FOOD FOR THOUGHT
New research shows the importance of choosing the right fuel (including one modest condiment) to power your brain.
YOUR BRAIN IS always working, despite some evidence — where are those care keys?! — to the contrary. And how you fuel it directly affects its function. Eat high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and you’ll nourish and protect your brain from oxidative stress (that’s the waste, or free radicals, produced when the body uses oxygen, and it can damage cells). Canada’s revamped Food Guide, which put an emphasis on eating more fruits and vegetables, has been lauded for its potential benefits to brain health. Need more convincing? The findings from these recent studies are a good reminder of why you should keep nutrition on the mind.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed the eating habits of 2,801 Americans over the course of 20 years and showed that those people who ate more foods high in flavonoids had a 42 to 68 per cent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
Flavonoids are a diverse group of phytonutrients (plant chemicals) found in almost all fruits and vegetables. They’re associated with all kinds of excellent activity, including skin protection, brain function, and blood sugar and blood pressure regulation, plus antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action. For this study, the intake of one type of f lavonoid, anthocyanins, abundant in blueberries and strawberries, had the strongest association with a lowered risk of dementia. Apples, pears, oranges, bananas and tea also contributed. The best part? A little goes a long way. The monthly intake from the healthiest cohort was about seven half-cup servings of strawberries or blueberries, eight apples or pears and 17 cups of tea.
What a pickle
Researchers from the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine published a study that shows pickled capers are good for brain and heart health. They’re the richest known natural source of a bioflavonoid called quercetin, which regulates our potassium ion channels—their dysfunction is linked to diabetes, cardiac arrhythmia and epilepsy. Quercetin can also regulate proteins needed to maintain your heartbeat, muscular contraction, and normal functioning of the thyroid, pancreas and gastrointestinal tract. Not bad work for an inconspicuous condiment.
Air pollution has been shown to affect memory and cognitive power as we age. A new study published in Neurology found women ages 65 to 80 who ate a diet high in omega-3 fatty acid from non-fried fish can better withstand the detriment.