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Brain Body Connection

Brain Food!

Published February 27th, 2012 in Brain Body Connection

by Tammera J. Karr, PhD, BCHN, BCIH

Brain food is a terrific example of what we can do every day and with every meal to change not only how smart we are but how likely we are to develop age related brain dysfunction. Cultures throughout the world incorporate food into their “health care plan”, since most of these countries have socialized medicine it is in the governments best interest to encourage “wellness care” verses “disease management”. After all it is the tax payer footing the bill, and these counties are bankrupt, so they require efficacy over subsidy.

We are currently programed to disregard the thousands of medicinals in our kitchens, gardens, rivers and woods. If it isn’t made by a drug company it has no efficacy, right?  Brain food is every ware, and it is available at affordable prices or free if you’re willing to work for it.

1.    Blueberries—Blueberries serve a wide range of functions for improving mental function. Research has found blueberries can reverse age related declines in motor function, balance, and coordination. What blueberries do is strengthen the brain by taking advantages of the brain’s tremendous redundancy, “old neurons are like old married couples — they don’t talk to one another very well anymore. Old neurons are like old married couples — they don’t talk to one another very well anymore.” Blueberries have compounds that boost neuron signals and help turn back on systems in the brain that can lead to using other proteins to help with memory or other cognitive skills. In contrast, people with Alzheimer’s disease have weaker neuron signals.

2.    Salmon— December 2011, researchers reported people who eat baked or broiled fish at least once a week may be protecting their brains from Alzheimer’s and other brain problems and were likely, a decade later, to have more gray matter in several key parts of the brain, including the hippocampus, the posterior cingulate and the orbital frontal cortex.

Gene Bowman of the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland and colleagues tested blood samples from 104 elderly volunteers for a variety of nutrients; they also gave them a battery of tests to measure their memory and thinking abilities. And 42 of the subjects underwent MRI scans to measure the overall size of their brains. Those who tested high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, which are commonly found in fish, and in vitamins C, E and B, which are often found in vegetables, were less likely to have their brains shrink, and were more likely to score higher on the memory and thinking tests (Dec. 28 issue of the Journal Neurology).

In contrast, those who ate a lot of food containing trans fats — found in margarine, packaged food, fast food and baked goods — tended to experience more brain shrinkage and score poorly on the thinking and memory tests.  (Now do you believe me when I talk about the dumbing down of America through Fast Food!)

An article published online on April 26, 2011 in the Journal Translational Psychiatry reports the discovery of the beneficial role for the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in mood, bipolar disease and alcohol abuse.

Associate professor of psychiatry Alexander B. Niculescu, MD, PhD and associates gave diets containing low or high amounts of DHA to a group of mice bred to develop bipolar disease symptoms; “The mice given DHA normalized their behavior, they are not depressed and when subjected to stress, they do not become manic.” “When we looked into their brains, using comprehensive gene expression studies, we were surprised to see genes that are known targets of psychiatric medications were modulated and normalized by DHA.” Dr. Niculescu reported.[1] (think of the money saved by eating fish and taking great fish oil for those with bipolar disease!)

3.    Coffee—Regular coffee drinking has been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and other mental disorders.  In 2011, scientists concluded that coffee may be the best source of the caffeine shown to protect against cognitive decline. Another unknown component in coffee appears to synergize with the caffeine to increase blood levels of a factor associated with improved cognitive function in Alzheimer’s.

Caffeinated coffee has also been associated with protection against Parkinson’s disease, the second most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s.  A study of 29,000 individuals found one to four cups daily decreased the risk of Parkinson’s by 47% and 5 or more cups decreased the risk by 60%.

4.    Nuts— walnuts, almonds, cashews and pecans, contain properties that help with everything from fighting insomnia to promoting mental clarity and strong memory. Walnuts are rich in fatty acids while almonds contain natural mood-enhancing neurotransmitters. But wait – the FDA has listed walnuts as an unregulated drug… What ever shall we do?

5.    Avocados—Don’t let the avocado’s fat content fool you. It’s a healthy fat that promotes blood flow, keeping your mind functioning at its peak. Avocados have been shown to reduce blood pressure as well.

6.    Eggs—Egg yolks are rich in choline, an essential nutrient to improving memory function. B vitamins are a must for brain health, if you can’t eat eggs or don’t have a good free range source for them, take a whole food B-complex.

7.    Chocolate—Dark chocolate is magnesium and antioxidant-rich, it also improves focus and concentration. Milk chocolate, on the other hand, improves memory and reaction time. (for you Marilyn, you can say ha to you know who now…)

8.    Broccoli—Broccoli has been shown to improve memory function as well as slow the aging process. Broccoli is one of the most protective foods known to researchers today, it has been shown to activate more cell receptor sites – protecting your health, than any other single food next to pomegranates, and turmeric.

“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people

under the pretense of taking care of them.”Thomas Jefferson

To Your Good Health.


[1] Fish oil may have positive effects on mood, alcohol craving

Food for Mood: Relevance of Nutritional Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Depression and Anxiety