Do you find yourself walking into a room and forgetting why you are there? Constantly forgetting people’s names? You are not alone. Millions of Americans notice their minds are not as sharp as they once were. This is not just another sign of “getting older”. Like our bodies, our minds need exercise and proper nutrition for good health.
Exercise is good for the body and mind. Studies have shown people who exercise consistently outperform couch potatoes on mental tasks. Regular aerobic exercise seems to work the best. Exercise helps the mind in a variety of ways including relieving brain-draining stress and improving sleep. Healthy sleep further lowers stress hormone levels, and relaxes and refreshes the mind. Exercise strengthens the heart, increasing blood flow to the brain and ensures brain cells get the nutrition they need.
Mental gymnastics help keep your mind limber. Brain games such as chess, crossword puzzles and reading are great ways to keep you mind active. Learning a new language, taking music lessons or brushing your teeth with the opposite hand all help stretch and tone your brain.
Good nutrition is essential for a keen mind. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is best, but there are some that get top marks. Blueberries, acai berries, red delicious and northern spy apples are rich in phytonutrients, which support healthy brain function. This may just explain why teachers love apples so much!
Our brains are made up of over 50% fat, so it is fitting that we must feed them appropriately. Omega-3 fats are best for optimal brain function. The best sources of omega-3s for our brain include wild salmon and walnuts. It is also important to avoid eating trans fats or hydrogenated oils as these contribute to poor brain function.
Give your brain a boost with B-vitamins. B-vitamins are essential for mood and mental performance. In North America marginal deficiency in B-vitamins is common. Help improve your mental alertness and memory by choosing foods rich in B-vitamins such as turkey, lentils, bananas, potatoes, molasses, oats, barley, wheat bran, avocado, and Brazil nuts.
Chocolate on the brain -yes, chocolate is good for your brain. Not the vending machine candy bars though. Cacao beans, which are used to make chocolate, have been shown to improve mood and cognitive function. For the brain-healthy effect choose 100% organic non-alkalized, minimally processed cocoa powder or dark chocolate (at least 75% cacao content or higher).
Herbs can also be very beneficial for improving brain function. Gingko biloba, ginseng and gotu kola have all demonstrated the ability to improve memory and concentration. Rosemary and peppermint are beneficial for clearing the cluttered mind. These herbs can be easily enjoyed in cooking or tea for their flavor and health benefits.
So go on, exercise a little, read a book and enjoy some dark chocolate, your brain with thank-you.