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Brain Health

  • By The Practical Physician

Brain Health

What is Brain Health?

The human brain is the most metabolically active tissue in the body. As such, proper functioning requires not only a constant, steady stream of oxygen, but also nutrition. A considerable amount of scientific research is now documenting the tremendous role diet and nutritional supplementation play in healthy brain functioning.

In particular, research is showing immediate effects of nutritional approaches in improving brain function. Whether it is in children or older adults, the basic principles of improving brain health involves supplying key nutritional building blocks for brain cells and those that offer protection against brain cell damage.

What causes Brain Health?

In both children and the elderly, nutritional factors appear to be the key determinants of brain health. Numerous studies in both children and adults have shown that mental function is directly related to nutritional status. Higher nutritional status equals higher mental function. A deficiency of virtually any nutrient can lead to altered brain function.

Brain health is also influenced by other factors including increased oxidative damage and inflammation; traumatic injury to the head; and exposure to toxins from environmental sources, such as heavy metals and solvents have all been implicated as causative factors leading to poor brain health

What dietary factors are important in Brain Health?

The brain utilizes about 40% of the nutrition that we consume on a daily basis. So, we actually eat more to preserve and promote brain function than any other organ. In that regard, it is critical to eat a health promoting diet rich in key nutrients for the brain. Here are some key dietary recommendations:

• Your brain is largely composed of fats, so it is important to increase the intake of good fats. Increase the intake of omega-3 oils by eating flaxseed oil, walnuts, and cold-water fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, etc.). Also increase the intake of monounsaturated fats by eating more nuts and seeds, including almonds, Brazil nuts, coconut, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, sesame and sunflower seeds, and using a monounsaturated oil, such as olive, avocado, or canola oil for cooking purposes.

• Eat five or more servings daily of a combination of vegetables and fruits, especially green, orange, and yellow vegetables; dark colored berries; and citrus fruits. Antioxidant compounds in these plant foods, such as carotenes, flavonoids, selenium, vitamin E, and vitamin C, are important in protecting against the development of atherosclerosis.

• Limit the intake of refined carbohydrates (sugar and refined grains). Sugar and other refined carbohydrates are a significant factor in the development of atherosclerosis, inflammation, and insulin resistance.

• Eliminate smoked or cured meats such as hot dogs, salami, bacon, etc. These foods are very bad for the brain.

• Avoid food additives such as artificial food preservatives, flavoring agents, and colors.

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