Diet & Nervous System
1 AnswerBlueberries pack a mighty antioxidant wallop because they have the highest anthocyanidin content of all fruits, giving blueberries their dark color. These powerful antioxidant phytochemicals not only zap free radicals, but they also act like smart pills for your brain and have been shown to enhance memory, help rejuvenate brain cells and prevent dementia. Research shows that the blueberry ranks the highest of 60 fruits and vegetables in the ability to destroy free radicals. A half cup of blueberries has more than 70 milligrams (mg) of brain-boosting anthocyanidins, only 40 calories and just 10 grams (g) of total carbs.
1 AnswerFruits and vegetables are always a good option. Kids like being able to dip things, so try carrot sticks with a little bit of ranch dressing or hummus or apples slices with peanut butter. Nuts are really good if there’s no issue with nut allergies. Tuna on whole wheat bread is great snack, if you can get your kids to eat it, because it’s full protein. Small yogurt cups are a good option as well.
3 AnswersDr. Daniel G. Amen, MD , Psychiatry, answeredColorful fruits and vegetables are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals, beneficial digestive enzymes and free radical-scavenging antioxidants that support the health of your entire body, including your brain and nervous system. Several studies have found that eating foods rich in antioxidants can significantly reduce the risk of developing cognitive impairment. For instance, blueberries have earned the nickname “brain berries” among neuroscientists, due to their rich antioxidant content. In one lab study, rats that ate blueberries were better able to develop their motor skills and also gained protection against strokes. Have you ever wondered where antioxidants get their health promoting qualities? I’ll tell you! Antioxidants are part of a plant’s defense mechanism and are produced in abundance -- along with other natural chemical compounds -- when a plant must fight to stay alive under the sun, or it is when threatened by hungry insect invaders. These survival-induced compounds are responsible for the plant’s color and flavor, along with its antioxidant and nutrient density. When we eat these foods, we ingest their cell-protective, survival properties -- which happen to taste delicious!
As a side note: This is precisely why I suggest that you choose organic fruits and vegetables instead of conventional. Organic foods have not been sprayed with synthetic, brain-harming pesticides and have been allowed to fully engage their defense mechanisms while growing. This means that they have developed their full flavor profile and likely contain amplified levels of antioxidants, as compared to conventional fruits and vegetables that were sprayed with harmful chemicals and didn’t have to fight to stay alive. Have you ever noticed how much better an organic apple, tomato or strawberry tastes? The difference in flavor may surprise you!
Fruits and Vegetables with High Antioxidant Levels:
- Acai berries
- Brussels Sprouts
- Red bell peppers
- Red grapes
4 AnswersDr. Daniel G. Amen, MD , Psychiatry, answeredFood is medicine and can help you be trim, vibrant, happy and focused -- or it can make you plump, sluggish and sad. Navigate your way to the best brain foods with my 7 Rules for Brain Healthy Eating. These apply to everybody!
- Think high-quality calories in vs. high-quality energy out. Don’t let anyone tell you that calories don’t count. They do. But it is not as simple as calories in versus calories out. Focus on eating high-quality calories.
- Drink plenty of water and not too many of your calories. Your brain is 80 percent water. Anything that dehydrates it, such as too much caffeine or alcohol, decreases your thinking and impairs your judgment. Drink plenty of water every day.
- Eat high-quality lean protein earlier in the day. It helps balance your blood sugar, boosts concentration and provides the necessary building blocks for brain health. Did you know that spinach is nearly 50 percent protein? I use it instead of lettuce on my sandwiches for a huge nutrition boost.
- Eat low-glycemic, high-fiber carbohydrates. Eat carbohydrates that do not spike your blood sugar and are also high in fiber, such as those found in vegetables and fruits -- think blueberries, apples and whole grains. Carbohydrates are NOT the enemy. They are essential to your life. Bad carbohydrates are the enemy. These are carbohydrates that have been robbed of any nutritional value, such as simple sugars and refined carbohydrates. I like the old saying, “The whiter the bread, the faster you’re dead.”
- Focus your diet on healthy fats. Eliminate bad fats, such as ALL trans-fats and most animal fat. Focus your diet on healthy fats, especially those that contain omega-3 fatty acids in foods like salmon, avocados, walnuts and green leafy vegetables.
- Eat from the rainbow. Eat natural foods of many different colors, such as blueberries, pomegranates, yellow squash and red bell peppers. These boost the antioxidant levels in your body and help keep your brain young. Of course, this does not mean candy or jelly beans!
- Cook with brain-healthy herbs and spices to boost your brain. Turmeric (found in curry) contains a chemical that has been shown to decrease the plaques in the brain. Sage has very good scientific evidence that it helps boost memory. Cinnamon has been shown to support focus and attention. It has also been found to support healthy blood sugar levels, which improves brain function and decision-making.
3 AnswersDr. Mark Hyman, MD , Family Medicine, answeredFats are so powerful for brain function. Besides getting your metabolism straight, healthy fats really get your brain straight. Most people walk around feeling sluggish, and have brain fog and trouble focusing and concentrating. When you, add fats to your diet, your brain wakes up because your brain is made up of 60% fat. In fact, much of the brain is omega 3 fats. When you start to increase fat, your brain loves it. In fact, it runs better, in some ways.
We know that in certain brain diseases, like epilepsy, 70% fat (or ketogenic) diets help control seizures when nothing else works. We’re using these diets even in things like Alzheimer's disease and brain cancer to help the brain work better. This research is ongoing, even with schizophrenia, to see if it can help reset the brain. It’s fascinating research. I think we are going to learn more and more about the connection. But, fat is great for your brain.
1 AnswerAARP answeredUp to two glasses of red wine per day for women and up to three for men weekly delivers the powerful antioxidant resveratrol, which may prevent free radicals from damaging brain cells. But beware: Drinking more than that could drop levels of thiamine, a brain-boosting nutrient.
2 AnswersDr. David Perlmutter, MD , Neurology, answered
Believe it or not, the foods that are best for your brain health and immune system contain...fat! In this video, neurologist David Perlmutter, MD, discusses how pure, natural sources of fat and cholesterol are actually ideal for a healthy brain.
1 AnswerDr. Mehmet Oz, MD , Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease), answeredGenerally, what's harmful to your heart is also harmful to your brain. Make no mistake-no matter how many of those fried potato skins are busting your buttons, a portion gets shuttled up through your arteries to your brain.
Saturated fats, for example, clog arteries that lead to your brain, putting you at increased risk of a stroke. Omega-3 fatty acids-those fats found in fish-however, are helpful for your brain because they help keep your arteries clear. They also reduce depression.
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.
1 AnswerDr. Maoshing Ni, PhD, LAc , Geriatric Medicine, 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!