MoodSo how does nutrition help us to achieve a Healthy Body and a Healthy Mind? 
What is the mind?  One of my favorite definitions of the mind is the following- the mind is the human consciousness that originates in the brain and is manifested, especially in thought, perception, emotion, will, memory and imagination.   So no one would disagree that part of having an agile mind requires having a healthy brain.   To understand the importance of nutrition to the brain there are a few key facts I need to present-

  • 60 percent of brain matter is made of fats
  • 70 percent water by weight
  • Billions of neurons
  • 2 percent of body weight uses 20 percent of body’s energy! 

Fats help to insulate and protect the brain cells from injury while facilitating communication between them.  Imagine having those healthy fats replaced with rancid, oxidized or trans-fats.  This would gunk up the brain, slowing transmission, slowing thinking and the brain cells would lose a significant amount of their protection.  Not so young looking.  Dehydration leads to foggy thinking, lack of focus and can even leave you feeling depressed.  How vital can you feel from this place?  Now we can begin to see the importance of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats, healthy monounsaturated fats and other fatty compounds such as choline.  All have been proven in studies to be very valuable for brain health.

So what other foods have been associated with a healthier brain, clearer thinking and better moods?  You guessed it- foods high in antioxidant value and foods that are considered anti-inflammatory.   Why would that be?  Well remember the brain uses 20 percent of the body’s energy to fuel all the many functions it must perform on a daily basis.  In fact, I am surprised that looking out at the audience I don’t see stack of smoke coming from the tops of you heads as your brain is busy at work assimilating all the information you have heard here today.  Along with working at the speed of thought, it is telling your heart to beat and your adrenals to function, all while monitoring your environment and keeping you awake.  That is a lot of waste products to neutralize and get rid of.  Studies tell us that there are foods that can help to prevent diseases that affect the mind by helping to decrease inflammation and reduce free radical damage.

1. Foods for healthy, vital brain to improve memory and focus

  • Harvard did 25 year study looking at 1300 women found those with higher intake of vegetables had less memory decline
  • Green leafy and cruciferous- broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts
  • Berries, red apples, beets, plumps, grapes (red, purple)- due to high anthocyanin levels
  • Onions (red, yellow, white), kale, leeks, cherry tomato, broccoli, blueberries, black currants, elderberries, apricots, apple with skin (Red Delicious), and red, purple, and black grapes because of high quercetin content.  Quecetin has been shown to reduce risk of cancer and perhaps even reverse some age related memory issues in animals
  • Lentils, black-eyed peas, soybeans, spinach, green peas, artichokes, broccoli, wheat germ, beets and oranges-  high in folic acid.  Several studies suggest effect on memory including memory retention and faster processing
  • Fish- Rush University Study people who ate fish at least once a week had slower decline in memory
  • Foods rich in vitamin E reduce risk of Alzheimer’s- so says Rush University

2.  Exercise, provides the following benefits to the brain:

  • Provides more oxygen and nutrients to the brain
  • Improves memory
  • Improves moods/antidepressant
  • Enhances learning-
  • Improves reasoning and reaction time

3. Sleep can improve moods by

  • Allowing the brain to clean the excess buildup of toxins
  • Decreasing inflammation
  • Decreasing anxiety
  • Increasing focus