This is the time of year when we tend to do quite a bit of overindulging and overimibing. To help keep things in check, we thought this was the perfect time to check in on the foods and lifestyle choices that can help support brain health.
Certainly there are hereditary conditions that add to poor health, but we do damage to our brains by consuming processed foods laced with artificial sweeteners, colors, MSG and GMO’s. Add to that the lack of healthy fats, too much sugar and carbs, and a low intake of necessary vitamins and minerals and you’ve got the makeup for a poor foundation of health. Not only for your entire body, but for your brain, too! This is all complicated by chronic stress, inadequate sleep, alcohol abuse and a sedentary lifestyle.
Dr. David Perlmutter, the author behind bestsellers Grain Brain and Brain Maker (both recommended reading), strongly believes that fixing the brain starts with the body. He recommends a “Anti-Alzheimer’s Trio” that’s comprised of three foods that are high in healthy fat, but low in inflammatory carbohydrates. He also endorses the pointers below for giving your body — and your brain — a leg up.
Choose grass-fed beef.
The principle is simple. If a steer eats junk food, it becomes junk food. Grass-fed beef contains more antioxidants, omega-3’s, trace minerals and vitamins than any other food. Consuming this type of beef vs. grain fed is one of the best ways to prevent disease, improve brain function and lose weight.
Eat more avocados.
You’ve heard it before; avocados are high in fat, but the good, monounsaturated kind, which contributes to healthy blood flow. Healthy blood flow = healthy brain. Avocados have also been shown to lower blood pressure. Hypertension, a result of high blood pressure, is a risk factor for the decline in cognitive abilities. Jump on the avocado toast craze and swap that out for your traditional breakfast a few days a week. It’s delicious topped with a fried egg.
Opt for unrefined coconut oil.
This type of coconut oil helps to reduce the inflammation that can lead to many brain issues. It’s also a heart-healthy oil that is free of cholesterol and trans-fats, and provides many benefits in addition to improving brain health, including: improving the body’s use of insulin, improving cholesterol by increasing HDL and boosting thyroid function for increased energy. Try adding coconut oil to your smoothies, coffee, tea and when cooking.
Amp up your exercise.
High-intensity interval training is especially beneficial. But if that seems daunting, just get out there and take a walk. How much you exercise over your lifetime can impact the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Just like your biceps, your brain needs exercise for stimulation and healing.
Try some supplements (with doctor supervision, of course)
Magnesium has been shown to be extremely important to brain health, as well as B vitamins, omega fatty acids and probiotics. Be sure to consult with your family physician and buy quality supplements.
Entertain a detox.
After holiday overindulge, a detox is something we often crave. You can support this through short-term juice fasting or sweating it out in a sauna. Infrared red saunas have been shown to have many great health benefits, which include expelling toxins, improving blood circulation, and improving mitochondrial function. Research has even shown that regular sauna use may help stave off Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Be set for success.
Each weekend, set aside a few hours to cook up meals and snacks for the week. Hard boil a dozen eggs, roast chicken breasts, cut up veggies, wash fruit and portion out nuts for quick snacks. The accessibility of just a few healthy, whole foods will help keep you from reaching for the chips.
If you enjoyed reading about preventive measures for a healthy brain, check out our blog post Taking Action After Alzheimer’s Diagnosis for details on what to do if you are later diagnosed with dementia.