5 Nutrition strategies to pump up your brain!

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Over the last two weeks, I have looked at what causes brain shrinkage and why it's a bad thing (read it HERE), and lifestyle strategies to prevent and possibly even reverse brain shrinkage while getting smarter (read it HERE).  This week I tell you what you should be eating for maximum brain power, now and far into the future. 

Interesting Brain Facts:

  • The main component of the brain is fat. It is made up of 60% fat. In fact, the brain is the fattiest organ in the body. Our main brain fat is saturated fat. It's interesting to note that one of the richest sources of saturated fats is human breast milk. 
  • Your skin (the largest organ of your body) weighs twice as much as your brain!
  • While the brain accounts for less than 5% of the body's weight, it contains 25% of the body's cholesterol. 
  • The cholesterol molecule is too big to pass through the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The BBB is  a filtering mechanism of the capillaries that carry blood to the brain. The BBB protects the brain from toxins and other harmful substances. Your brain's metabolism is unique in that it produces its own cholesterol. In fact, cholesterol is so important for brain health that in this study, it was shown that individuals over the age of 70 with the highest cholesterol levels were at the lowest risk of dementia andAlzheimer's.
  • Most of the brain's cholesterol is in the myelin sheaths that surround the axons of nerve cells, protecting the cells and facilitating the speedy transmission of the electrical impulses that govern thought, movement, and sensation.

So what you should be eating to improve brain function and memory and prevent cognitive decline? 

  1. Pasture-raised eggs. Eggs are a rich source of cholesterol. They also contain choline, Choline is critical for proper signaling at the neuronal membranes, making communication between neurons more efficient and speedier. It is also a precursor to acetylcholine. Acetylcholie is a neurotransmitter that boosts learning, memory and deep sleep. Women should get about 425 mg of choline a day (more for pregnant or lactating women), and 550 mg for men. One egg contains about 125 mg of choline. Other good sources include liver and meat from grass-fed cows, wild-caught salmon, and raw dairy from grass-fed cows.
  2. Wild-Caught Salmon. As I mentioned above, salmon is a good source of choline. It is also a rich source of omega 3 fats, specifically DHA and EPA. DHA is a major structural and functional fat found in the brain and eyes and is also a key component of the tissue found in the heart and cardiovascular system. EPA plays a critical role in supporting the healthyregulation of cellular inflammation. The body cannot make DHA or EPA; if you are not eating them, your brain is not getting these critical healthy fats.
  3. Coconut oil. Coconut oil is a rich source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), that have many health benefits. These include helping your body burn fat for fuel, antiviral properties, and most importantly for brain health, may help to regenerate nerve cells and heal nerve function in the brain. 
  4. Curry spice. Curry contains turmeric, a spice that is a potent source of the anti-inflammatory compound curcumin. Curcumin may help inhibit the accumulation of destructive beta amyloids in the brain of Alzheimer's patients, as well as break up existing plaques. Curcumin has even been shown to boost memory and stimulate the production of new brain cells. Ginger and other spices in curry help support the benefits of cumin, as well as showing strong anti-inflammatory benefits of their own. 
  5. Water. Even mild levels of dehydration can negatively affect cognitive function, leaving you feeling sluggish, foggy, moody and even depressed. Drink enough water so that you pee clear! 

Remember, it's easy to reach for a pill, supplement, coffee or energy drink when your brain is not feeling crystal clear and sharp. But as we have seen over the last three weeks, this can have serious long-term negative consequences. Learn and practice the easy lifestyle and nutrition habits discussed over the last few weeks to prevent cognitive decline over time and make yourself smarter. You can't get that from a pill!