Feb 222011

heart healthy eatingAccording to Wikipedia, Food for Thought refers to: “Anything that provides mental stimulus for thinking”; but did you realize that diet plays an extremely huge role in the health of your brain? It’s true. The human brain is remarkably responsive to the food we eat, and as a result our meals have an enormous influence over our health and brain functions. Missing nutrients, environmental toxins, day-to-day stress, overwork, stimulants and junk food affect our state of health and functioning of our brains. Foods that are bad for the health of your brain are also terrible for your body and they can manifest other health-related problems including obesity, Type-2 diabetes, and heart disease. The path to a better brain is loaded with Omega-3 fats, antioxidants, and fiber.

Some interesting facts about food vs. body vs. brain

Did you know that foods that clog arteries will naturally also reduce blood flow to the brain? A substance that is absolutely terrible for your brain is hydrogenated fats. In general, most hydrogenated fats cause the body to suffer initially by causing your arteries to clog and your heart to weaken. Though the effects aren’t usually noticeable right away, in the long term, these fats have high potential to cause heart disease.

Foods with high glycemic indexes can also cause wild blood-sugar swings that can make both your body and brain weaker and less powerful. Once you eat the unhealthy foods that cause your blood sugar levels to rapidly rise, you hop on an unexpected rollercoaster filled with sugar lows and sugar highs, often referred to as the “crash and burn”. You can shift from feeling happy and energetic on your “glucose high”, to feeling sleepy, irritable, unfocused (A.D.D.), or agitated.

Give your brain a kick start and try eating these foods on a regular basis for results you will notice:

1. Avocado. Start each day with a mix of high-quality protein and beneficial fats to build the foundation for an energized day. Avocado with scrambled eggs provides both, and the monounsaturated fat helps blood circulate better, which is essential for optimal brain function.

2. Blueberries. These delicious berries are one of the best foods for you period, but they’re very good for your brain as well. Since they’re high in fiber and low on the glycemic index, they are safe for diabetics and they do not spike blood sugar. Blueberries are possibly the best brain food on earth: they have been linked to reduced risk for Alzheimer’s, shown to improve learning ability and motor skills in rats, and they are one of the most powerful anti-stress foods you can eat.

3. Nuts. Nuts contain protein, high amounts of fiber, and they are rich in beneficial fats. For getting an immediate energy boost that won’t turn into a spike later, you can’t do better than nuts. The complex carbs will perk you up while the fat and protein will sustain you. Nuts also contain plenty of vitamin E, which is essential to cognitive function.

4. Brown Rice. Brown rice is a low-glycemic complex carbohydrate that is excellent for people sensitive to gluten who still want to maintain cardiovascular health. The better your circulation, the sharper your brain.

5. Tea. You have to brew tea fresh or you won’t get the benefits of all those catechins (antioxidants) that boost your brain. Because tea has caffeine, don’t have more than 2-3 cups daily. Green and black teas are your best bet.

6. Chocolate. Things are looking increasingly better for chocolate! It’s got brain-boosting compounds, it’s loaded with antioxidants, and it has just the right amount of caffeine. Chocolate sends your serotonin through the roof, so you’ll feel happy in short order. Dark chocolate is also rich in fiber. (Remember, fiber = healthy cardiovascular system = healthy brain.)

7. Oysters. Oysters are rich in selenium, magnesium, protein and several other nutrients vital to brain health. In one study, researchers found that men who ate oysters reported significantly improved cognition and mood! Not all shellfish are good for you, but oysters are a sure bet.

8. Olive Oil. Though we know the brain does need a small, steady supply of glucose, don’t overlook fat. Studies have consistently shown that a low-fat diet is not the health boon we hoped it would be (remember the 90s low-fat craze?). In fact, avoiding fat can increase foggy thinking, mood swings, and insomnia. A diet rich in healthy fats is essential to clear thinking, good memory, and a balanced mood. Your brain is made of fat, after all.

Other super stars include: Wild Salmon, Tuna, Garlic, Green Leafy vegetables, and tomatoes.

Next time you hear someone say it’s “food for thought”, think of it as intellectual nourishment!

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