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Superfoods for the Brain

Your brain performs more tasks than all of your other organs put together. To do this it requires vast amounts of energy and nutrients making it the greediest organ in the body. It is important that the right foods are eaten so that your brain can perform at its optimal level. As you age in years, both your body and your brain grow old as well. Preventative action now can help preserve your mind for longer and improve brain and memory support. Here are some of the super brain foods for keeping your brain in tip-top shape:

Blueberries:

Blueberries are the number one super-food. They are delicious as well as nutrient rich. They contain powerful antioxidants (anthocyanidins) which have been shown to shield the brain from stress, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease. Studies have suggested that diets rich in blueberries significantly improve both the learning capacity and motor skills of aging rats, putting them on par with rats much younger.

Avocados:

Avocados have received bad press as they have more calories in the form of fat than other fruit and vegetables. However, they are a great source of mono-unsaturated fat, or good fat. Mono-unsaturated fat contributes to healthy blood flow and decreased blood pressure, lessening the chances of developing hypertension, which can lead to a stroke. If you can increase healthy fats, found in avocados, and reduce saturated fats (found in red meats and processed foods) you are far less at risk of developing heart disease.

Oily Fish:

Omega-3 is another good fat brought to fame in recent years. It is essential for a healthy and functional brain. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, as well as certain vegetable oils such as safflower and flaxseed oil. Try and aim for at least three meals a week containing oily fish. This way you will reduce the amount of bad fat (saturated fat) from red meat, as well as increase the amount of omega-3 fat such as that found in fish. If you are not a fish fan, then you can supplement your diet with flaxseed oil to prevent depression or other mood disorders, as well as improving heart and mind health.

Flaxseed:

Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil (also known as linseed) also provide omega-3 essential fatty acids. Flaxseed is the seed of the flax plant which is believed to have originated in Egypt. The healthy oil in flaxseed is claimed to: · reduce the risk of cancer, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, assist in the growth of healthy hair and nails, promote healthy skin and improve bowel function.

Nuts and seeds:

Nuts and seeds are a good source of vitamin E, an important vitamin needed by your brain to stave off declining brain functions. Cashews, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower, sesame seeds and almonds are all great choices.

Whole grain:

Whole-grain breads, brown rice, and oatmeal also contribute to a healthy brain by reducing the risk of cardiac disease. By promoting a healthy heart and improved blood flow, the brain is sure to thrive via excellent oxygen and nutrient delivery through the bloodstream.

Iron-rich foods:

Iron carries oxygen to your brain cells and is used to build brain neurotransmitters (which carry messages throughout your brain). So it may not seem surprising that iron deficiency causes a poor attention span and affects learning abilities. Researchers who studied teenage girls (who are renowned for dieting and therefore often have low iron intakes) found that those with a low level of iron in their diet also had a reduced brain-function. Furthermore they found that a very small drop in iron levels also caused a fall in IQ score. The best source of iron is red meat but it can also be found in baked beans, spinach, chick peas, broccoli and brown rice. You can improve your body's absorption rate of iron if you consume vitamin C with an iron rich food. For example drinking a glass of orange juice with a meal containing spinach will help your body absorb more iron from the spinach.

Menu Suggestions

Breakfast:

Make your own muesli with bran, oats, flaxseeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, goji berries, raisins and sunflower seeds.

Lunch:

If you are a meat eater try turkey (this is a good source of tryptophan which helps your brain make serotonin, the mood enhancing chemical) salad and boiled potatoes. If you are not a meat eater, add almonds instead.

Dinner:

Grilled salmon with lemon and dill, with a mixed bean salad and herbs.

We have talked about foods that you should consume to improve your brain function but which foods should you avoid?

Fizzy Drinks:

A study published in 2003 found that children who drank fizzy drinks and had sugary snacks for breakfast performed at the average level of 70 year olds in tests focused on memory and attention.

Processed foods:

Avoid junk and processed foods, many of which contain trans-fats (the worst fats possible). A study published in the Archives of Neurology in February 2003 showed that the intake of both trans-fats and saturated fats increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The study looked at 815 community residents aged 65 years and older who consumed a diet high in trans-fats. At the beginning of the study none of the participants were affected by Alzheimer's disease. A follow up almost four years later found that 131 residents had developed the disease. The study concluded that a diet high in saturated and hydrogenated fats may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

For a healthy brain it is important to increase certain healthy foods in your diet and avoid or at least limit certain unhealthy foods too. Take proactive action now in order to have a healthier brain now and in the future.