Saturday, March 3, 2012

Foods to double your brain power

It's a well-known, stated fact: "Healthy mind, Healthy body: Healthy body, Healthy mind."

So in the same way that a proper diet is good for your body, so it is for your brain.

And the foods that you consume, whether "good" or "bad" can possibly influence your brain power.

Your brain is the greediest organ in your body, with some quite specific dietary requirements. So it is hardly surprising that what you eat can affect cognitive function.

And like any other organ in your body, your brain also needs the correct fuel to perform well.
Unfortunately, proper nutrition for the brain is often overlooked by a fast paced lifestyle and often having to eat "on the go".

Take for example, the effect of simple carbohydrates (such as processed flour and sugary foods) on your brain and body.

These foods can cause a rush of sugar into the bloodstream, causing Insulin to be released. Insulin works hard to "mop up" all the excess sugar in your blood; the trouble is, Insulin is a bit too efficient, and can cause blood sugar levels to plunge. This is known as Hypoglycemia.
But it doesn't stop there. Hypoglycemia can cause the release of Adrenal Hormones: these hormones squeeze stored sugar from the liver, sending blood sugar levels back up. This is known as a "sugar high".

So the body goes on a blood sugar roller-coaster, with "sugar highs" and "sugar blues." But it still doesn't stop there, because the ups and downs of blood sugar and adrenal hormones may stimulate brain neurotransmitter imbalance, causing irritability, inattentiveness, and even sleepiness.

And after all, people work hard to conserve their body in the desire to look good for as long as possible, so why not do the same for the brain?

Here is a list of my top five foods, which may influence, and possibly, double your brain power!

1. Omega-3 Oils
Perhaps the number one food for brain health, the case for Omega- 3 oils is overwhelming.
Omega-3 oils, (or Omega-3 Fatty Acids) are essential fatty acids necessary for human health. They are termed "essential" because they cannot be produced by the body, and so must be obtained from the diet.

Omega-3 oils are beneficial because they provide fluidity to cell membranes and improve communication between brain cells. They may help to boost learning power, but also greatly enhance mood.

Foods rich in omega-3 oils include oily fish such as sardines, salmon and mackerel.

Maybe fish is a "brain food" after all!

2. Vegetables and legumes
Unlike processed flour which contains simple carbohydrates, vegetables and legumes contain complex carbohydrates which can supply your brain with a steady source of energy.

Foods which contain complex carbohydrates would include soybeans, kidney beans, chick peas and lentils.

3. Soya
Soya contains natural plant Oestrogens called Isoflavones.

These are thought to act on Oestrogen receptors in the human brain, particularly those in the hippocampus, which we know is a crucial area for memory.

As a result, new nerve connections may form more readily. Medical trials have revealed that persons fed a high Soya diet showed improvements in verbal and non-verbal memory and in mental flexibility.

Good sources of Soya include Soya milk and tofu.

4. Berries
Fruit such as blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, strawberries and raspberries contain anti-oxidants, helping to rid the body of harmful free radicals produced during body cells converting oxygen into energy.

Scientific studies have shown that a good dietary intake of antioxidants from fruits and vegetables will significantly reduce the risk of developing "Cognitive Impairment".

5. Chocolate
Good news for all lovers of chocolate!

Studies have hinted that eating milk chocolate may boost brain function. Substances like Theobromine, Phenethylamine and Caffeine present in dark chocolate, can act as stimulants that may lead to increased mental performance.

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