Have you ever experienced feeling mentally lethargic? Anxious? Stressed? Having a lack of self-control when it comes to eating? Who hasn’t, right?! All of these impulses and feelings can be drawn back to one epicenter, our brains. This last week I started to take a deep dive into the world of brain health by reading a book called, GENIUS FOODS by Max Lugavere and Paul Grewal, MD. which is what inspired me to write on this topic this month.
A huge part of how our brains function can be supported by habitual behaviors that we have the power to set in motion, which I think is extremely exciting! We have the control to implement healthy patterns into our lives that will not just give us an esthetic appearance that we would like, but it affords us with the flexibility to take on physical and mental challenges well into our advanced years. I recently heard a woman say, “The best health remedies are normally freely available to us” and it got me thinking about how much is in our control in regards to being wise stewards of the gift that is our body. 2 out of the 3 topics that I’ve chosen to highlight below are all free and readily available to implement starting as early as today.
This is an area that is an absolute necessity to keep our brains functioning at high performance. I get that we all have responsibilities and busy lives, but this must be placed as the #1 priority for our brain health and wellness. Here are a few powerful things that sleep can do for your brain:
Helps to regulate you from binge eating. How so? Countless studies have shown that lack of sleep prompts your brain to release more ghrelin, the hormone that causes you to feel hungry. At the same time, too little sleep causes your brain to pump out less leptin, the hormone that makes you feel full. Translation? When you’re wiped out, you’re more likely to scarf down all food in arms distance. In fact, people who are sleep deprived tend to take in about 300 more calories per day compared to their well-rested counterparts.
Sleeping helps your brain clear out harmful toxins. Found a fascinating article that states, ”When University of California-Berkeley researchers used imaging tools to look at the brains of 26 older adults who had not been diagnosed with dementia or sleep problems, they found that people with the highest levels of beta-amyloid—a toxic protein associated with the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia—tended to have the poorest quality sleep. They also performed worse on simple memory tests compared to those who slept better and had lower beta-amyloid levels.”
Blueberries - We’ve been hearing this for years. I’m just here to remind you one more time :) Blueberries are a rich source of antioxidants. Why are antioxidants important? Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals — molecules produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.
Brussels Sprouts (one of the many cruciferous vegetables good for the brain) - Cruciferous vegetables have a really cool compound called sulforaphane which is not a vitamin or nutrient, but a genetic modulator known to activate antioxidant pathways. This compound is activated by the simple act of chewing!
Avocados - This is the most incredible of them all to me, because it’s such a small, unassuming fruit that is power packed with incredible fiber, fat and nutrients that are essential for our brain and gut health. They have the highest total fat-protecting capacity of any fruit or vegetable. This is great news because our brains are the fattiest organs in our bodies.
Dark Leafy Greens - Full of vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients that we need to keep our brains functioning properly. These have a massive amount of magnesium. Nearly 300 enzymes rely on Magnesium so it is an exceptionally important vitamin for our bodies and brains. 2 servings of dark leafy greens in your diet per day is ideal (add even more if you'd like!)
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil - Olive oil has something called Oleocanthal in it which has been shown to have the potential to help the brain clear itself of amyloid plaque which is associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. Good EVOO should taste grassy, not greasy. Also, Oleocanthal is responsible for EVOO’s “peppery” flavor, so oils that give you a little cough are a good thing!
All forms of exercise help to increase blood flow to the brain, pushing desperately needed oxygen and nutrients to our biological centers.
Aerobic Exercise - Aerobic or as many people call it, conditioning is something that a lot of people associate with weight loss, but it is actually much more about building our heart health and endurance. If you think that running is the only way to get your aerobic activity in, check out this fun article for creative ways to up your aerobic game. Remember that you only need 20-30 minutes of good cardiovascular activity 5 days a week. Research has shown that exercise can negate the influences that ApoE4 gene (connected to Alzheimer's Disease) has on the brain.
Anaerobic Exercise: Think of it like this - Aerobic exercise helps to stimulate new brain cells while anaerobic helps to keep those cells healthy and metabolically efficient. There are multiple types of anaerobic exercise, but I would suggest resistance training, because there are so many other benefits associated with the application of adding stress to our muscles. If you’re curious check out, Perks of strength training.
Rather than waiting for your next bout of anxiety, lethargy or brain fog, try to implement these helpful tools into your daily life now and see how they make an impact. We only have one vessel that has been given to us to operate in this world, so let’s treat it with respect and kindness.