to list only a fraction of them. Some include: improved memory, quicker thinking, faster reaction time, enhanced listening, self-confidence, improved self-image, better driving, sharper vision and better overall well being. Of course, I only scratched the service of the countless things brain exercises can do for you.

Mental exercises not only provide mental stimulation, they provide social stimulation as well. What does social interaction have to do with the brain?  Social interaction involves many cognitive abilities such as concentration, memory and attention. The more we interact the more we use our cognitive abilities. The more we use our cognitive abilities, the stronger the brain gets. Lastly, please do not forget about physical fitness!  Along with mental stimulation and social stimulation, physical stimulation is also crucial to your health and well-being! Makes sure you are physically active at least a few times a week. In addition, you should make an effort to eat healthy. Some of the healthiest brain foods include: fish, tomatoes, blueberries, nuts, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, sage and many whole-grain foods. Mental stimulation, social stimulation and physical stimulation are the trifecta of a healthy lifestyle!

The brain fitness industry has exploded over the last decade. In 2005, the industry accumulated $200 million in revenue, and in 2012, the industry surpassed $1 billion in revenue. Not only that, experts are predicting that by 2020, the brain fitness industry will be worth six billion dollars. Remember, the physical fitness industry boom? Some people are comparing today’s brain fitness industry to the physical fitness boom decades earlier. Perhaps we will have brain trainers in the future. Hey, the idea of physical fitness trainers was taboo only decades ago. Who knows what the future will bring.

Train your brain to eat healthy

Train your brain to eat healthy

Sticking to healthy eating would probably be a lot easier if the healthy options tasted as good as other unhealthy options. Ah, if only kale could taste like Nutella! (at least Nutella contains nuts which are good brain food). Well, new research says you might be able to train your brain to eventually eat the healthy foods you don’t like.

The pilot study published in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes on Monday September 3rd, 2014 suggests the brain can be trained to prefer healthy food over unhealthy high-calorie foods, using a diet which does not leave people hungry.

“We don’t start out in life loving french fries and hating, for example, whole wheat pasta,” senior author Susan Roberts, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Energy Metabolism Laboratory, said in a statement. “This conditioning happens over time in response to eating – repeatedly – what is out there in the toxic food environment.”

Scientists know that once people are addicted to unhealthy foods, it is usually very hard to change their eating habits and get them to lose weight. Previous studies have shown that high-calorie, fatty, sugary foods trigger the pleasure center of the brain. That’s why you naturally crave these unhealthy foods: You expect to be rewarded with dopamine for eating them.

In the small pilot, researchers studied the one of the brain parts linked to reward and addiction in 13 overweight and obese men and women, eight of whom were taking part in a specially designed weight-loss program. Those in the intervention group took part in a version of the I Diet, which involved portion control, an emphasis on low-glycemic foods, and 19 support meetings delivered over 24 weeks. Participants in this group also received individualized emails from their nutritionists for support. Control participants eventually got the I Diet intervention as well, but were waitlisted for six months while this study took place.

All participants also got a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan before and after the six months were up. While in the machine, they were shown 40 food and 40 non-food control-image cues. The food cues, such as sandwiches and french fries, included both high- and low-calorie options. The non-food cues were images that looked similar to the food cues — but were quite not food (e.g. a wallet, or pencils).

The researchers focused their scans on each participant’s striatum, an area that’s often associated with the brain’s dopamine-rich reward processes. They found significantly higher average amounts of activation in this area for the low-calorie food images than high-calorie foods, but only in participants who had already been through the I Diet program. The control participants showed the opposite: more activation in the striatum for high-calorie foods. This suggests that changing what we eat eventually changes what we crave.

The Boston researchers say that gastric bypass surgery, while solving the problem of weight loss, can take away food enjoyment rather than make healthier foods more appealing.

“There is much more research to be done here, involving many more participants, long-term follow-up and investigating more areas of the brain,” Prof Roberts said.  “But we are very encouraged that the weight-loss program appears to change what foods are tempting to people.“

Eating baked or broiled fish once a week boosts brain health

Eating baked or broiled fish once a week boost brain health

By now, most of us are aware that omega-3 fatty acid in fish offers numerous health benefits. But now, a new study suggest that eating baked or broiled fish once a week can make the brain healthier, regardless of how much omega-3 fatty acid it contains.

The research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pennsylvania, published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine on, July 29, 2014, adds to increasing evidence that lifestyle factors could add to brain health later in life, perhaps even reducing risk of dementia.

Senior investigator James T. Becker noted that by 2040, it is estimated that 80 million people will be diagnosed with dementia – which would not only be a burden on families, but will also increase health care costs.

The research conducted earlier linked changes in lifestyle to drop in Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions of cognitive impairment in the elderly. Changes in lifestyle include lower rate of physical inactivity, smoking and obesity. The anti-oxidant effect of omega-3 fatty acids – present in high amounts in fish, nuts, seeds certain oils and brain food – is linked to improved health, especially brain health.

To further investigate the link between dietary intake and brain health, lead investigator Cyrus Raji, who now is in radiology residency training at University of California, Los Angeles, and the research team analysed data from 260 people who provided information on their dietary intake.

They had high-resolution brain MRI scans, and were cognitively normal at two time points during their participation in the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS), a 10-year multicenter effort that began in 1989 to identify risk factors for heart disease in people over 65.

“The subset of CHS participants answered questionnaires about their eating habits, such as how much fish did they eat and how was it prepared,” Raji said.

“Baked or broiled fish contains higher levels of omega-3s than fried fish because the fatty acids are destroyed in the high heat of frying, so we took that into consideration when we examined their brain scans,” said Raji.

The team found that participants who ate baked or broiled fish at least once each week had larger grey matter brain volumes in regions of the brain responsible for memory (4.3 per cent) and cognition (14 per cent). Interestingly, they were also more likely to have a college education than those who did not regularly eat fish.

But no association was found between the brain differences and blood levels of omega-3s.

“This suggests that lifestyle factors, in this case eating fish, rather than biological factors contribute to structural changes in the brain,” Dr. Becker noted. “A confluence of lifestyle factors likely is responsible for better brain health, and this reserve might prevent or delay cognitive problems that can develop later in life.”