Senior Mindset Coach at Samuel and Co Trading. While studying and practising many energy healing systems spanning 40 years (EFT, TAT, TCM, Yuen Method, NLP, Applied Kinesiology, Qigong etc). He gained qualifications in Massage, Reflexology, Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy. His goal is to continue to help his clients experience freedom from life’s emotional trauma, stress, negativity, limiting beliefs and to holistically balance the Mind, Body and Spirit.
Hi everyone, welcome back to my weekly article. In this article, I want to delve into the area of food and feeding the brain. Going to the gym, running, swimming or any other form of exercise is good for your body whilst eating a balanced, healthy diet if you’re a meat eater, vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian etc. is on many people’s minds. The health industry is experiencing a boom time right now. Everyone seems to be an expert, which is great, don’t get me wrong – it’s great for the physical body but what about your brain? Research suggests that regular exercise improves cognitive function, slows down the ageing process and helps us process information more effectively. The brain, just like the body, needs a steady supply of energy in the form of glucose through the bloodstream in order to focus and concentrate.
What foods are you eating to keep your brain in shape? Whilst I’m certainly not an expert in this field, and I’m sure there are more qualified people out there than me, it is an area that I’m interested in. While there are many foods to keep the body functioning perfectly, I have compiled a simple list of vitamins and minerals the brain needs in order to function and, which food sources contain them. Why not add them to your diet in stages over time?
The most important brain-boosting vitamins are: B1 (Thiamine), which plays a crucial role in nerve impulses; B3 (Niacin) to maintain healthy cerebral blood-flow, improving focus and concentration levels; B9 (Folate), which has been found to have beneficial effects on cognitive function such as improved memory, focus and alertness; and B12 (Cobalamin), which is essential for the development and function of brain and nerve cells.
B1 (Thiamine) – Foods high in thiamine include beef, pork, fish (salmon, tuna, trout), seeds/nuts (flax seeds, sunflower seeds and macadamia nuts and pistachio), black beans, black-eyed peas and lentils. Green peas, tofu, green soybeans (edamame), soymilk and tempeh. Brown rice, barley, quinoa, oatmeal and squash, asparagus, and seafood (mussels, clams and oysters).
B3 (Niacin) – Foods high in niacin include beef, pork, turkey, chicken, fish (yellowfin tuna), avocados, green peas, portabella mushrooms, white button mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, maitake and oyster mushrooms, brown rice, peanuts and sweet potatoes.
B9 (Folate) – Foods high in folate include asparagus, avocados, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, eggs, green soybeans (edamame), kale, lentils, spinach, sweet corn, lettuce, banana, kiwifruit, strawberries, mangos, oranges, grapefruit, papaya, walnuts and flaxseeds.
B12 (Cobalamin) – Foods high in include fortified cereal (high fibre bran flakes), non-dairy milk (soy), whole milk, beef, lamb, animal liver and kidneys, clams, herring, king crab, mackerel, mussels, octopus, oysters, salmon, sardines, trout, tuna (bluefin), yeast, swiss cheese and eggs.
Vitamin C is essential for the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin; the “feel good chemical” involved in controlling mood. It is also an effective antioxidant that helps to remove free radicals that build up in the brain which are thought to be linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Serotonin is synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan.
Foods to help boost your serotonin (tryptophan) levels include – all nuts and seeds, cheese, eggs, pineapples, salmon, tofu and turkey.
Other ways to boost your serotonin levels include:
Exercise – raises your serotonin levels (feel-good factor).
Sunshine – exposure to bright natural light boosts your serotonin levels.
Positive mindset – having a positive mind-set increase your serotonin levels.
Gut bacteria (probiotics) – healthy gut bacteria play a role in serotonin levels.
Stress – prolonged periods of stress can deplete your serotonin levels. (refer to my article 6 in this series on Stress).
Vitamin E has been found to reduce the risk of stroke, Alzheimer’s and improve memory and focus. Research shows that the anti-inflammatory activity of tocotrienols contributes to their protection against Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin E may slow down the worsening of memory loss and functional decline in people with moderately severe Alzheimer’s disease or other neurodegenerative disorders. It may also delay the loss of independence. Vitamin E, taken with vitamin C, can also decrease the risk of developing several forms of Dementia #1. (#1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24381967)
Vitamin E is found in sunflower oil, corn oil, soy and wheat germ. Almonds, Hazelnuts, Peanuts, Sunflower seeds, Avocado, Butternut Squash, Broccoli, Kiwi, Mango, Spinach and tomato. Also, oily fish like; mackerel, salmon, sardines and trout.
Calcium – Calcium is the number one essential mineral for healthy brain functioning. The body has a large reservoir of this mineral in the bones. However, some drugs can deplete the levels of this mineral which can lead to various health problems.
Foods high in calcium include; poppy, celery, sesame and chia seeds. Most cheeses are an excellent source of calcium but parmesan is the highest. Most soft cheeses like brie deliver less. Milk, low-fat yoghurt, sardines and tinned salmon are also good. Almonds, Chickpeas, lentils, peas, kidney beans, black beans, soybeans, pinto beans, navy beans and peanuts are also good sources of calcium.
Magnesium – Magnesium is vital and regulates more than 300 reactions in your body, more than any other mineral, and is also responsible for two of the most important cellular functions: energy production and cellular reproduction.
- Energy creation: Helps convert food into energy.
- Protein formation: Helps create new proteins from amino acids.
- Gene maintenance: Helps create and repair DNA and RNA.
- Muscle movements: Is part of the contraction and relaxation of muscles.
- Nervous system regulation: Helps regulate neurotransmitters, which send messages throughout your brain and nervous system.
Every cell in your body contains magnesium and needs it to function. Magnesium is important for the conversion of many B vitamins into their active form. Furthermore, magnesium and calcium need to be both in ideal amounts in the body, a deficiency of either one can lead to physical and neurological problems.
Foods high in magnesium are almonds, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, cashews, edamame, chocolate, brown rice, oat bran, whole grains, avocado, spinach, kale, beet greens, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, black beans, kidney beans, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, buckwheat flour, cornmeal, yoghurt, raisins, soymilk, whole grain bread and fish.
Zinc – It’s not certain what role zinc plays in brain health but, a deficiency leads to poor neurological function and has been found in Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer sufferers.
Foods high in zinc are chicken, lamb, grass-fed beef, pork, almonds, brazil nuts, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chickpeas, cashews, pine nuts, lentils, peanuts, oatmeal, wild rice, quinoa, black beans, green peas, lima beans, cocoa powder, eggs, cheese, milk, yoghurt, spinach, Shiitake Mushrooms, white button mushrooms, oysters, shrimp, mussels and Alaskan crab. Also, whole grains (wheat, quinoa, rice and oats).
- Brown whole-grain cereals, granary bread, rice and pasta release glucose (sugar) slowly, keeping you mentally alert all day.
- Oily Fish – Essential fatty acids cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained through diet. The most effective form of omega-3 oils comes from oily fish, including herring, kippers, mackerel, pilchards, salmon, sardines and trout.
Good plant sources include linseed (flaxseed), pumpkin seeds, soya beans, walnuts and chia seeds.
- B Vitamins – B6, B12 and folate. Foods containing Vitamin B include chicken, eggs, fish and leafy greens.
- Vitamin C – Blackcurrants, broccoli, red peppers and citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and limes. Broccoli is also a good source of vitamin K, known to enhance cognitive function.
- Blueberries – Lovely to eat for any reason but, they are high in vitamin C, K and fibre. Blueberries contain high levels of gallic acid, good for protecting our brains from degeneration and stress.
- Avocado’s – High in fats, the good kind (monosaturated fats), keeping your blood sugar levels steady. Avocado’s contain vitamin B, C, K and folate. Avocados contain the highest protein and lowest sugar of any fruit. Avocado’s help prevents blood clots in the brain (stroke) and improves memory and concentration. Vitamin B and vitamin C aren’t stored in the body and need to be replenished daily.
- Dark Green or Leafy vegetables – Are high in vitamins A, B12, C, E, K and folate which help fight inflammation and keep bones strong. Regular helpings of leafy green vegetables like Kale, Romaine lettuce, Spinach and Swiss Chard can help keep dementia at bay, according to new research (1).
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.
- Broccoli – Rich in vitamin C, K and Choline that keeps your mind sharp.
- Beets (Beetroot) – Reduce inflammation, are high in antioxidants and help rid your blood of toxins. But it is the natural nitrates in the beetroot that boosts blood flow to the brain, helping mental performance and boosting energy during workouts.
- Carrots – Contain Beta-Carotene, which is converted by the liver to produce vitamin A, which is good for your eyesight. Carrots have high levels of a compound called Luteolin, which could reduce age-related memory deficits in the brain, according to a study published in 2010 in The Journal Nutrition. Apart from all the many physical benefits of eating carrots, studies also show that people eating carrots were less likely to suffer a stroke (reduced blood supply to the brain). Olive oil, peppers and celery are also high in Luteolin.
- Turmeric – Probably a gift from the God’s. A natural, ancient root that has been used throughout history for its natural healing properties. Curcumin, a chemical compound in Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. Turmeric boosts antioxidant levels, keeping your immune system healthy while improving oxygen levels in your brain, keeping you alert and more able to process information.
Almonds – Are high in vitamin E. Antioxidative properties of vitamin E reduce deterioration in the brain as you age.
Cashews – Are a good source of minerals iron and zinc. Cashews are also rich in the mineral magnesium, which is thought to improve recall and, delay age-related memory loss.
Chestnuts – In the raw form are a good source of vitamin B6 and C.
I hope that you have noticed that although some of the foods, seeds, beans and nuts etc. are totally different from each other, they contain similar vitamins and minerals. So, even though you may not particularly like a certain food, you have a choice to get the necessary vitamins and minerals needed from different sources. Always choose foods to include a variety of bright colours and, keep them as close to their original format as possible. Overcooking vegetables reduces their vitamin and mineral content. Raw is best in a lot of cases. Also, if you eat meat, then make sure that you can recognise what animal source the food came from. Food that is minced or processed like burgers, chicken or ham slices are created from various sources. Additives, sugars and fats may have been added to improve the flavour.
I hope that this article has given you something different to think about. As always, I hope you have enjoyed the input, although different. I look forward to seeing any discussions and interaction from the community – more next week…