November 01, 2005
HEALTH AND FITNESS...BRAIN FOODSAre you often asked..."are you for real?" when you are dead serious? Do people at the job often sniff your coffee cup as if it was actually filled with some kind of mind altering alcoholic beverage?Well you might be stupid as hell then.People are afraid to tell you this but I'm from New York baby,your brain might have a leak darling.
It's ok though,I am going to let you in on some foods that boost brain power.
There are many foods, herbs and supplements that can improve your memory, concentration and focus. If you combine these "brain foods" with regular exercise and a good night's sleep, you'll have boosted your brainpower in no time.
However, keep in mind that while some foods can be beneficial for your brain, others can have quite the opposite effect. Processed foods that are high in simple carbs, sugar, salt, and preservatives -- such as pies, cakes, and some breads and cereals -- can actually inhibit the release of chemicals needed for the brain to function properly.
If you're looking to boost your brainpower, here are some whole foods, herbs and supplements that can help:
Since the solid (non-water) part of the brain is primarily composed of fat, we must provide it with "good fats" -- essential fatty acids or EFAs -- through our diet because the body does not produce them. In fact, fat is essential in the formation of synapses in the brain that are involved in the creation and maintenance of memories. Eggs are an excellent source of EFAs.
If your mother told you that eating fish would make you smart, she was right. Oily varieties of fish -- such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and herring -- are high in the EFAs known as omega-3 fatty acids. These good fats are crucial components of our brain cells and improve learning powers and memory.
Sardines also have the added benefit of containing the nutrient choline, a brain chemical that is fundamental for memory.
All the whole foods mentioned here also have the advantage of being packed with protein, which triggers neurotransmitters associated with memory. Soy is no exception. Soy protein isolate, which consists of a concentrated form of protein extracted from soybeans, is a great source of protein that can be found in supplements, liquid or powder form.
But soy -- found in natural products such as soymilk or in soy isoflavone supplements -- is also valuable for improving verbal and non-verbal memory, as well as mental flexibility.
Gingko biloba, which has been used in Eastern cultures for thousands of years, is perhaps the most well-known and one of the most potent "memory herbs." It works by increasing the blood flow to the brain, by dilating the blood vessels and increasing oxygen supply. However, it isn't an instant solution as it can take a few weeks to start seeing results. It also gets rid of free radicals that can damage brain cells.
Green and black tea
According to recent studies, green and black teas appear to have the same effect on Alzheimer's disease -- a neurodegenerative disease resulting in the loss of mental functions and memory -- as drugs specifically designed to combat the illness.
Both types of tea fight the illness in many ways, but the most significant seems to be that they prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a key chemical involved in memory that is lacking in Alzheimer's patients. Green tea was one step ahead, as its effects lasted a full week, whereas those of black tea -- which comes from the same plant as green tea but is fermented -- only lasted a day.
In a recent study, subjects who took sage performed significantly better than those who didn't on a word recall test. Although the exact mechanism behind this isn't fully clear, experts believe sage might increase levels of a chemical that helps transmit messages in the brain. Since this is also the same chemical that is lacking in Alzheimer's patients, the possible use of sage to treat this illness is being examined.
Like sage, rosemary can stimulate the memory, strengthen mental clarity and alleviate mental fatigue. Studies have shown that rosemary enhanced subjects' long-term memory by around 15%.
While a healthy, balanced diet generally provides you with all your essential vitamins and nutrients, a vitamin B complex supplement can be beneficial for your memory, particularly in periods of stress. When you are under mental or physical stress, your body is depleted of B vitamins. This deficiency prevents acetylcholine -- a key chemical involved in memory -- from functioning in the brain.
B vitamins also carry oxygen to the brain and do away with damaging free radicals; this helps to enhance memory and sharpen the senses. You can either take a supplement or increase your consumption of vitamin B-rich foods, including liver, eggs, lentils, soybeans, and green beans.
Iron deficiency -- the most common nutrient deficiency in the United States -- is linked to many adverse effects, including difficulty concentrating, diminished intelligence, and a shortened attention span. Iron helps carry oxygen to the brain, and the lack of oxygen associated with iron deficiency can cause brain cell activity to slow down significantly.
A simple blood test can determine whether or not you suffer from this deficiency. If so, you can either take an iron supplement or consume iron-rich foods such as lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb iron, so try to combine the two with supplements or with whole foods during meals.
Since the brain is 70% water, this essential fluid is vital for your memory. In fact, water accelerates the functioning of the brain as a whole, and when it is dehydrated, it works at a slower pace. This is particularly true when it comes to memory; a dehydrated brain releases the hormone cortisol, which adversely affects the brain's capacity to store information and create memory.
In addition, cortisol causes adrenalin to be released, which prompts the brain to function in a more primary, instinctive way; this also affects our mental functions and memory.
It's really quite simple to integrate a few foods or supplements that will improve your memory and concentration into your everyday diet. An egg in the morning, a cup of green tea after lunch, some sage in your spaghetti sauce at dinnertime, and lots of water all day... you'll be feeling like a genius in no time.Well,some of you.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3951003.stm - Tea
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3189635.stm - Sage