By Eddie Fatakhov M.D.
Before 2018 is firmly in the rear-view mirror, most people around the world will participate in the honoured tradition of defining their New Year’s resolutions. While there are many intentions that might be spoken but not kept, there is one that is well worth the effort. If you follow through on one resolution this year, let it be improving your overall brain health.
Here are four simple ways and four tasty foods that will help clear your brain fog in 2019 to ensure your new year is the best, and most productive, it can be.
FOUR SIMPLE WAYS TO BOOST YOUR BRAIN POWER
Some of the easiest ways to enhance brain function can be found in simple lifestyle changes. Making lifestyle changes are a great way to improve overall health, but the following methods are especially beneficial to the brain.
- Get more sleep
Sleep is an amazing tool that is too frequently neglected. If you can add more sleep into your daily routine, you will find a marked improvement in your overall ability to concentrate, make decisions, and manage stress.
- Speaking of reducing stress…
A simple way to eliminate stress is to start by recognizing and addressing it. It’s easy to say “work, kids, and life stress me out” but if you take a second to identify these stresses individually you will find that they are easier to manage. When the stress creeps up, try breathing. Breathing exercises can instantly extinguish your stress fuses.
- Exercise – it’s not what you think
Like lifestyle change, exercise is key to overall health, but the amount of exercise needed to give you clarity is fairly small. Brain benefiting exercise can be as simple as walking for a few minutes or taking the stairs. Try setting a timer for ten minutes while working on an intense work project. If you take time to stand, stretch, and move when the timer goes off you could find that your mental clarity improves when you resume.
- Diet makes a difference
Help your brain with what you eat. If you eat processed, high in sugar, or fast food you are adding obstacles for brain function.
FOUR FOODS TO BOOST YOUR BRAIN POWER
While there is no food to make your brain function like a well oiled machine all day, there are some that have benefits, such as added energy. This increase in energy can be the kick your brain needs to stay on task, work harder, and smarter.
- Vegetables – the greener the better
Vegetables make great daily snacks, not only for your waistline but also for your energy. Not all vegetables are created equal so look for the ones with the most chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is what makes plants green. It is also a great tool for getting oxygen into your blood, providing our cells with a good source of energy, which is great for brain function. Here are some good-for-your-brain greens: kale, Swiss chard, wheatgrass, and arugula. There are also some nutrient-rich algae to consider, such as spirulina and chlorella (available in supplemental powders – add them to smoothies or fruity yogurt).
- Carbs! The good-for-you kind
A lot of messaging says to ditch the carbs, but in the process you are losing some serious brain support fuel. You can have carbs as long as they are the right ones. Think complex carbs, aka steel-cut oats, sweet potatoes, and whole wheat bread. These carbs give you glucose energy, but have a low glycemic index (GI) – the rate at which food sugar enters cells. Low GI foods are better at keeping energy higher and longer.
- Fatty Acids
DHA Omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish like salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, and trout) and brain function go hand in hand. DHA is not something we naturally create in our bodies, but adding it through our diet can support vital brain function like memory.
In addition to fish, DHA can be found in seeds such as flax, chia, and hemp. These are easily added to salads (really green salads), yogurt, smoothies, or cereal. Another great source of DHA comes from the tasty walnut.
- Foods high in benefits and nutrients
Here are some foods that are growing in popularity for their health (and brain) benefits due to increased energy, and more.
Maca (a kale cousin) is common in Peruvian cooking for its many health benefits such as increased libido, lower blood pressure, and increased energy and endurance. As we have already discussed, increased energy can be a big brain benefit. If maca is utilized as a daily supplement, positive side effects can be seen. Because it’s often offered as a nutty flavoured powder, maca is easily incorporated into most beverages or breakfast cereal.
Bee Pollen is very high in B vitamins and all amino acids. This is important because B vitamins and amino acids are big energy creators due to the fact that they increase red blood cell count which, in turn, increases oxygenated blood.
Before your chocolate bar becomes a sweet treat it starts as cacao (the raw bean form). This natural bean is packed with brain powering magnesium and phenylethylamine compounds (PEA) that stimulate the central nervous system. This all adds up to more focus! Cacao also contains flavonoids – brain antioxidants. To get the best form of cacao look for organic or vegan chocolate bars. They usually have what you need, without all the additives.