Our brains are always working, helping us keep up with life while managing physiology behind the scenes. To function, the brain relies on a constant supply of energy. This energy comes directly from the foods we eat. Just like cars run better on clean, additive-free fuel, our brains run better with high quality food. When we eat fried foods, preservatives, and refined grains & sugars, this causes inflammation and oxidative stress.
A healthful diet can heal and repair the nervous system. Balanced nutrition builds the compounds required for brain function, like serotonin. Serotonin regulates our mood and motivation. Certain foods—like dark leafy greens, salmon, poultry (especially turkey), almonds, pistachios, and yogurt—supply our body with the building blocks for serotonin formation. The supplements 5-HTP & B6 also encourage serotonin synthesis.
Other foods enhance blood flow to the brain and reduce oxidative stress. A compound from plants called rutin clears up harmful free radicals and toxins. Rutin naturally occurs in apples, buckwheat, and walnuts. In circulation, rutin is one of the few compounds that crosses the blood brain barrier. Cutting-edge research reveals that rutin blocks the formation of beta-amyloid plaques found in Alzheimer's disease. The flavonoid compounds in berries also reduce free radical damage and support blood flow. Better blood flow supplies the brain with oxygen, which boosts function and healing. To get flavonoids, add in a half cup of blueberries to your daily diet. Magnesium is a mineral found in fruits, veggies, and dairy that improves circulation by relaxing blood vessels. In the nervous system, magnesium also builds neurotransmitters and healthy brain cells. Research shows that magnesium deficiency is linked with dementia. The fatty acids found in fish also prevent Alzheimer's and other types of dementia in research. Like magnesium, essential fatty acids support healthy neuron growth and circulation.
To prevent dementia, balancing blood sugars, addressing nutritional deficiencies, and avoiding toxins goes a long way. The digestive system has a strong connection to the brain. Current research into the microbiome is identifying signaling pathways between the gut and the brain. Adding in probiotics through fermented foods—like unsweetened yogurt, sauerkraut, and kombucha—increases levels of neurotransmitters and supports mood. Healthy bacteria thrive on the complex starches found in whole grains and veggies. Beneficial bacteria also do better in a less acidic environment. Limiting sugar, alcohol, coffee, and fried foods helps keep acidity down. Taken together, these nutrition tips can keep your brain functioning optimally through the lifespan. Our brains show a remarkable capacity to heal and repair—so it is always worthwhile to make dietary changes for better health!