Brain Food: Essential Nutrients for Staying Sharp as You Age

brain food

Perhaps you’ve been attributing your mental fatigue, lapses in memory, and even changes in mood to the process of “just getting older.”

…Or if you’re a woman, you may be thinking that menopause is the cause.

However, those pesky “issues” could be due to something else entirely.

Can Degeneration of Your Brain Be Reversed?

These are symptoms, but they could be pointing to the possibility that your brain is undergoing degenerative change. The good news: all of these are all preventable and reversible – and it’s not that difficult.

One of the most powerful ways to enhance your brain’s function is FOOD.

Yummy food…

I promise you’ll find something to tantalize your taste buds while increasing your mental energy, boosting your mood, and improving your memory.

We all know that simple, refined carbohydrates and sugar can sap energy, making our brains sluggish. But do you know which ones have the biggest impact on your insulin?

Drive-Thru “Madness” – Can Certain Foods Actually Drive You Crazy?

Numerous studies have correlated a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar with impairing brain function and worsening of the symptoms of depression. Not only does it wreak havoc on your overall health (which you know), but consuming processed, refined foods also affects your brain’s ability to operate optimally.

For example: when you’re in a hurry, you might decide to pull into McDonald’s or grab a bag of Doritos at the gas station… When you ingest refined, simple carbohydrates such as these, your pancreas releases higher amounts of insulin (higher than if you ate complex carbohydrates such as beets, jicama, or carrots). Having high levels of insulin, over a period of time, can result in your cells becoming resistant to your body’s own insulin. This is commonly referred to as Type 2 diabetes.

Here’s what happens in the brain: insulin is required for your neurons to absorb glucose for healthy functioning, but if your brain cells become insulin-resistant, it can lead to Alzheimer’s.

…And you need to avoid foods high in sugar as well – not only to prevent “Type 3 Diabetes” (Alzheimer’s), but also because refined sugar, and all of these troublesome foods, promote inflammation and oxidative stress (“rusting”).


brain food vs. bad food

7 Nutrient-Dense Foods to Feed Your Brain

  • Spices – Ginger, turmeric, and rosemary have been shown to have protective effects against inflammation and oxidation. Cinnamon contains polyphenols that improve the insulin sensitivity of your neurons (brain cells).
  • Pastured Eggs – They contain choline and cholesterol. Both are excellent for your brain.
  • Cold-Water Fish – The following fish contain Omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA (which is essential for brain function): salmon, sardines, lake trout, albacore tuna, mackerel, anchovies, halibut, and herring. Choose wild caught fish from certified sustainable fisheries.
  • Berries – Most berries are rich in antioxidants, which are free-radical scavengers. I recommend limiting to one serving (½ cup) per day because of the fructose. Even though it’s a “natural” sugar, fructose will raise your insulin levels (as discussed above).
  • Flavanols from Cocoa – Enjoy some dark chocolate! The flavanols in cocoa have been shown to increase blood flow to the brain (choose 72% cacao or higher for a lower sugar content).
  • Green Leafy Vegetables – An excellent source of fiber, leafy greens also contain folate and carotenoids. These vegetables contain vitamins C and K, and the minerals iron and calcium. The body needs a little dietary fat to absorb the carotenoids and vitamin K (a fat-soluble vitamin). Add olive or grass-fed butter (Kerrygold brand) to increase the absorption of these nutrients. Arugula, spinach, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, and Swiss chard are great options.
  • Fermented Foods – Fermented foods are a great source of probiotics, and the health of your gut has a direct influence on your brain’s function. These good bacteria influence what your gut digests and absorbs. They also reduce inflammation throughout your body, including your brain, and activate neural pathways that travel directly between the gut and the brain. Try kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, kefir (if you tolerate dairy), or kombucha – a beverage produced by fermenting sweet tea with a culture of yeast and bacteria.

A Healthy Diet Should Meet All Your Brain’s Needs, Right?

Whenever possible, we want food to be our medicine. So, in my practice, I always prefer to rely on the innate wisdom of Mother Nature. She’s the go-to for optimal wellbeing from natural sources like organic, locally grown and produced food and herbs, clean water, and fresh air. Unfortunately, our soils have been stripped of vital minerals and our environment contains thousands of toxins, diminishing the quality of available food – so additional support might be necessary.

There are cases when there is a definite requirement for more than a healthy diet alone. When deficiencies have been present for a while, when stress is overwhelming, when certain medications are being taken that cause frank nutrient depletions, or when certain genetic defects are present, it’s wonderful that we have supplementation to fall back on.

Eight Supplements Known to Optimize Brain Function

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Aim to eat cold-water fatty fish twice a week, and shellfish once or twice a week. Though there is no standard for the recommended dose of Omega-3s, a range of 500 mg to a maximum of 3000 mg (combined EPA + DHA) is a good guideline.
  • Vitamin B12 – B12 is found in organ meats and certain shellfish. Supplement with the methylcobalamin form at a dose of 500 mcg.
  • Phosphatidyl Serine – 100 – 500 mg per day is recommended. I have my patients take it right before bedtime, since it can block the harmful effects of cortisol and therefore improve sleep.
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine – This precursor to master antioxidant glutathione helps reduce/remove glutamate, an excitotoxin, from the brain. Begin with 500 mg, with a gradual increase up to 1500 mg.
  • Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALCAR) – Recommended dosage is 1000 – 2000 mg per day. It’s best to take in divided doses.
  • Curcumin – Cook with turmeric and supplement with 300 – 500 mg of curcumin.
  • Ginkgo Biloba – The only source of ginkgo is the ginkgo tree, so you’ll need to take a supplement. It increases blood flow to the brain, and can improve cognitive decline and reduce Alzheimer’s symptoms. It increases short term memory recall. Some drugs do interact with ginkgo, so check with your doctor if you are taking any prescription medications. 120 – 240 mg per day is recommended. It is best to take three divided doses throughout the day.
  • Alpha-GPC – An acetylcholine precursor, it is effective in increasing choline within the brain. It protects neurons from damage, and improves memory and focus. It can also increase energy. Recommended dosage ranges from 300 – 1200 mg per day.
  • Bacopa – An Ayurvedic herb which has been studied and shown to improve memory and focus. Recommendation is 200 – 500 mg per day.

Now’s the time to choose foods and key supplements that build up your brain’s capacity for optimal function. You can enjoy mental vitality for years to come.


Also check out…

5 Energy Boosting Nutrients and How to Blend an Energizing Smoothie

Video – The Most Powerful Key to Aging Well is Not What You Think

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