HEALTHY BRAIN FOODS AND ACTIVITIES
photo source: flickr.com/photos/usdagov
In our day to day life we use our brains an awful lot, sometimes without even knowing it. When we work on the computer, drive, analyze problems, figure our day to day needs, talk, emotional stress–these most definitely effect the brain– and countless other activities. There are foods that nourish the brain, and these are also healthy for the whole body.
One of the prime foods that nourish the brain are the healthy fats, particularly the omega three fatty acids. Largely found in fish like cod or salmon, or fish oil supplements, these valuable nutrients can also be found in nuts and seeds; for example, almonds, flax seed and walnuts. They are also found, even if in less numbers, in the very nutritious vegetables like kale, spinach, cabbage and cauliflower.
There are also foods to avoid, those that impede the brain and its millions of neurons or brain cells. It is said that we have over one trillion brain cells. The brain, of course, has a blood supply which carries nutrients to the cells and removes waste products from mental work. One would not want excess free radicals, toxins, and poor quality fats to permeate our brain tissue.
Poor quality fats clog up the system, and can undo the benefit of the healthy fats. These are like motor oil—often call saturated or hydrogenated fats and found in fried foods, fatty meats, and processed meat like hot dogs. Many processed baked goods from the chain stores contain excess saturated fats. Some of our delicious but sinful treats like pizza, cheeses, ice cream, sweets and cakes are loaded with fats. Stay away from high fat breakfasts: cream cheese, peanut butter, butter, milk or cream and large amounts of sweeteners; instead, eat fruit, oatmeal, whole grain cereals, lean protein, multigrain bread, even a few vegetables. Excess sugar turns to fat in the body. We really have no need to consume any sugar as sugar can be harmful and has no nutrients. We are becoming a nation of diabetics because of our excesses in diet and the lack of exercise and the over abundance of sweets. It is said that soon one our of three Americans will so be diabetic. Diabetes, also called the sugar disease, can be a serious problem, and left unchecked makes a serious impact on the quality of life.
For the brain it is important to eat a well rounded diet of whole grains, vegetables, fruit and lean meats. and fish. Consume small amounts of dairy, and for those sensitive to dairy or wheat consume none. Good quality eggs are nutritious, but not every day. The brightly colored vegetables/fruits are high in valuable antioxidants that clean the blood, and these should be consumed every day.
Exercise moves the blood and is good for the heart, and activates the microcirculation in the brain. Excess emotional stress like anger and frustration release toxins into the blood and upset the harmony of the brain/body. Specific exercises for the brain are excellent: reading, puzzles, projects and learning new things. It is said that elderly people who learn or speak another language will be less prone to cognition problems.
Herbal medicines like gotu kola, ginseng and ginkgo biloba are gentle tonics for the brain during times of fatigue or high intensity brain work. Aromatherapy is also good for the thinking: lavender, sandlewood and quite a few others. I purchase one or two bottles of my favorite essential oil and periodically breath the fumes for less than a minute. This technique can be enhanced by boiling some water and placing a few drops in a cup of hot water and breathing the fumes. The aroma of healing plants goes right to the brain. Coffee–which is after all an herbal remedy– is also a brain tonic, but as well as know too much coffee requires a payback. Stimulants overwork the body and brain, and there are those people who cannot tolerate caffeine at all. Caffeine works by stimulating adrenaline and other hormones to release into the blood, and for some excess causes fatigue and mood swings.
We must also give our brain holidays from time to time especially if we are doing intensive intellectual work and working on the computer. Take a break every two hours, Meditation is especially valuable, and has been proven to benefit areas of the brain where complex thinking is most intensive. But resting and rejuvenating are also important, as well as walking, work-outs and specific exercises.
We only have one brain in the course of a life; there are no replacements! And, strangely enough, brain cells when they die they die–they do not replace or rejuvenate like other cells in the body.
Somebody writes in: Should I take special vitamins for the brain? Generally speaking, we can get all the necessary brain food from a good healthy diet.