Monday, 30 August 2010 16:55

Making Your Mind Fit

Brain FoodHealth Tip of the Week

You have heard over and over that keeping your body healthy is beneficial to just about everything related to your physical being.  Well, here is another reason to keep your body healthy.  It keeps your mind sharp too!

As early as your 20s, you can begin to lose brain cells a few at a time. Your body also starts to make fewer of the chemicals your brain cells need to work. As you age, these small changes can begin to have significant affects on your memory by changing the way the brain stores information and by making it harder to remember stored information.  While you cannot stop the aging process, you can help your brain by exercising it and eating healthy.

To exercise your brain, you will have to actively learn, try and/or experience new things. When you learn something new, whether it is a piece of information, an activity, etc., your brain literally grows.  It forms new synaptic connections between your neurons. These connections are the “key” to intelligence, memory and information processing.  The more connections you have, the better!!

What are some foods that can help keep your mind healthy? Start with whole foods.  That means anything not processed.  It comes off a tree or in the ground.  Fruits and veggies are a great start!  The best brain foods are complex carbohydrates. Because the molecules in complex carbohydrates are long, it takes longer for the intestines to break them down into the simple sugars the body can use.  Because of this, they provide a source of steady energy rather than a surge followed by a plunge.*  Below is a list of “good” brain food and “bad” brain foods:

Good Brain Foods

Avocados, Bananas, Lean Beef, Brewer's yeast , Broccoli , Brown rice , Brussels sprouts, Cantaloupe, Cheese, Chicken, Collard greens, Eggs, Flaxseed oil, Legumes, Milk, Oatmeal, Oranges, Peanut butter, Peas, Potatoes, Romaine lettuce, Salmon, Soybeans, Spinach, Tuna, Turkey, Wheat germ, and Yogurt

Bad Brain Foods

Alcohol, Artificial food colorings, Artificial sweeteners, Colas, Corn syrup, Frostings, High-sugar "drinks,” Hydrogenated fats, Junk sugars, Nicotine, Overeating, White bread

Check out this interesting article on yahoo health.  It covers more of the best and worst brain foods.  It is fascinating how food can affect your brain!

What happens if you don’t keep your mind healthy? While this certainly not the inevitable, it is a serious possibility that many people face today.  What is it?  Alzheimer’s disease!  Alzheimer's is a progressive form of presenile dementia that is similar to senile dementia except that it usually starts in the 40s or 50s; first symptoms are impaired memory which is followed by impaired thought and speech and finally complete helplessness (wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn).

My Great-Grandmommy had Alzheimer's disease. Growing up, I saw her get worse and worse until she eventually lost all ability to remember anyone/anything around her.  On the other hand, my Grandmommy, her daughter, is still ticking away sharp as a tack at 72!!  The difference?  While it is not scenically proven (in my family, anyway), my Grandmommy is extremely active, walking and working out at the senior center 3-5 days a week.  She eats a balanced/mostly whole foods diet, and she constantly does things like crosswords, sodoku, reads, goes to museums, etc. 
While I am no scientist, I am convinced that keeping your mind sharp is as simple as moving and learning.  One may not completely eliminate the possibility of getting Alzheimer’s, but it won’t hurt to try!  Now go out and learn something!!

The key is to learn new things, not just revisit old ones.

*  Saltman, Paul, Joeal Gurin, and Ira Mothner.  The University of California San Diego Nutrition Book.  Boston:  Little, Brown and Company, 1993.

Published in Tip of the Week