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Our thoughts, language, memory, movements, and so much of what we do every day, is possible because of our brains. The brain is one of the most important organs in our body and requires much care throughout our lives. Getting appropriate nutrients such as omega-3 fats, eating nutritious foods and engaging in physical activity, are important steps in naturally supporting overall health.
Approximately 60% of your brain matter is composed of fats. In fact, DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, is essential for brain health at every stage of life. DHA is important for fetal brain development, optimal development of motor skills and visual acuity in infants, as well as cognitive support later in life. Ensure enough intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids to maintain healthy brain function.
Your body must get the omega-3s it needs from diet, but unfortunately 70% of the population does not receive sufficient amounts. One study found that a diet lacking in omega-3 fatty acids, may cause brains to age faster, and lose some of its memory and thinking abilities (Tan et al., 2012). Consumption of cold-water fish such as salmon, anchovies and sardines, and/or the use of a high-quality omega-3 supplement can help you get the omega-3 fats you need to support cognitive health and brain function.
Foods that Support Brain Health
Did you know that your gut health can impact your brain function? Research has indicated that gut bacteria communicates with the central nervous system, and may influence brain function (Cryan and Dinan, 2012). Support your digestive system, and brain, by consuming more fermented foods which support gut bacteria such as miso, yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut.
The following brain supporting foods can be enjoyed by both children and adults!
- Blueberries provide antioxidants such as flavonoids that protect the brain from oxidative damage that can lead to premature aging, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia (Krikorian et al, 2010).
- Walnuts provide a rich source of polyunsaturated fatty acids and polyphenols, among other compounds, known to support cognitive function (Poulose et al., 2014).
- Coconut Oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) which get converted to ketones in the liver and then are released to the brain to be used as fuel. Ketone bodies are an important alternative energy source for the brain, and may be beneficial to people with memory impairment, as in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) (Fernando et al., 2015).
Don’t Forget to be Active and Rest!
There are numerous benefits of physical activity for brain health including greater blood flow to your brain, protecting nerve cells, and improve learning (Borreli, 2015). Sleeping less than 7-8 hours each night has been linked to cognitive decline and memory loss (Banks and Dinges, 2007). Sleep plays a key role in daily repair of the brain (and the rest of your body!), helping you to enhance memories and learn new skills.
Finally, activities such as reading, writing, crosswords, puzzles and memory games, are great ways to keep your brain working, and can be appreciated by people of all ages!
- Banks S, & Dinges D F. (2007). Behavioral and Physiological Consequences of Sleep Restriction. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine: JCSM : Official Publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 3(5), 519–528.
- Borreli, L. (2015, May 7). Regular Exercise Boosts Brain Function, Reducing Stress, Improving Memory, And More. Retrived from http://www.medicaldaily.com/pulse/regular-exercise-boosts-brain-function-reducing-stress-improving-memory-and-more-332338
- Cryan JF, Dinan TG. (2012). Mind-altering microorganisms: the impact of the gut microbiota on brain and behaviour. Nat Rev Neurosci, 13(10):701-12.
- Fernando WM, Martins IJ, Goozee KG, Brennan CS, Jayasena V, Martins RN. (2015). The role of dietary coconut for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: potential mechanisms of action. Br J Nutr, 114(1):1-14.
- Krikorian R, Shidler MD, Nash TA, Kalt W, Vinqvist-Tymchuk MR, Shukitt-Hale B, Joseph JA. (2010). Blueberry Supplementation Improves Memory in Older Adults. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 58(7), 3996–4000.
- Poulose SM, Miller MG, Shukitt-Hale B. (2014). Role of walnuts in maintaining brain health with age. J Nutr, 144(4 Suppl):561S-566S.