Dr. Elizabeth Cantrell
If you listened to the Natural Health Radio show last week you heard me and Dr. Murphy talking about seven foods you should start eating today to boost brain power. If you missed it or just want a recap of those foods – here you go:
Almonds, when compared to other protein sources, are a rich source of nutrients, including calcium, potassium, fiber, zinc, and vitamin E. Preliminary research shows that higher blood levels of vitamin E correlate with better brain function in middle-aged and older adults. In addition, increased levels of vitamin E have been associated with better cognitive function and a reduced risk of certain forms of dementia. How does peanut butter compare? Almonds contain three times more vitamin E than peanut butter. So, ditch the peanut butter and start dipping those apples in some almond butter for a brain boosting afternoon snack.
Spinach, kale, collards, and other green leafy vegetables are packed with brain boosting nutrients. Among those nutrients are vitamin K and folate, which have been shown to improve memory and cognitive function. Add all these greens together to make a supercharged salad. While I believe that nearly everyone can benefit from increasing their consumption of greens, individuals on prescription blood thinners should always inform their doctors of increased intake.
Blueberries, along with other dark colored berries contain high concentrations of antioxidants called flavonoids and proanthocyanidins. These antioxidants strengthen weakened blood vessels, including those that supply the brain. In addition, studies show that flavonoids decrease inflammation, which is thought to be a factor in age-related cognitive decline and subsequent memory loss. In our clinic, we have seen improvements in circulation and blood vessel strength even after just two servings of blueberries (~1 cup).
Researchers found that when study participants were given green tea before a cognitive-functioning test they performed significantly better than those who didn’t drink green tea prior to the test. It is believed that the green tea improved brain plasticity, resulting in faster learning. Although the exact mechanism of action for this effect is unknown, it is known that green tea is a strong antioxidant. These antioxidant compounds protect cellular health and can help with controlling inflammation. As an added benefit, numerous studies have shown that green tea stimulates metabolism which can enhance weight loss efforts.
Cold water, fatty fish like salmon or cod contain high levels of the omega-3-fatty acids, DHA and EPA. Studies show that these omega-3-fatty acids play an important role in brain and neurological health. In fact, DHA supplementation was shown to improve memory. The amount supplemented was comparable to the amount that can be obtained from just a single 3 ½ ounce serving of salmon. A multitude of studies have shown EPA and DHA supplementation to have wide-reaching health benefits. Some of these benefits include improvements in cholesterol, decreased arthritic pain, and improvements in inflammatory skin conditions. To gain the most benefits, consider taking a concentrated high quality fish oil supplements daily. I recommend Pharmax Finest Pure Fish Oil.
Cherry tomatoes boost brain power because of their concentration of carotenoids, including lycopene. Lycopene seems to improve cognition and memory. In addition, it decreases vascular inflammation and multiple studies have shown lycopene to protect against cancer. Although all bright red and orange colored fruits and vegetables contain lycopene, tomato products are the richest source of lycopene in the typical U.S. diet. Interestingly, processed tomatoes (canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, etc.) contain more lycopene than whole, raw tomatoes because cooking allows for greater release and concentration of the carotenoids.
Recently, it was revealed that last year’s Auburn University football team (War Eagle!) supplemented with beet juice daily. Interestingly, the same year the team won the SEC (their conference) championship although expectations for the season were low at the outset. This idea may have come from the playbooks of the British Olympic teams during the London Olympics, who did the same thing with their athletes. Why beet juice? Beets and other brightly colored root vegetables contain nitrates, which convert to nitrites in the body. Nitrites cause vasodilation (blood vessel widening) which increases blood flow and oxygen to all tissues in the body, including the brain. In a recent study, adults 70 years of age and older were given a dose of beet juice and then underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The MRI showed measurably improved blood flow to their brains. Increased blood flow means increased oxygen and nutrients which may translate to increased brain function.