Your diet is a major factor in how fast and well your brain – and reflexes – work. And research tells us which foods and nutrients keep your brain working at peak efficiency.
The reaction time test at the end of this short article estimates your age, based on how fast you reacted in a driving situation.
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Foods and nutrients proven to maintain a healthy brain
- Omega 3 – found in oily fish like salmon and sardines and in fish oil supplements. The nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord are protected by a fatty sheath called myelin. A diet rich in high quality fats like Omega 3 will ensure this myelin covering functions well and signals are transmitted fast and effectively.
- Anti-oxidant rich fruits like blueberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and pomegranates all contain nutrients called polyphenols that help protect the brain from oxidative stress (damaging excess free radical action) in humans.Animal studies show significant improvement in learning capacity and motor skills from a diet rich in blueberries. Green tea extract, grapeseed extract and curcumin are also powerful anti-oxidants and effective anti-inflammatory nutrients. Fortunately dark chocolate is also rich in these protective nutrients!
- Avocados – the fat in avocados has been shown to contribute to healthy blood flow. They are useful as part of a programme to reduce blood pressure – important as hypertension is a risk factor for cognitive decline.
- Beans – the effect here is indirect. The brain uses up to 20% of your whole supply of glucose for energy, but it doesn’t store glucose – so it depends on a reliable stream of glucose. Beans – and wholegrains – help to release glucose energy in a stable way.
- B vitamins and betaine – elevated levels of a compound in the blood called homocysteine are known to be strongly linked to the risk of stroke and cognitive impairment. Vitamins B12, B6 and folic acid – plus an important nutrient called betaine – reduce homocysteine levels. B rich foods include eggs and leafy green vegetables.
- Tomatoes – the lycopene in tomatoes has also been shown to counter-act free radical damage in the brain which contributes to the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
- Nuts and seeds – contain vitamin E, fatty acids, magnesium and zinc – all associated with brain health.
- Vitamin K2 – many people are low in this important vitamin which is known to be important in proper brain function. A good source of vitamin K is broccoli which is also high in protective compounds called glucosinolates. That’s important because glucosinolates help maintain good levels of the neuro-transmitter acetylcholine in the brain – which is vital for brain processing speed – and low levels of acetylcholine are associated with Alzheimer’s.
Reaction time test from www.justpark.com
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Dr Paul Clayton’s best-selling book Health Defence is available from most good bookstores. See the website www.healthdefence.com for excerpts and links to buy direct from the publisher.