Brain Boosters: Foods, Herbs and Exercises for Your Mind

Keep your mind functioning at its best with smart choices and brain-boosting exercises.

| July/August 2013

  • Getting enough sleep enables us to think creatively and produce new insights.
    Photo By Veer
  • Drinking coffee may counteract the age-related degenerative processes that lead to lower amounts of the brain hormone dopamine.
    Photo By Loupe
  • Gingko can increase oxygen and the availability of energy in brain cells.
    Photo By Shutterstock
  • Lycopene, which can be found in grapefruit, can boost memory.
    Photo By Shutterstock
  • Riding a bike for one to two hours weekly results in a noticeable improvement in long-term memory after six months.
    Photo By Veer
  • Studies have found spinach to be among the most effective foods at protecting brain cells against the effects of aging.
    Photo by Fotolia
  • Support your brain with the right foods, herbs, supplements and lifestyle choices to strengthen this organ's capacity to function properly.
    Photo By Corbis

The average brain weighs only 3 pounds but contains more than 100 billion neurons connected to each other by synapses. Synapses are comparable to telephone wires connecting communities, allowing them to communicate. Yet every phone line and wire in the world along with the trillions of messages communicated every day still do not compare to the complexity or the volume of activity processed by a single human brain.

Why Memory Declines Over Time

When we think of brain potential, we most often think of geniuses such as Albert Einstein or Beethoven. But a baby’s brain potential far exceeds any adult’s for its vast information-processing network. An infant’s brain has about 1,000 trillion connections between brain cells by the time she is 8 months old. By the time she is 10 years old, she will have only half that number, and our synapses continue to change as we age. 

When it comes to the brain, the adage “use it or lose it” is apt. The number of connections in the brain constantly changes in response to environmental feedback from sights, sounds, tastes, smells and physical touch. Some connections grow stronger through learning and experience while others weaken over time. When connections in the brain are not used or not used often, the brain eliminates them to focus on those that are used more frequently. That’s the equivalent of telephone wires and poles being dismantled because they haven’t been used in a while, and it’s what the brain does every second of every day. 

By supporting your brain with the right foods, herbs and supplements, you can strengthen this organ’s capacity to function properly and to keep the synapses intact. By boosting your memory and challenging your brain function through learning, lifestyle choices and memory exercises, you help keep the synapses in your brain connected and working well. Here are some of the best natural options to help you build a better brain.

Brain-Boosting Foods

■ Replace White Foods. Research at the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle found a link between refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and white rice, and Alzheimer’s disease. Replacing these foods with whole grains, beans and vegetables resulted in lower levels of brain inflammation and better problem-solving abilities.

■ Tea Up. In a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that people who drank two or more cups of tea daily were less likely to develop the brain disorder Parkinson’s disease. Black and green tea (especially green) contain potent antioxidants with 20 times the power to protect against free radicals, including those in the brain, than vitamin E. Green tea also lowers the risk of blood clots and clumping linked to stroke.

3/31/2018 12:41:06 AM

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