Diet and Brain Health
For many people memory loss is a part of life, especially among older people. In fact, as many as 40 percent of Americans over the age of 65 experience what is known as age-associated memory impairment (AAMI). While people of all ages may experience memory lapses from time to time and many may face age-related memory loss to some extent, we do actually have the ability to improve memory and concentration by improving brain health. Diet is just on facet of improving brain health.
Your diet and your memory are linked. By taking measures to make sure the brain is nourished through proper nutrition and that blood flow is not obstructed by ‘thickened’ blood, you can to some extent retain and improve cognitive function. A healthy diet for memory improvement includes plenty of foods that are high in essential fatty acids, B vitamins, amino acids and antioxidants and minimizes sugary and fatty foods.
What to Include
A well-balanced diet is essential for well-being, which includes brain health. What should be included in a diet to boost mental activity? Essential fatty acids are very important for proper functioning — brain cells consist of almost 60 percent essential fatty acids. Include a variety of sources to make sure the body is getting enough of all the different omega oils. Fish, sea greens, green leafy vegetables, eggs, beans, brown rice, nuts and seeds are all good sources. To help ensure enough, talk to your doctor about taking flax seed oil, evening primrose oil or black currant seed oil supplements.
B vitamins are also very important. A deficiency can contribute to memory problems. B vitamins are found in a variety of foods. Excellent sources include eggs, fish, brown rice, mushrooms, oatmeal, peas, sunflower seeds, green vegetables and wheat germ.
Amino acids are another essential part of good nutrition for memory improvement. Simply eating a high-protein diet is not necessarily the way to get enough amino acids, in fact, almost half of the amino acids in dietary protein are transformed into glucose to be used as energy for cells. Make sure you diet is high in a variety of foods to make sure you are getting plenty of all the different amino acids. Whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes are all excellent sources.
Antioxidants are also important when eating for brain health. Again, the key to getting enough is to eat a variety of foods. Eating lots of different fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as grains, nuts and seeds is a great way to include a variety of antioxidants in your diet, which can help to protect brain cells from free radical damage. Very important high-antioxidant foods include blueberries, spinach, garlic, apples, grapefruit, green tea and eggplant.
What to Avoid
A healthy, well-balanced diet can be good for your memory, but it is also important to minimize some foods. Too much saturated fat and high-cholesterol foods can be detrimental. A high fat meal can inhibit the supply of glucose to the brain, which is the brain’s energy supply. Also, blood that is thick with cholesterol and triglycerides can limit how much nutrient-rich blood is able to reach the brain.
Sugary foods can also be a problem. Consuming too much sugar decreases the blood sugar that can be used to energize and nourish the brain.
As diet and memory are connected, it is important to eat well to support and sustain a healthy brain. Go for a variety of fresh foods, focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, eggs, seafood and sea greens. You do not have to give up meat, dairy or even the occasional treat, but make these foods a small part of your diet.
A healthy diet for memory improvement is one facet of brain health and excellent mental ability. Regular exercise for good blood circulation, plenty of sleep and mental exercises such as challenging games, interesting conversations, learning and reading are all part of a regimen for a healthy brain, well into old age.
Balch, Phyllis A. " Prescription for Nutritional Healing.” Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).
Page, Linda. “Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone, 11th Edition” (Traditional Wisdom, 2003).
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