Did you know your brain uses more nutrients than any other organ in your body? True! It is also uses up quite a bit of the energy the body produces. Only the heart uses more than the brain. To keep your brain functioning well for you it needs to have the right brain food to get the nutrients it needs. What counts as brain food then? Specifically the brain needs particular essential fatty acids, glucose, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants to stay healthy and performing at its peak.
Brain Food: Essential Fatty Acids
Even though we don’t usually think of fat on our bodies as being healthy, when it comes to the brain, fat is a good thing. In fact about 60% of our brains are comprised of fat and we need particular healthy fats to keep the brain working good. One of these healthy fats is omega-3 fatty acids and the varieties EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid) are two of the most essential to the brain. Dr. Stephane Cunnane and Dr. Kathy Stewart (2010) tell us that looking at the food chain we’ll find omega-3’s most often start with microalgae. That’s one of the reasons fish is known as a really good brain food. Fish eat algae. You can do like the fish do and take a high quality algae supplement especially this one that has the cell wall removed to allow nutrients to cross the blood brain barrier more effectively. AFA bluegreen algae also has the added benefit of providing the perfect ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. You can also get more omega-3’s in your diet by eating fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel and by eating nuts and seeds. Omega-3 effects have been researched in various studies and shown to be able to decrease risk of dementia, boost memory functioning, and repair damage to brain cells.
Brain Food: Sugars
The brain uses sugar for fuel and the type of sugar it needs is glucose. The body makes glucose from the carbohydrates you eat. Complex carbohydrates are healthier for you than simple carbs and can also help in reducing cholesterol levels and plaque that can build up and restrict blood flow to the brain. Good sources for adding complex carbs to your diet are whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice and quinoa, and foods like potatoes, beans, peas, lentils and even dark chocolate. AFA bluegreen algae is another good source for glucose. Keep in mind too that glucose needs to be paired with an appropriate protein to be able to pass through the blood brain barrier so eating lean protein along with your carbs is good to add to your meals.
Brain Food: Amino Acids
Besides being needed to pair with glucose to feed the brain, protein is needed to feed the brain for proper functioning. Proteins can’t pass through the blood brain barrier though until they are broken down into amino acids. This is another reason fish is such a good brain food. Not only does it have the fat we need for the brain, but it is a good protein source. Once again though you can get this nutrition the same way the fish do, from algae. AFA bluegreen algae we already know has the glucose and essential fatty acids to feed the brain, but it also has all 20 amino acids our bodies and brains need to build healthy nerve cells and neurotransmitters including the amino acid phenylalanine that is able to cross the blood brain barrier faster than any of the other amino acids. Other good food sources for protein that can be broken down into amino acids include white meat poultry, seafood and other lean cuts of meats, sea vegetables, spirulina, brewers yeast, some types of vegetables such as cabbage, beets, beans, and spinach, soy, dairy, and whole grains.
Brain Food: Antioxidants
Antioxidants are used by the body to fight off damage from free radicals and repair cells that have been damaged by oxidative stress. The brain is one area of the body that is particularly susceptible to this type of damage. This could be due to the large amounts of unsaturated fatty acids it has or the large amount of oxygen it uses or because of the activity from the mitochondria causes more free radicals to form. Some experts contribute the brain’s susceptibility to being due to large amounts of metals such as iron, zinc and copper that are found there. Whatever the cause, antioxidants in the diet can help combat this type of damage to the brain. Antioxidants are found in foods such as bright colored vegetables and fruits, green tea, dark chocolate, and berries. For proof of the powerful effects antioxidants can have look to a study done in 2010 reporting results in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that found drinking blueberry juice for two months improved participants’ scores on learning and memory tests or animal studies that have reported a decrease in age related cognitive decline from eating blueberries. And according to Natalie Stephens, clinical dietician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, dark chocolate has been found to help the body produce more serotonin and endorphins which helps with concentration. Before you go gorging on chocolate though remember that it also comes with extra calories so limit yourself to a small square a day. Green tea is another good choice for getting more antioxidants into your diet and it comes with the plus of having the amino acid theanine which according to nutritionist JJ Virgin has been found to boost focus and mental alertness.
Other Foods for a Brain Boost
Besides the foods in the categories we’ve already discussed, there are other foods that experts have found to be particularly good as brain food for improving memory, focus and cognitive functioning. Beets have nitrates that can help with getting blood and oxygen to the brain. Bananas contribute potassium as a brain food and spinach contributes lutein, folate, and beta-carotene which dietitian Tara Gidus says have been reported to lower the risk of dementia. Eggs are another good brain food if you include the yolk as they have DHA omega-3 to help memory and mood and choline that according to health coach Lori Shemek is good for keeping brain cell membranes healthy. Ginkgo biloba and ginseng have long been used by some cultures to improve cognitive functions and more modern research has found them to help with improving brain function. Bee pollen is high in amino acids that have been found to stimulate memory and concentration and wheatgrass juice has been reported to help you think more clearly and has nutrition good for feeding the brain. The good news is you can get Ginkgo biloba, bee pollen, and wheatgrass juice all together along with eleuthero, Lion’s Mane mushroom and noni as well as the whole food nutrition of AFA bluegreen algae in this algae supplement created for those with a demanding, high-stakes lifestyle, where heightened focus and mental clarity is critical.
You eat healthy to keep your body in good shape and functioning well for you as you age, but don’t forget your brain in that plan. You want your brain to function as well as your body now and for the future. Just by being aware of the extra nutritional demands the brain has will help you feed your brain what it needs to stay sharp no matter what age you are.
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Bruno, PhD, Jeffrey, Eat Light & Feel Bright