Boost Your Brain — Eat Healthier in 2013 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 03 January 2013 12:54

010313senBY MARK UNDERWOOD

Special to the Times


Can the foods you eat affect your mind and memory?

Certain foods can have a significant impact on health and behavior and affect your mood and concentration skills.

Junk food, for example, including fatty, sugary snacks, triggers pleasure centers in the brain. That’s why when bowls of candy or chips are in front of you, it can be hard to stay away.

Follow these tips to stay on course and boost your brain’s fitness.

Memory-boosting food: In order to memorize and retain new information, our brain cells have to make new connections.  One way they do this is when we get excited about something or have deep feelings and emotions.

Acetylcholine is the “messenger” that keeps our brain cells on high alert for new information. You’ll find acetylcholine in eggs, liver and soybeans. Vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower also seem to help improve memory.

Researchers have found that people who regularly eat these foods have better memories.

The brain also needs myelin. A diet that includes myelin includes oily fish, walnuts, pumpkin and flax seeds. So, don’t skip meals, pack snacks with seeds and nuts and you’re on your way to improving your concentration.

Lift your spirits with these foods: Our moods, good, bad and everything in between, involve an exchange of electrical “messages” carried by neuro-transmitters between the brain cells. One of those transmitters is dopamine. Sugary and fatty foods do have dopamine which is why we may feel good when we eat these foods. But soon, there is a sharp drop off of feeling good. So, instead, eat foods like soybeans, edamame, beets, almonds, eggs, meat and grains.

Chocolate can help boost your spirits because it drives up dopamine, but use it as a pleasurable snack, not as a large part of your diet.

More healthy eating tips:

Keep an eye on your blood pressure. Even in healthy older adults, high blood pressure can damage blood vessels in the brain and reduce the brain’s oxygen supply. This can result in nerve cells that are damaged, a factor that can impact decision-making and memory.

Instead of eating salty foods, cut back on sodium and eat plenty of fresh fruits, veggies and whole grains.

For years, we’ve been told that veggies are good for our health, but some research now suggests that green leafy vegetables, in particular, may help slow mental decline. So, don’t forget to stock up on leafy greens like kale, and lettuces like romaine and spinach.

A healthy diet may lower your risk of many conditions, but eating three meals a day packed with brain-healthy food, can improve your brain power.

Mark Underwood is a neuroscience researcher, president and co-founder of Quincy Bioscience, a biotech company in Madison, Wisconsin.

 

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