When we think of staying healthy, most of us consider the importance of keeping our bodies fit, but we may not give our brain a second thought. Fortunately, there are plenty of simple things you can do to give your brain and mental faculties a boost.
Shield your brain from neurotoxins
From aspartame, trans fats, and artificial colours and flavours in food to chemicals found in laundry detergent and fabric softeners, there are many chemicals that can act as neurotoxins—chemicals that can damage the brain and nervous system—and are best avoided.
Even some so-called “air fresheners” or deodorizers have been found to contain brain-harming chemicals known as phthalates. According to animal studies, phthalates can disrupt the normal development of the brain. Read package labels. Choose natural products and fibres, as well as natural cleaning and laundry products for your home, clothing, and life to reduce chemical exposures in your home.
Pesticides are increasingly being linked to brain damage. In an animal study published in Neurotoxicity Research, natal exposure to the pesticide glyphosate was linked to memory loss and reduced antioxidants in the brain. Sadly, glyphosate is found in many foods, including nonorganic corn and soy, and, according to the Environmental Working Group’s research, even many common breakfast cereals. Steer clear of potentially brain-damaging pesticide residues by choosing organic foods as much as possible.
Drink up to boost brain health
Did you know that the brain is 75 percent water? It needs water to replenish and ensure healthy cognitive functions and strong mental health. Drinking plentiful amounts of water daily helps ensure the brain cells can perform their many essential functions. Many people misinterpret the brain’s signals for water as hunger, so it’s a good idea to drink a glass of water whenever you feel hungry to help stave off dehydration.
Everyone’s ideal amount of water differs depending on our overall health, how active we are, and where we live. According to the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, men need about 15 1/2 cups (3.7 L) and women 11 1/2 cups (2.7 L) of fluids each day. The fluids, however, can come from a combination of food and beverages, including water.
Tea-total your way to a healthy brain
According to research by scientists at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is found in green tea, may stop beta-amyloid plaques linked to Alzheimer’s from forming. Beta-amyloid plaques have long been thought to be causal factors in Alzheimer’s. It’s time to green tea-total your way to brain health.
Walk your way to a better brain
You don’t often think about taking your brain for a walk or run, but you might want to. Based on the advice of researchers after studying the effects of exercise to stave off dementia, a brisk walk or jog may be just what your brain needs. Squeeze in a brisk walk on your lunch break or after dinner, or jog to work. However you choose to fit in a daily walk, your brain will thank you.
Meditate to calm your brain
Meditation lessens the effects of stress and the toll it takes on your brain. In a study published in the journal Psychiatry Research, scientists found that regardless of what type of meditation participants performed, blood flow to the brain improved. Take several minutes, or longer if you can, out of your day to simply focus your mind and breathe deeply.
Ramp up your fruit and veggie consumption
Eating a wide range of colourful fruits and vegetables helps supply your brain with the nutrients it needs to function properly.
While there are many great brain foods, some of the best include beans (to regulate blood sugar and energy to the brain), beetroots (to provide betanin that has shown promise in preventing plaques in the brain), blackberries (to provide the mineral manganese, which helps with healthy electrical transmissions in the brain), flaxseeds (rich in brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids), and nuts (rich source of brain-protecting vitamin E).
Supplements to boost your brain
There are many great nutrients and herbs that may help boost brain health, including acetyl-L-carnitine, ashwagandha, ginseng, gotu kola, and phosphatidylserine (PS).
Acting as coenzymes for a wide range of chemical functions in the body, including those in the brain, B vitamins may also help reduce homocysteine levels that can be linked to stroke.
Research in the Archives of Neurology found that coenzyme Q10 may help slow the progression of brain diseases like Parkinson’s.
The combination of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) may help to protect the brain against mental decline.
The herb improves blood flow to the brain and may be helpful in slowing the progression of dementia.
More Brain-Boosting Supplements
More and more studies, including one published in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, show that lion’s mane mushrooms may help build new brain and nerve cells.
A critical nutrient to the proper functioning of cells, particularly brain cells, phosphatidylserine supplements may help give brain health a boost.
Used for centuries, sage may help boost mood as well as short- and long-term memory. Sage comes in a wide variety of forms, including tea, capsules, and extracts.
Research published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology showed that one hour following supplementation with curcumin, the main active compound in turmeric, study participants had a significant improvement in memory and attention tasks compared to the placebo group.
10 simple ways to transform your brain health
There are many great ways to boost your brain health. Here are some of my top picks.
- Your brain needs sleep to recharge; try to sleep for at least seven to eight hours each night.
- Remain social with those you like; interacting with others stimulates connections between brain cells.
- Try something new, such as a new route home from work or preparing a new food for dinner, to build new brain connections and boost memory.
- Play games and puzzles to boost long- and short-term memory, information retention, and concentration.
- Walk daily to help stave off dementia.
- Stop overeating, to reduce memory loss and cognitive impairment.
- Learn a new language or practise one you may have forgotten; this may help build connections between brain cells.
- Eat at regular intervals to provide consistent fuel to your brain.
- Head out into nature to boost brain-supporting oxygen levels.
- Eat more fermented foods to improve gut health, known as the “second brain” for its connection to memory and brain disease resistance.