Protecting the health of your brain becomes more of a focus as we age. As soon as we notice changes to our memory – forgetting where we placed our keys – or brain fog – forgetting what we were doing or about to say, brain health becomes top of mind (no pun intended!)
There is a lot we can control when it comes to brain health including our diet, sleep patterns, engagement in mental activities, and focus on social interactions. All of the above factors have a profound impact on the health and wellness of our brain’s neurons and their function. In this article, we will explore the impact of diet on our brain health.
Diet, Inflammation, and Brain Health
Oxidative stress, or inflammation, has one of the biggest impacts on brain health. Inflammation can disturb neurotransmitter production and processing. Neurotransmitters are how our brain communicates moods, feelings, appetite, and of course, memory. These signaling molecules can be damaged by inflammation, which can lead to an array of effects such as brain fog, depression, memory loss, and more. Overall, inflammation is bad news for brain health. Dietary choices are an excellent way to fight inflammation, through the consumption of antioxidants that quench inflammation.
The Top Antioxidants Foods:
- Purple/Red Grapes
- Blueberries/Black Berries
- Red Beans/Pinto Beans
- Brazil Nuts
- Dark Leafy Greens
- Sweet Potatoes
- Wild Caught Fish
On the other hand, pro-inflammatory foods can negatively affect our brain health, especially when the inflammation is not offset by ample antioxidants. Highly inflammatory foods are generally foods that are highly processed, contain a lot of sugar, or are cooked in a way that increases inflammatory chemicals. Some of the worst offenders include:
- Refined sugar!
- Seared/BBQ meats
- Packaged food with preservatives
- Synthetic colors, flavors, and ingredients
What Else Can I Do to Protect Brain Health ?
Although diet is the foundation to a healthy body and mind, there are vitamins, minerals, herbs, and supplements that can provide extra support to your brain health. Let’s explore some of the top herbal and nutritional ingredients that can help protect your memory and cognition.
Bacopa is an Ayurvedic herb that has been used in India for centuries to support memory and cognitive function. There are research studies that show that Bacopa is effective at decreasing forgetfulness and improving memory. It works by modulating neurotransmitters such as dopamine as well as acetylcholine, which is the neurotransmitter involved in memory. Bacopa also contains bacosides. This plant constituent can repair neurons and protect them against oxidative damage. As you can see, Bacopa is an excellent supportive herb for brain health.
Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter found in the brain which is involved in the creation of memories. This neurotransmitter has been associated with many causes of cognitive decline including certain kinds of dementia. There are herbs that inhibit the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, which prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine and can therefore support memory.
Huperzine is an herbal extract from the plant Huperzia Serrata. It helps memory by preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine, our memory neurotransmitter. There have been a number of studies that show it helps to increase cognitive function, memory, and overall mental clarity.
B Vitamins are essential for so many functions in the body as well as the brain. We need B3 (niacin), B9 (Folate), and B12 to create our neurotransmitters which are needed for communicating feelings, memories, the sleep cycle, and more. People with low B12, which is common in the elderly and vegans/vegetarians, is associated with poorer memory and cognition. Therefore, getting enough B vitamins, including B3, B12, and folate is key to optimal brain health.
Dr. Kasey Nichols,
Co-Chief Medical Officer of Naguna Labs
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