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Brain Food

17. March 2011

“Getting older is not for sissies.” I can’t take credit for the popular cliché, but I know it to be true. I’ve got the aches and pains to prove it! Last week I pulled a muscle reaching for the phone. I’m dead serious! I work hard to stay fit, but my 55-plus body is beginning to feel its age.

While turning back time may not be an option for our bodies, here’s some encouraging news. Research shows you can increase your chances of maintaining a healthy BRAIN well into old age… especially if you add just a few “smart” foods to your daily eating regimen.

Give these foods a try and see if that Sunday crossword puzzle becomes a little less intimidating!

BLUEBERRIES. San Diego’s Dr. Steven Pratt, MD… author of “Superfoods Rx” calls them “brainberries!” Studies show blueberries help protect the brain from oxidative stress and may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Other studies have shown that diets rich in blueberries may improve both learning capacity and motor skills. Experts advise adding 1 cup of blueberries a day in any form… fresh, frozen or freeze-dried.

WILD SALMON. Deep-water fish, such as salmon, are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids… which are essential for brain function. Most experts recommend wild salmon for its “cleanliness” and the fact it’s in plentiful supply. Omenga-3’s also contain anti-inflammatory properties. Other oily fish that provide the benefits of omega-3’s are sardines and herring. Try for a 4-oz serving two to three times a week.

*Note: When I have a major project or presentation, I swear a serving of salmon helps me “lock and load” for better concentration and performance.

NUTS AND SEEDS. Nuts and seed are good sources of vitamin E. Higher levels of E correspond with less cognitive decline as we age. Include an ounce a day of walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, filberts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and/or non-hydrogenated nut butters such as peanut butter, almond butter and tahini. Raw or roasted? Doesn’t matter, unless you’re on a sodium-restricted diet. Then go for the raw.

AVOCADOS. Avocados are almost as good as blueberries in promoting brain health, according to Dr. Pratt. And even though it’s a fatty fruit, it’s a monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy blood flow. And healthy blood flow means a healthy brain. Avocados also lower blood pressure. Since hypertension is a risk factor for decline in cognitive abilities… lower blood pressure should promote brain health. (Avocados are high in calories, so add just ¼ to ½ of an avocado to one daily meal as a side dish.

WHOLE GRAINS. Whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole grain breads and brown rice can reduce the risk for heart disease. (Remember, every part of the body, including the brain, is dependant on blood flow.) So if you promote cardiovascular health, you’re promoting good flow to the organ system, which includes the brain.
While wheat germ is not technically a whole grain, it’s also included as a “super food” for brain health because it’s loaded with Vitamin E and some omega-3’s. So make sure you add ½ cup of whole grain cereal, 1 slice of bread two-3 times a day or 2 tablespoons of wheat germ a day.

So there you have it! Want a better brain? Feed it well and you’ll be the one winning at “Jeopardy” in your house!

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@palomarhealth.org.