The human brain uses 20% of the body’s calories and is made up of 85% water and 60% fat requiring specific nutrients for proper development and maintenance of cognitive health. Scientific evidence is increasing demonstrating the relationship between the amount and type of foods we eat and how it impacts our mental health.
Studies indicate the brain begins showing signs of cognitive decline as early as age 20 and three out of five Americans will develop a brain disease in their lifetime. Statistics report by 2030, the total cost of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and stroke are expected to exceed $1 Trillion. Brain health is a delicate subject for me in that my father became part of the stroke statistics 8 years ago. I realize more than ever; nutrition affects the overall development and health of the brain’s structure and function.
Among the countless of studies emerging on brain health, I am fascinated with the research on both the “Brain-Gut Axis” and “Diet.” A recent study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society indicates the Mediterranean- style of eating stressing (fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts, lentils, unsaturated oils olive oil, and plant sources proteins) will prevent the decline of brain health. The Mediterranean-style provides the following nutritional benefits for the brain:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids provides building material to the brain by supporting intercellular signaling events, also positively influence synaptic functions. Sources: Oily fish- salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, sardines. Please read You Me and My Omega-3s (September 13, 2018).
- Flavonoids: studies indicate these nutrients enhance cognitive function by encouraging neuron and blood vessel growth in parts of the brain involving memory and learning. Flavonoids also stimulate blood flow in the brain. Sources: Cacao / (dark chocolate 70%), green tea, citrus fruits, red wine.
- Antioxidants: Polyphenol Study shows that antioxidants improve communication between brain cells, reduce inflammation within the body, increase plasticity (helps brain cells form new connections which enhance learning and memory. Also, antioxidants reduce or delay age-related neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline. Sources: Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries berries, and blackcurrants.
- Glucosinolates: Compounds found in pungent plants like mustard, horseradish, and “cruciferous vegetables.” These compounds are activated by the process of chewing or cutting. Glucosinolates may slow the breakdown of neurotransmitters of which are necessary for the proper functioning of the central nervous system. Sources: Broccoli, kale, greens, spinach, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and cabbage, and rapeseed.
- Choline: A compound found in Egg yolks. Choline acts as a precursor for a specific neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine, which plays an essential role in our learning and memory process.
- Coffee: A known anti-inflammatory that prevents the brain from developing mild cognitive impairment. Cognitive impairment is a precursor to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Following the Mediterranean-Style diet is evidence- base to be conducive to brain health. However, data also shows choosing to follow the Western diet consisting of overly processed foods, high saturated fat, red meat, pastries, sweets, and fried/fast foods will lead to an advance decline of our brain’s health.
Strive to be selective and mindful of the types and amounts of food you consume. Each day your brain and other organs are dependent upon you to ingest the appropriate nutrients required for proper growth and development which will ultimately bring about optimal health and well-being.
Just my “Food for Thought.”