5 Nutrition Tips for Increasing Brain Power

How your food choices can make you smarter

Close up of plate of fresh grilled fish and sauce
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Did you know that the foods you eat have the potential to increase brain power? Here is a five-step brain food nutrition plan to get your diet under control and to use food as brain medicine.

1. Increase Water Intake

Given that your brain is about 80 percent water, the first rule of brain nutrition is adequate water to hydrate your brain. Even slight dehydration can raise stress hormones which can damage your brain over time. Drink lots of water throughout the day. 

It is best to have your liquids unpolluted with artificial sweeteners, sugar, caffeine, or alcohol. You can use herbal, non-caffeinated tea bags, such as raspberry or strawberry flavored, and make unsweetened iced tea. Green tea is also good for brain function as it contains chemicals that enhance mental relaxation and alertness.

2. Restrict Calories

Substantial research in animals, and increasingly in humans, indicates that a calorie-restricted diet is helpful for brain and life longevity. Eating fewer controls weight, decreases risks of heart disease, cancer and stroke from obesity, and triggers certain mechanisms in the body to increase the production of nerve growth factors, which are helpful to the brain. Researchers use the acronym CRON for "calorie restriction with optimal nutrition," so the other part of the story is to make these calories count.

3. Eat Fish, Fish Oil, and Good Fats

DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish, makes up a large portion of the gray matter of the brain. The fat in your brain forms cell membranes and plays a vital role in how cells function. Neurons, which carry messages from the brain throughout the body, are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Research has revealed that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help promote a healthy emotional balance and positive mood in later years, possibly because DHA is the main component of the brain's synapses.

4. Consume Lots of Dietary Antioxidants

A number of studies have shown that dietary intake of antioxidants from fruits and vegetables significantly reduces the risk of developing cognitive impairment. Experts believe that free radical formation plays a major role in the deterioration of the brain with age. When a cell converts oxygen into energy, tiny molecules called free radicals are made.

When produced in normal amounts, free radicals work to rid the body of harmful toxins, thereby keeping it healthy. But when produced in toxic amounts, free radicals damage the body's cellular machinery, resulting in cell death and tissue damage in a process is called oxidative stress. Vitamin E and Vitamin C and beta carotene inhibit the production of free radicals.

The best antioxidant fruits and vegetables, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, strawberries, spinach, raspberries, Brussels sprouts, plums, broccoli, beets, avocados, oranges, red grapes, red bell peppers, cherries, and kiwi.

5. Balance Protein, Good Fats, and Carbohydrates

Diets high in refined sugars can lead to diabetes, sleepiness, and cognitive impairment. Yet, to imply that bacon is a health food and that oranges and carrots are as bad as cake seems silly. Eliminating simple sugars and balancing proteins, good fats, and good carbohydrates are essential for boosting brain power.

Having protein at each meal helps to balance blood sugar levels. Adding lean meat, eggs, cheese, soy, or nuts to a snack or meal limits the fast absorption of carbohydrates and prevents the brain fog that goes with eating simple carbohydrates, such as donuts. At each meal or snack, try to get a balance of protein, high fiber, carbohydrates, and fat.

By following a sensible, well-rounded diet, you can be on your way to ensuring your brain and your body works well for years to come.

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