Best Health

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

New re­search shows the im­por­tance of choos­ing the right fuel (in­clud­ing one mod­est condi­ment) to power your brain.

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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.

Fab­u­lous flavonoids

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.

Gone fishin’

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.

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