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Have you ever stopped to consider the organ that is responsible for all of your bodily function? It is commonplace for our minds to consider our heart, lungs and skin when asked about our health conscious lifestyle decisions. However, your brain health is directly tied to every aspect of your body and can have a drastic impact on your overall life experience.

The brain is responsible for all actions, feelings, emotions, memories… all of the differentiators that make humans unique. With this blog you will obtain a surface level understanding for three of the major factors that impact your brain’s health and the actions to optimize them. Positive brain health will lead to: 

Risk of Cognitive Disease
Mental Health
Cognitive Function
Day-to-Day Life

Diet for Brain Health

Your diet has a direct impact on brain health. Let’s examine the MIND Diet (a diet specifically formulated for brain health) and foods that harm cognitive health. This is not to be treated as an end-all-be-all of diet information as implementing a successful diet is dependent on the individual.

1. The MIND Diet

The MIND Diet is specifically formulated with brain health in mind. The basic structure consists of the following:

  • Daily Intake: 3 servings of whole grains, 1 ounce of nuts, 5 ounces of red wine, 1 serving of vegetables, 1 salad.
  • Weekly Intake: 2 servings of berries, 4 servings of beans/legumes, 2 servings of poultry, 1 serving of fish.

This structure is specifically designed to ensure you get as many of the brain superfoods as you can in your diet. For more information on the specific benefits of these foods, view the Nutrition section below.

2. Foods to Avoid

Poor diet decisions can have an adverse impact on your brain’s health. The following is not a comprehensive list of foods to avoid; however, it is a good starting point for making healthier decisions.

  • Sugary Drinks: Pop, Juice, Energy Drinks, etc.
  • Processed Foods: Fast Food, Chips, Candy
  • Aspartame: Sugar-Free Snacks, Sugar-Free Beverages
  • High-Mercury Fish: Tuna, Swordfish
  • Refined Carbs: White Flour, White Bread

Exercise for Brain Health

A diverse regimen of physical, mental, and social exercise will have a direct and positive impact on your brain (even though many may not associate the two). Let’s take a closer look at these three variations of exercise.

1. Physical Exercise

Set a goal for a minimum of 20 minutes of aerobic exercise a day with moderate intensity. Aerobic exercise includes actions such as walking, running, swimming, and biking. Benefits include:

  • Improved cardiovascular health and blood flow to the brain.
  • Improved integrity of white matter.
  • Lowered stress levels for mental health benefits.

2. Mental Exercise

Push yourself to adopt new skills and hobbies that are mentally stimulating. For example, learning a new language, puzzle-solving, woodworking, or learning a new instrument. Benefits include:

  • Improved cognitive retention.
  • Maintain mental ability and connections that exist.

3. Social Exercise

Maintain a strong social circle and continuously engage yourself in social activities. It is important to avoid prolonged periods of social isolation and remain socially stimulated. Benefits include:

  • Improved social skills including interpretation and response.
  • Improved mood and cognition.

Nutrition for Brain Health

Understanding the ways in which nutrition can impact your brain health is a valuable tool to have. In this section, we will review 6 nutrients that have shown to have a direct positive impact on your cognitive health.

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 Fatty Acids improve the strength of the membrane around bodily cells. This applies to brain cells known as neurons. Sources of Omega-3 include:

  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Tuna
  • Flaxseeds/Flaxseed Oil
  • Walnuts

2. Antioxidants

Antioxidants help prohibit oxidative stress within the brain and improve the communication between brain cells. Oxidative stress contributes to cognitive decline due to age and common brain disease. Sources of Antioxidants include:

  • Dark Chocolate
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Green Tea
  • Kale
  • Beets
  • Red Cabbage
  • Artichoke

3. Monounsaturated Fats

Consuming monounsaturated fats have shown a possible correlation with lowering blood pressure. This is important as high blood pressure contributes to cognitive deterioration. Sources of Monounsaturated Fats include:

  • Avocado
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Fish
  • Flaxseed

4. Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a possible contributor to improved cognition and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Sources of Vitamin E include:

  • Brown Rice
  • Barley
  • Bulgur Wheat
  • Whole Grains

5. Vitamin

Vitamin B has been shown to improve brain function if a deficiency exists. Sources of Vitamin B include:

  • Eggs
  • Liver
  • Spinach
  • Collard Greens

6. Glucosinolates

Glucosinolate has been shown to help reduce oxidative stress and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative disease. Sources of Glucosinolate include:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Bok Choy
  • Cabbage
  • Turnips
  • Kale

Maintaining Positive Brain Health Throughout COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has persisted for longer than many of us have anticipated. Social distancing and limited stimuli make it easy to fall into neglectful habits that contribute to a downhill battle. Maintaining a healthy brain carries importance now more than ever.

It is important that you listen to the signals that your body is sending you and adjust your eating and exercise habits accordingly. Making brain healthy decisions is not just for today, but for a lifetime of cognitive prowess.

If you are interested in a consultation for your brain health, you can email me and schedule a meeting at the Lifetime Wellness Centre on North Service Road.