Research confirms: Eating a variety of real food and staying physically active is the key to lasting brain health
Keeping your brain healthy well into old age can be difficult. But with the right combination of dietary and lifestyle choices, it’s completely manageable and feasible. That’s what a team of researchers from the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) has put forth in their report titled Brain Food: GCBH Recommendations on Nourishing Your Brain Health.
What to eat and what not to eat
In the report, they stated early on that there is no “silver bullet” food to stave off cognitive decline. Instead, a brain-healthy would be composed primarily of:
–Berries: Opt for fresh berries over juice. Fresh berries have the more robust nutritional profile and are less likely to have preservatives and additives mixed in with them.
– Fresh vegetables: In addition to berries, the researchers noted that green, leafy vegetables were also strongly linked to improved brain health. Variety is still the best, however, so eating a wide array of differently colored vegetables is key to cognitive well-being.
– Nuts: Although high in fat and calories, nuts are rich in nutrients such as polyunsaturated fats and brain-boosting vitamins. They can contribute to weight gain, however, so the researchers advised consuming them in moderation.
– Healthy fats: They suggested going for unsaturated fats since these are known to boost heart health, which in turn can lead to enhanced brain health. Foods rich in unsaturated fats include walnuts, and specific oils like extra virgin olive oil and safflower oil.
– Flaxseeds, hemp and fennel oils: obtained by cold pressing, are a direct source of intake of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Although they are essential lipids that are abundant in the brain (about 60%) and form an integral part of the cellular and neuronal membranes, these Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are obtained exclusively through food intake because the body cannot synthesize them to continuously feed the brain lipid building and to regulate major body processes.
Consequently, the following should be limited, or eliminated:
– Processed, packaged, and fried foods: These tend to be high in salt, sugar, and saturated fats, an excess of which can compromise heart health and speed up cognitive decline. In fact, most salt in our diets comes from processed foods. Too much salt increases the risk of high blood pressure and stroke, so cutting back on processed foods is a must for overall good health.
– Whole-fat dairy and red meat: Food items such as cheese, butter, and pork contain saturated fats and trans fats. These are unhealthy fats that have been associated with various detrimental health effects, including but not limited to the greater likelihood of heart disease.
What to do
– Stay active: Eating right isn’t enough. It has to be complemented with physical activity. “Your diet should provide the nutrients and energy you need to maintain a good balance between energy intake from food and energy expenditure from physical activity”, wrote the researchers.
– Avoid overeating: When it comes to eating, quantity matters. It’s best to eat in moderation since too much of something can be a bad thing. One highly effective method of regulating portion sizes is to use smaller plates.
– Eliminate alcohol: Those who enjoy tippling now and then should eliminate their alcohol intake. As per the researchers, this is due to it being “unclear whether there is any beneficial level of consumption for brain health.” Meanwhile, those who don’t drink alcohol at all are advised to keep it up and continue to avoid it.
– Prepare meals at home: Not only does this minimize your consumption of processed and packaged foods, but making your own meals from scratch gives you greater control over what goes into it. You’re in charge of how much or how little salts and sugars end up in your food.
Although our readers are more than familiar with these bits of advice, it’s comforting to see international bodies espouse the truth. Keeping your mind sharp as you age is possible. It’s just all down to the choices you make for yourself.
January 21, 2019