We may invest a lot of thought and time contemplating our health in relation to our cardiovascular system, digestive system, cleansing system, skin and bones, and with good reason, these are vital systems crucial to our general health and wellbeing. But rarely do we consider the requirements of our most important organ, the brain. The brain is the centre of our responsiveness, it manages our capacity to learn, think, reason, and recall, and not to mention being the command centre for practically every bodily function we have. It will probably not be of surprise to discover that this organ also requires a specific diet of nutritional substances to function efficiently. Many of us would arguably spend more time considering whether a certain food source is detrimental to our waistline, than we would in concerning ourselves with consuming sufficient B group vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids to support healthy brain function.
Insuring the brain is healthy and well nourished now, is actually something we all should have high up there on our priority list. There is an abundance of studies to support that healthy brain activity early in our lives has a huge impact on its functions during our later years. Insuring that we provide sufficient nutrition, and by making good lifestyle choices can greatly reduce the chances of acquiring age related issues such as cognitive decline and alzheimer's disease. Feeling mentally vague and struggling to concentrate are usually good signs of insufficient nutrient intake that is required for normal brain function. It is all too easy to deprive ourselves of these required nutrients especially when we are stressed, dieting, or eating in a rushed manner. These deficiencies can also be responsible for causing states of depression.
It is highly beneficial to become familiar with the main brain friendly nutritional substances such as omega 3 fatty acids, B group vitamins, vitamin D, and specifically two varieties of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are derived from plant compounds that often operate as antioxidants. The first required phytochemical is of the flavonoids family and includes berries and fruit, and the second phytochemical is a compound called curcumin and is the principal constituent of turmeric, which is a member of the ginger family. These main brain friendly nutritional substances are responsible for providing protection for the brain against the ageing process. While omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are fantastic for cardiovascular health, many individuals do not realise they play various essential roles in healthy brain function. Omega 3 and omega 6 basically allow for the easy transfer of compounds from brain cell to brain cell, whilst also reducing inflammation that has been proving successful in the treatment of depression. As the body's own manufacturing of the principal omega, being DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), is insufficient, individuals with a deficiency may be susceptible to disorders such as depression, dyslexia, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Omegas also seem responsible for reducing the incidence of cognitive decline that often occurs with ageing. Now that we are aware of the importance of consuming the omega fatty acids, make sure to include at least two servings per week of fatty fish such as sardines, tuna, and salmon.
The B group vitamins, particularly B12, B6, and B9 (folate or folic acid) play a vital role in molecular reactions, some of which are responsible for the production of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and RNA (ribonucleic acid). DNA and RNA are nucleic acids, and, along with proteins and carbohydrates, represent the three most important macromolecules essential for all known life forms. Vitamin B12 is required for a cell development called methylation which is a necessary chemical process that brain cells require to flourish. Various significant processes relating to the nervous system require methylation such as cell communication, the manufacture of neurotransmitters, and the production of myelin which provides insulation for neurons to assist in them firing more efficiently. With insufficient amounts of B12 to nourish the brain, eventually memory impairment occurs and progressively gets worse, ultimately leading to dementia. However, the severity of this deficiency usually only occurs if an individual has been B12 deficient for a number of years. Insuring that our B12 levels are consistent now is the best way to protect our brain from deficiency in the future. Vitamin B12 is collected almost solely from animal products such as eggs, milk, cheese, meat, and seafood. It is recommended for strict vegetarians and vegans to supplement B12 as it may be difficult for them to obtain sufficient levels of the vitamin. The body is capable of storing B12 for extended periods but supplementation may be a way of gaining peace of mind.
The two other important B group vitamins B6 and B9 are equally essential for healthy brain function although we do tend to hear less about them. In the interest of reducing NTD's (neural tube defects) during pregnancy, food companies have fortified many food sources with folate. Vitamin B9 can also be collected from consuming green leafy vegetables, peas, beans, and citrus fruits. Vitamin B6 can be collected from consuming bananas, oatmeal, chick peas, and potatoes. Vitamin B6 and B9 work together with B12 in balancing a compound called homocysteine, which restrains the methylation reaction, mentioned above, which is also vital in regards to the nervous system. Various studies have also noted the link between folate deficiency and increased cognition issues and increased susceptibility of anxiety and depression. It is recommended to ensure that a sufficient intake of all the B group vitamins is maintained.
There are various phytochemicals beneficial for brain health but the most memorable and effective are flavonoids. Scientific studies have concluded that flavonoids are extremely effective for good health and longevity. Flavonoids can be collected from food sources such as blueberries, apples, citrus fruits, black and green tea, and in cocoa, beer, and wine. They are well known to positively affect our cognitive ability. Further studies have discovered that elements from blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and spinach, may even reverse the detrimental cognitive changes and memory issues that accompany the aging process. The elements particularly found in cocoa assist in boosting blood flow to the brain, therefore offering protection against vascular diseases such as stroke. Flavonoids perform significant roles in repairing damage to the brain by influencing how neurons communicate with each other, so by increasing our intake of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, brain cell damage is very much reduced. These all important flavonoids prevent brain cells from dying, enhance the brain's ability to create new neurons, and increase what researchers call synaptic plasticity, meaning the ability for neurons to create and recreate connections with each another. The process of synaptic plasticity is believed to be the foundation for the mental action of understanding or acquiring knowledge through memory, thought, experience, and the senses. There is also mounting evidence that flavonoids can in due course provide resistance to serious brain diseases such as alzheimer's. It is believed that this is possible due to the compounds protective ability against oxidative damage. It is possible that parkinson's and alzheimer's diseases may even be the consequence of inflammation within the brain, so particular flavonoids may offer the protection required. Considering the enormous beneficial evidence of consuming flavonoids, including these compounds to your diet is certainly a very wise move to encourage good health and longevity.
The well known spice turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, resent studies have discovered that curcumin actually fights the development of amyloid-beta plaques that are usually found in the alzheimer's brain. This polyphenol has numerous brain protective abilities, most remarkably is its effect on the harmful amyloid-beta plaques that form in the brains of alzheimer's patients. As an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-amyloidal agent, curcumin can notably improve cognitive function in patients with alzheimer's disease. Elderly individuals who regularly consume curcumin were found to perform extremely better on tests of cognitive function, that people who rarely consumed the spice. So, it is recommended to enjoy a meal at your local Indian restaurant or add some turmeric to your own tasty recipes, to receive the benefits of the most potent brain boosting molecules of this powerful polyphenol.
In addition to the vital role as promoter of bone health, vitamin D serves imperative functions in brain health. Vitamin D is synthesised in the skin when ultraviolet rays come in contact with skin cells and is believed to provide protection to the brain against cognitive discrepancies that are associated with the ageing process. There are a myriad of vitamin D receptors spread throughout various areas of the brain and the rest of the central nervous system. Vitamin D manipulates certain proteins that support neuron growth and development, and actively participates in memory, learning, synaptic plasticity, certain motor processes, and the activity of neurotransmitters. Lengthy periods of vitamin D deficiency lasting several year have been proven to be associated with cognitive and mood disorders. During the short days of winter as more individuals receive less sun exposure, certain individuals may become vitamin D deficient. This occurs because vitamin D is largely produced when the skin comes in contact with ultraviolet rays. Alternative methods for collecting vitamin D would be to consume food sources such as fatty fish, like sardines, tuna, and salmon, although it is also present in smaller quantities in food sources such as egg yolks, cheese, mushrooms, and beef liver. Food companies have fortified some food products with vitamin D like milk and certain breakfast cereals, but it may be necessary to supplement especially during the winter months.
While it is absolutely imperative to maintain a diet rich in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, it is equally important to reduce the unhealthy fats that negatively affect the brain. Research reveals that when individuals consume high sugar, high fat, and high salt diets, their ability to understand new complex information is reduced. Other studies have concluded that simply consuming too many calories will increase the number of damaging molecules like free radicals that accumulate in the brain. When these hazardous little particles become too abundant for the brain to remove, they generally lead to problems with cognitive function. Good nutrition supplies the brain with the required fuel to perform essential actions like thought, creating memories, and repairing cell damage. The energy required to perform these tasks comes from glucose, and the brain relies heavily on a steady flow of glucose to provide fuel throughout the day and night. During sleep the brain is performing energy consuming tasks like terminating redundant connections, creating new connections to retain recently acquired information, and repairing damage. Whilst the brain only accounts for about 2 percent of our body weight, it requires up to 20 percent of the body's energy resources. The brain's preferred fuel source for energy is carbohydrates, choose your carbohydrates wisely and always select low glycemic complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates or sugars. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains (brown rice, wheat, and oats) will assist in maintaining steady glucose levels throughout the day and avoiding the crash associated with consuming processed grains such as those in biscuits, cakes, and white bread.