Diet & Nervous System
1 AnswerMaoshing Ni, PhD, LAc, Gerontology, answeredNuts and seeds are wonder foods for your brain. Packed with protein and essential fatty acids, nuts and seeds are also chockfull of the amino arginine, which stimulates the pituitary gland at the base of the brain to release growth hormone, a substance that declines quickly after age 35; this is a real anti-aging bonus for your brain!
3 AnswersAshley Koff, RD, Nutrition & Dietetics, answeredHow much smarts you get from your food is as much about what you choose not to eat as what you choose to eat. Nutrients our brain loves include:
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (an essential omega 3 fatty acid) and its precursor alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA), choline, and phytonutrients (plant compounds) with antioxidant properties. DHA and ALA sources include: cold water fish, walnuts, soy beans, flax seed oil, and chia and hemp seeds
- Choline is found in: Peanuts, cauliflower, eggs (especially the yolk), pinto/navy/kidney beans, cod, shrimp, Brussels sprouts and broccoli
- Antioxidants include: Berries, green tea, spinach, apples, kale, tomatoes, sweet potato, Swiss chard, parsley and many more
1 AnswerLaura Katleman-Prue, Nutrition & Dietetics, answeredHave you ever noticed that you don't tend to get hungry when you're busy and then, when you start thinking about food, suddenly you want it? There's a fundamental relationship between thinking about food and eating. When you're craving food even when you aren't hungry, it's likely that you're bored, tired, stressed, or trying to avoid something you don't want to do. You're probably looking for a way to distract yourself from the resistance you're feeling and the negative or stressful thoughts that underlie it.
These thoughts create uncomfortable feelings, and rather than ignore them or sit with them until they dissipate, you make a beeline to the refrigerator to change your experience. Yet when something happens that requires your immediate attention, food is the farthest thing from your mind. When the house is on fire, I guarantee that you're not thinking about your stomach. If you're thinking about food when you aren't hungry, try asking yourself, "What experience am I trying to avoid right now?"
The problem with thinking about food is that it leads to eating. Of course, this isn't a problem if you're actually hungry and it's time to eat. But if you're in the habit of thinking about food often, it's likely that you're eating more food, and more pleasure food in particular, than your body needs. Thinking about food can become our mind's default position, coming in whenever we're stressed, excited, overwhelmed, upset, elated, or bored -- any excuse to think about food will do. The key to skinny thinking is becoming more aware of how you think about food and how often you think about it.
Find out more about this book:Skinny Thinking: Five Revolutionary Steps to Permanently Heal Your Relationship With Food, Weight, and Your Body
2 AnswersAcademy of Nutrition and Dietetics answeredA well-balanced diet can help children of any age optimize their brainpower or thinking skills in and out of the classroom.
- Start with the power of breakfast. Studies show eating breakfast improves attention and is associated with higher academic achievement. A good pick: whole-grain cereal, like oatmeal, topped with fruit and nuts.
- Eat brain foods throughout the day. It's important to keep energy and concentration up with regular meals and snacks. Avoid items that can cause a sugar rush followed by a crash. Good picks: proteins (turkey, tofu, beans and nuts), whole grains and whole fruits and vegetables.
3 AnswersAcademy of Nutrition and Dietetics answeredAs with many parts of your body, your brain is subject to inflammation and oxidation, both of which can compromise functioning and contribute to aging. Emerging research suggests a diet rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods can help keep your brain healthy.
Good food choices for brain health include fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Focusing on strongly flavored and darkly colored fruits and vegetables also enhances the health-promoting benefits. Add more dark green vegetables or orange fruits, along with vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and onions and garlic. Healthy fats like oils and nuts can also keep your brain healthy.
1 AnswerDawn Marcus, Neurology, answeredEating vegetables improves your mind. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago evaluated cognitive changes in 3718 adults 65 years old and older and followed for 6 years. They found that adults who typically ate more than 2 servings of a vegetable daily had a 40 percent reduction in the amount of mental deterioration over 6 years. This meant their minds looked like they were 5 years younger! All vegetables, except for legumes, slowed loss of intellectual functions. The greatest benefit, however, came from green leafy vegetables.
3 AnswersLynne Kenney, Psychology, answeredThere are all kinds of claims for the abilities of nutritional supplements to enhance cognition. For example, vitamin B6 has been found to enhance memory (but far from conclusively) and there are many other claims being made by marketers for vitamins E, B12, folate, neurosteroids and so on.
However, in reviewing the research the Academy of Medical Sciences points out that most of the studies are few, far between and small in scope.
Verdict: Unproven, but probably not dangerous as long as you’re not exceeding the recommended daily allowances. On the downside supplements can be costly.
2 AnswersDole Nutrition Institute answered
Fruits and vegetables provide a two-in-one weapon against brain decline. First, they help with weight control: Low in calories and rich in nutrients, they fill you up and fight deficiency-fueled cravings. Second: They provide antioxidants and other key compounds that help protect the brain.
Research confirms that seniors who eat more vegetables experience significantly less age-related cognitive decline. Researchers at Rush University collected dietary data from 3,718 adults, ages 65 and older, and administered memory tests over the course of six years. It turned out that those adults who ate more than four servings (that’s 2 cups) of vegetables daily had a 38 percent lower rate of mental deterioration than those who ate less than one serving (half a cup) of vegetables per day.
These findings constitute yet more evidence of the protective power of produce, following on the heels of Harvard research which found that middle-aged women who ate the most leafy greens, cruciferous veggies or a combination of both boosted their odds of maintaining mental sharpness in later years. Specifically, the women who ate eight or more servings of vegetables per week, like spinach and broccoli, scored higher on cognitive tests than those who consumed just three servings.
Blueberries might help you outsmart Alzheimer’s. In the first major study on the effect of fruits and vegetables in reversing neural cell damage, researchers at the Neuroscience Laboratory at Tufts University found that blueberry-supplemented animal subjects exhibited improved brain- and motor-function coordination.
Fresh apples—the peel in particular—have some of the highest levels of quercetin (which is also found in onions, broccoli, kale, blueberries, cranberries and red grapes). Some of the most exciting studies of this flavonol suggest it may help fight Alzheimer’s disease by protecting brain cells against oxidative stress. In an animal study at Cornell University, quercetin proved more powerful than the antioxidant vitamin C in neutralizing the kind of neural damage done by free radicals. “Fresh apples have some of the highest levels of quercetin … and may be among the best food choices for fighting Alzheimer’s,” says study author and professor of Food Science and Technology, C.Y. Lee.
Other elements of a brain-healthy diet include nuts, seeds, fatty fish and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids.
4 AnswersMehmet Oz, MD, Cardiology, answered
Antioxidants, monounsaturated fats and omega-3s are big health buzzwords that have one thing in common – they do great things for your body and nourish your brain. Giving your brain the nutrients it needs is essential to longevity. Keep this list of foods handy and make sure to refuel your brain often. It will thank you later.