Life­style

Youth Street News - - Content - Rachel yambem

What does the food you eat have to do with how your brain func­tions? Turns out an aw­ful lot. While we've al­ways known that what we eat af­fects our bod­ies and how we look, sci­en­tists are also learn­ing more and more that what we eat takes a toll on our brains. Yes, brain foods mat­ter (es­pe­cially for our gray mat­ter).

See, our bod­ies don't like stress. Who does? When we're stressed out-whether it's phys­i­cal, like some­one jump­ing out at you from a dark al­ley, or men­tal, like you hav­ing a ma­jor project due at work-our bod­ies re­lease in­flam­ma­tory cy­tokines.

These lit­tle chem­i­cals prompt the im­mune sys­tem to kick in and fight back against the stress through in­flam­ma­tion, as though stress is an infection. While in­flam­ma­tion helps pro­tect us against ill­nesses and re­pairs the body when you do some­thing like cut your­self, chronic in­flam­ma­tion is a dif­fer­ent an­i­mal. It's been linked to au­toim­mune dis­eases like mul­ti­ple sclero­sis, anx­i­ety, high blood pres­sure and more.

But what does this all have to do with food? Our gut helps keep our body's im­mune re­sponses and in­flam­ma­tion un­der con­trol. Ad­di­tion­ally, gut hor­mones that en­ter the brain or are pro­duced in the brain in­flu­ence cog­ni­tive abil­ity, like un­der­stand­ing and pro­cess­ing new in­for­ma­tion, stay­ing fo­cused on the task at hand and rec­og­niz­ing when we're full.

Plus, brain foods are rich in antioxidants, good fats, vi­ta­mins and min­er­als pro­vide en­ergy and aid in pro­tect­ing against brain dis­eases. So when we fo­cus on giv­ing our body whole, nu­tri­tious foods ben­e­fit­ing both the gut and the brain, we're ac­tu­ally ben­e­fit­ing our minds and bod­ies while keep­ing them both in tip-top shape.

Of course, some foods are bet­ter for your brain than oth­ers. I've rounded up 15 brain foods you should be eat­ing to feed both your mind and body. With a mix of fruits, veg­gies, oils and even choco­late (yes, choco­late!), there's some­thing to please ev­ery­one!

1. Av­o­ca­dos

This fruit is one of the health­i­est ones you can con­sume and one of my all- time fa­vorites. While av­o­ca­dos of­ten get a bad rep be­cause of their high fat con­tent, it's im­por­tant to note that these green pow­er­houses are packed with monosat­u­rated fats or the "good" kind, keep­ing blood sugar lev­els steady and your skin glow­ing.

Con­tain­ing both vi­ta­min K and folate, av­o­ca­dos help pre­vent blood clots in the brain (pro­tect­ing against stroke) as well as help im­prove cog­ni­tive func­tion, es­pe­cially both mem­ory and con­cen­tra­tion.

They're also rich in vi­ta­min B and vi­ta­min C, which aren't stored in your body and need to be re­plen­ished daily. Plus, they have the high­est pro­tein and low­est sugar con­tent of any fruit. Not too shabby! Av­o­ca­dos' creamy tex­ture makes them a smart ad­di­tion to smooth­ies and re­place­ment for fats in baked goods.

2. Beets

It might be their funny shape or me­mories of bad recipes eaten dur­ing child­hood, but beets seem to be an in­tim­i­dat­ing food for many peo­ple, even veg­etable lovers. That's a shame, be­cause these root veg­eta­bles are some of the most nu­tri­tious plants you can eat-they've even earned a spot on my healthy foods shop­ping list.

They re­duce in­flam­ma­tion, are high in can­cer- pro­tect­ing antioxidants and help rid your blood of tox­ins. The nat­u­ral ni­trates in beets ac­tu­ally boost blood flow to the brain, help­ing with men­tal per­for­mance. Plus, dur­ing tough work­outs, beets ac­tu­ally help boost en­ergy and per­for­mance lev­els. I love them roasted or in sal­ads-try the sweet potato beet hash or beet and goat cheese salad for some cre­ative new ways to eat this brain food.

3. Blue­ber­ries

Prov­ing that great things do come in small pack­ages,blue­ber­ries are a fruit I try to eat daily. That's be­cause they've got so many great health ben­e­fit-while tast­ing like an all­nat­u­ral candy!

For starters, it's one of the high­est an­tiox­i­dant- rich foods known to man,

in­clud­ing vi­ta­min C and vi­ta­min K and fiber. Be­cause of their high lev­els of gal­lic acid, blue­ber­ries are es­pe­cially good at pro­tect­ing our brains from de­gen­er­a­tion and stress. Get your daily dose of brain berries in anomega Blue­berry Smoothie, Pump­kin Blue­berry Pan­cakes or in a Healthy Blue­berry Cob­bler.

4. Bone Broth

Bone broth is the ul­ti­mate food for heal­ing your gut and, in turn, heal­ing your brain. This an­cient food is full of health ben­e­fits, rang­ing from boost­ing your im­mune sys­tem, over­com­ing leaky gut, im­prov­ing joint health and over­com­ing food al­ler­gies.

Its high lev­els of col­la­gen help re­duce in­testi­nal in­flam­ma­tion, and heal­ing amino acids like pro­line and glycine keep your im­mune sys­tem func­tion­ing prop­erly and help im­prove mem­ory. Bone broth is what I pre­scribe most fre­quently to my pa­tients be­cause it truly helps heal your body from the in­side out. You'll also be sur­prised at how sim­ple and eco­nom­i­cal it is to make at home with my Beef Bone Broth Recipe.

5. Broc­coli

Your mom got it right when she told you to eat your broc­coli. It's one of the best brain foods out there. Thanks to its high lev­els of vi­ta­min K and choline, it will help keep your mem­ory sharp.

It's also loaded with vi­ta­min C-in fact, just one cup pro­vides you with 150 per­cent of your rec­om­mended daily in­take. Its high-fiber lev­els mean that you'll feel full quickly, too. If you've only chowed down on over­cooked, taste­less broc­coli, you'll love my Crock­pot Beef and Broc­coli, Creamy Broc­coli Soup and Broc­coli Pesto Dip-they'll turn you into a broc­coli lover fast!

6. Cel­ery

For a veg­etable with such few calo­ries (just 16 per cup!),cel­ery sure does of­fer a lot of ben­e­fits. Its high lev­els of antioxidants and polysac­cha­rides act as nat­u­ral an­ti­in­flam­ma­to­ries and can help al­le­vi­ate symp­toms re­lated to in­flam­ma­tion, like joint pain and ir­ri­ta­ble bowel syn­drome.

Be­cause it's so nu­tri­ent-dense-pack­ing loads of vi­ta­mins, min­er­als and nu­tri­ents with very lit­tle calo­ries-it's a great snack op­tion if you're look­ing to shed pounds. And while we of­ten eat cel­ery stalks, don't skip the seeds and leaves; both pro­vide ex­tra health ben­e­fits and taste great in things like stir fries and soups. Not sure where to be­gin with eat­ing more cel­ery? Try my easy Ants on a Log or re­fresh­ing­su­per Hy­dra­tor Juice recipes.

7. Co­conut Oil

Ahh, co­conut oil, one of the most ver­sa­tile-and good for you-foods out there. With 77 co­conut oil uses and cures, there's al­most noth­ing that co­conut oil can't help.

And when it comes to your brain, it's full of ben­e­fits, too. Co­conut oil works as a nat­u­ral anti- in­flam­ma­tory, sup­press­ing cells re­spon­si­ble for in­flam­ma­tion. It can help with mem­ory loss as you age and de­stroy bad bac­te­ria that hang out in your gut. Get your dose of co­conut oil in this Baked Grouper with Co­conut Cilantro Sauce or Co­conut Crust Pizza.

8. Dark Choco­late

Not all choco­late is cre­ated equal; in fact, dark choco­late can ac­tu­ally be good for you! Choco­late is chock­full of flavonols, which have an­tiox­i­dant and anti- in­flam­ma­tory prop­er­ties. They can also help lower blood pres­sure and im­prove blood flow to both the brain and heart.

But don't go wild munch­ing on Her­shey's Kisses just yet. Most of the choco­late you see on su­per­mar­ket shelves is highly pro­cessed with few ben­e­fits. The rule of thumb is the darker the choco­late, the more health ben­e­fits.

Skip milk and white choco­lates and opt for a min­i­mally pro­cessed dark choco­late with at least 70 per­cent of co­coa. This en­sures you'll get your choco fix and its brain ben­e­fits! Sat­isfy your sweet tooth with these Dark Choco­late Al­mond But­ter Cook­ies or­choco­late-cov­ered Berries.

9. Egg Yolks

On the nu­tri­tional naughty list for years, egg yolks are fi­nally ex­pe­ri­enc­ing their wellde­served day in the sun. If you've been eat­ing only egg whites, the yolk's on you. Yolks con­tain large amounts of choline, which helps in fe­tal brain de­vel­op­ment for preg­nant women. It also breaks down bethane, a chem­i­cal that pro­duces hor­mones re­lated to hap­pi­ness. That's right, eggs can make you happy!

If you've kept away from eat­ing eggs whole be­cause of choles­terol con­cerns, there's good news. Stud­ies show that eat­ing eggs had no ef­fect on the choles­terol lev­els of healthy adults and might, in fact, help raise good choles­terol lev­els.

It's also one of the most in­ex­pen­sive sources of pro­tein out there; just be sure you're buy­ing or­ganic, free-range eggs. Need some egg-spi­ra­tion? I love Baked Eggs and Spinach and Break­fast Salmon Egg Bake.

10. Ex­tra Vir­gin Olive Oil

Real ex­tra vir­gin olive oil is truly a brain food. Thanks to the pow­er­ful antioxidants known as polyphe­nols that are found in the oil, in­clud­ing EVOO in your diet may not only im­prove learn­ing and mem­ory, but also re­verse the age and dis­ease- re­lated changes. The oil also helps fight against ADDLS, pro­teins that are toxic to the brain and in­duce Alzheimer's.

As great as ex­tra vir­gin olive oil is, re­mem­ber that it's not a good op­tion for cook­ing, as it hy­dro­g­e­nizes and be­gins de­com­pos­ing at high tem­per­a­tures. The best way to get your fill is by eat­ing it cold or at room tem­per­a­ture. I love ex­tra vir­gin olive oil as part ofzuc­chini Noo­dles with Mari­nara Sauce and Quinoa Tabouli Salad.

11. Green, Leafy Veg­eta­bles

It turns out that Pop­eye was onto some­thing with his spina­chob­ses­sion. Get­ting reg­u­lar help­ings of leafy green brain foods like kale, Swiss chard and ro­maine let­tuce can help keep de­men­tia at bay ac­cord­ing to new re­search.

In the study, which eval­u­ated the eat­ing habits and men­tal abil­ity of more than 950 older adults for an av­er­age of five years, those adults who ate a serv­ing of leafy green veg­gies once or twice a day ex­pe­ri­enced slower men­tal de­te­ri­o­ra­tion than those who ate no veg­eta­bles, even when fac­tors like age, ed­u­ca­tion and fam­ily his­tory of de­men­tia were fac­tored in.

Green, leafy veg­eta­bles are also loaded with vi­ta­mins A and K ( just one cup of kale has more than 684 per­cent of your rec­om­mended daily serv­ing!), which help fight in­flam­ma­tion and keep bones strong. Reap the ben­e­fits of these brain foods with amango Wal­nut Spinach Salad or Kale Chips.

12. Rose­mary

We al­ready knew that rose­mary oil has a va­ri­ety of ben­e­fits, but did you know that the herb does, too? Carnosic acid, one of the main in­gre­di­ents in rose­mary, helps pro­tect the brain from neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion. It does this by pro­tect­ing the brain against chem­i­cal free rad­i­cals, which are linked to neu­rode­gen­er­a­tion, Alzheimer's, strokes and nor­mal ag­ing in the brain.

It also helps pro­tect eye­sight from de­te­ri­o­rat­ing, thanks to its high lev­els of antioxidants and anti-in­flam­ma­tory prop­er­ties. Get your serv­ings of fresh rose­mary with the Sweet Potato Rose­mary Fries and Maple-glazed Rose­mary Car­rots.

13. Salmon

If you like seafood, get ex­cited, be­cause salmon is one of the most nu­tri­tious, brain food-friendly foods out there! It's packed with omega-3 fatty acids to help keep your brain run­ning smoothly- good­bye, brain fo­gand im­prove mem­ory.

If you have kids, feed­ing them salmon can help pre­ven­tadhd by im­prov­ing their fo­cus. And these same fatty acids can also help pre­vent can­cer and kill tu­mors-not bad for a four-ounce serv­ing of fish!

Please note that these ben­e­fits are for Alaskan wild-caught salmon-farm-raised and reg­u­lar wild-caught salmon can be filled with mer­cury and tox­ins.

14. Turmeric

Isn't it great when a sim­ple spice has amaz­ing health ben­e­fits? That's the case with turmeric, an an­cient root that's been used for its heal­ing prop­er­ties through­out his­tory. Thanks to cur­cumin, a chem­i­cal com­pound found in turmeric, the spice is ac­tu­ally one of the most pow­er­ful ( and nat­u­ral) an­ti­in­flam­ma­tory agents.

Turmeric also helps boost an­tiox­i­dant lev­els and keeps your im­mune sys­tem healthy, while also im­prov­ing your brain's oxy­gen in­take, keep­ing you alert and able to process in­for­ma­tion. Talk about a su­per spice! Start your day with this brain food and make Turmeric Eggs and Turmeric Tea.

15. Wal­nuts

It turns out that eat­ing wal­nuts can keep you from go­ing nuts. Just munch­ing on a few wal­nuts a day can im­prove your cog­ni­tive health. Their high lev­els of antioxidants, vi­ta­mins and min­er­als also im­prove men­tal alert­ness. The vi­ta­min E in the nuts can also help ward off Alzheimer's.

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