Our brains are truly miraculous. They’re constantly changing and regulating billions of bodily functions simultaneously every second of every day. Our brains govern our thoughts, emotions, movements and more. More than 100 studies show that environmental, nutritional and lifestyle factors play a significant role in initiating or accelerating brain disease. Check out these tips for eating and living to naturally enhance what is arguably the most important part of our bodies.
Many food and lifestyle choices can help give our brains a push in the right direction. Try these eight effective methods. Test your memory using one of the many online memory assessment tools (Lumosity has some excellent ones) prior to making the following lifestyle changes, then test it again after four weeks. For the complete four-week program, consult Boost Your Brain Power in 60 Seconds.
1. EAT MORE BRAIN-FRIENDLY SUPERFOODS. Foods such as pomegranates, cherries, blueberries, grapes, green tea, fresh ginger and legumes have brain-healing effects. Include these in your diet to reduce inflammation and brain-damaging free radicals.
2. CONSIDER THE CURRY FACTOR. Curcumin, found in the spice turmeric, provides potent protection against brain diseases. Research at the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that curcumin, the pigment that gives turmeric its signature yellow color, is a potent weapon against inflammation and plaque buildup in the brain.
3. GO NUTS TO BOOST YOUR MEMORY. Walnuts are nutritional powerhouses packed with protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which are critical to a healthy brain. Omega-3s in particular protect against brain-damaging inflammation.
4. STRETCH AND CYCLE FOR A SUPERB MEMORY. Stretching for at least one hour, two times weekly, resulted in a significant boost of short-term memory, according to researchers at the University of Hamburg in Germany. This same study also found that cycling for one hour, twice weekly, resulted in a significant boost of long-term memory, even when exercise started later in life (study participants were between the ages of 40 and 56).
5. SUPPLEMENT WITH VITAMIN E. The New England Journal of Medicine reported that vitamin E is more effective in the treatment of Alzheimer’s than any pharmaceutical drug on the market. Additional research in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that insufficient dietary intake of antioxidants, including vitamin E, may increase a person’s risk of cognitive decline, showing that vitamin E is helpful for both brain disease prevention and treatment.
6. SLEEP YOUR WAY TO A SUPER BRAIN. Getting at least eight hours of sleep on a regular basis helps us think more creatively and helps our brains better organize memories for later recall, according to research from the University of Notre Dame and Boston College.
7. TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED. The simple act of trying new things—even just taking a different route home from work—strengthens connections between brain cells and builds new connections in our brains. Cook something new for dinner, make the effort to talk with new people, or enroll in a class teaching you a new skill.
8. EMBRACE THE BENEFITS OF OHM. Several studies show that meditation improves brain health, blood flow to the brain, and even electrical function in the brain. Meditation can be as simple as taking time out of your day to allow thoughts, stresses and worries to pass. Headspace is a program that offers free guided meditations, along with longer subscription membership services.
Studies show inflammation is linked with serious brain disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Our brains are 60 percent fat and they need plenty of high-quality dietary fat to create healthy brain cells. Yet the standard American diet contains excessive inflammatory fats, such as trans fats found in many packaged baked goods and margarine, as well as omega-6 fatty acids commonly found in mayonnaise and vegetable oils. In small amounts, omega-6s are healthy, but most of us eat too many of them while consuming insufficient anti-inflammatory omega-3s, found in foods such as flax seeds and flax seed oil; chia seeds; walnuts and walnut oil; spinach and kale; and fatty fish such as wild salmon, mackerel and anchovies.
Cutting back on red meat and dairy products may also help reduce inflammation in the brain. People who consumed the highest amount of saturated fat from these types of foods had three times the risk of Alzheimer’s, according to the Chicago Health and Aging Project.
This article is adapted from Boost Your Brain Power in 60 Seconds by Michelle Schoffro Cook. Through Cook’s four-week brain challenge, readers will discover simple ways to help prevent disease and sharpen memory. Learn more at her website and order your copy today.