Food for the brain

Food for the brain reduces the risk of Alzheimer's-disease and other dementias.

Few things terrorise us more than the sneaking suspicion that we are losing it. You can no longer remember people's names and then you find that, unable to locate the sugar, you had put the bowl in the fridge or microwave instead instead of its usual spot on the shelf.

A pesto lunch is full of brain food.

In my own particular case it is the inability to recognise some common item that I am hunting for, only to find it right under my nose. Yesterday it was the butter on the dining room table; with the lid on, I missed it at first-glance.

A few months ago I went soaring for the first time at an unfamiliar airfield. I got in a panic when I could not locate the landing-strip that was right off the left wing. Sadly, it was time to quit before a horrible accident.

You will have your own little-scares. Is this the normal part of aging, or is it the first sign of dementia? I decided to do some homework to find out what the literature had to say about food for the brain.

Here is the checklist that I drew up.

There are now known to be at least 40 different compounds that we absolutely must get from our food. It's impossible to track whether you have had sufficient apigenin or vitamin-E today, for example; you would go crazy.

Instead follow the two golden-rules.

  1. Eat  whole-foods, for example apples not the juice.
  2. Enjoy many coloured-fruits and vegetables daily.

Desirable

Folate

Vitamin E

Vitamin D

Vitamin C

Omega-3

Anthocyanins

Apigenin

Reservatrol

Betaine

Choline

Carotenoids

Food found in

Greens like lettuce

100% wholemeal

Seafood and sunshine

Citrus, peppers and berries

Fatty-fish and flaxseed

Purple-berries, grapes and tomatoes

Parsley

Berries and grapes

Beetroot

Eggs

Orange and red foods like carrots and tomatoes

Check


A critic could readily shoot holes in this little-list; there are many gaps, in particular minerals that are essential in the chemical processes that use this food for the brain. And where are the legumes, nuts and seeds?

We just need to eat from a very broad-spectrum of foods to get the nutrients our bodies and brains need.

Homocysteine

Homocysteine is a highly toxic breakdown product of protein-metabolism that is strongly associated with damaging effects on the brain and heart cells.

The body normally breaks it down immediately but many of the above desirable food substances are required for the process.

Nitrate

Hypertension is strongly associated with dementia, probably due to the reduced blood flow to the brain. Foods such as beets that are rich in minerals boost nitric-oxide levels that relax the arterioles that supply the nerve cells.

Exercise

Whilst not food for the brain, exercise contributes by keeping our blood-sugar down and helping make sure that these desirable substances actually reach that nerve tissue where they are so vitally needed.

Whale trail.
Helen on her bike on the Maas bridge.

Food for the brain

Food for the brain helps make sure we do not lose our marbles by preventing the build up of toxic compounds like homocysteine and damaging free-radicals.

Food nut neurosis

A serious psychological-disease lurks if you become obsessed with trying to get all these foods for your brain.

Notice a few simple-rules.

  1. Enjoy plenty of coloured fruits and vegetables.
  2. Avoid refined-products which I am reluctant to call food.
  3. Certain oils and fats are vital, especially those in fatty-fish, avocados and olives.
  4. Sugar and refined-flour are conspicuously absent.

Try to follow those simple rules and you can relax and avoid food nut neurosis.

General well-being

It is no coincidence but these are the very foods that minimise the risk of hypertension, heart disease, type-2 diabetes and obesity that are so strongly associated with dementia.

Much of it has to do with the well-being of our blood vessels; those lifestyle factors that damage our arteries are little different to those that cause havoc with our brains.

At the heart of it are the chronically raised blood-glucose of obesity and the inflammation of capillaries caused by smoking; the very devils that destroy our marbles.

Inflammation

Inflammation of the tissues of the body, including the brain, have at their heart what is known as oxidative-stress.

Compounds like homocysteine are not disposed of as fast as they should be and there is a build up of free-radicals which damage both our genes and organs.

These free-radicals that cause inflammation are neutralised by the antioxidants, phytochemicals and vitamins in our diet.

If we are not consuming them on a daily basis, especially as we get older when everything starts to happen more slowly, then gradually there is neuronal-damage and the consequent dementia is inevitable.

The second-brain

The colon is being called the second-brain because of the host of neurotransmitters that are produced in and by the gut. Astonishingly there are 2kg of friendly bacteria, viruses and yeasts in the happy colon.

Probiotics like kefir help restore these bugs. Wherever possible, let your food be your medicine; you get never get the wide-diversity needed from a supplement.


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But antibiotics and the soup of toxic-chemicals that we consume play havoc with this microbiome, as it is known.

Food for the brain is not only about what we consume, but also that which we should avoid.

Top of the list are the non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) that alter both the composition and function of the microbiome, and drive the development of glucose intolerance and raised blood sugar[1].

They also make us more vulnerable to attack by antibiotic-resistant bugs[2].

Take-home

The take-home from of all of this is that it is a complex subject to which researchers are adding daily to the literature.

The best we can do is to eat food for the brain as often as possible, especially many different coloured-fruits and vegetables, and avoid chemicals like saccharin and aspartane that are far more deleterious than the sugar we are avoiding.

Enjoying our food is important, but the tongue can be trained to tolerate and even enjoy beets, kale and berries; lemons and herbs like parsley and basil too.


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1. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota

2. Nonnutritive sweeteners can promote the dissemination of antibiotic resistance through conjugative gene transfer.

Curly leaf kale for brain food.

Benefits of kale

Salmon and mushroom dinner for brain food.

Bernard Preston

Food rich in vitamin D

Mulberries for the purple power of anthocyanins for brain food.

Power of purple foods

Quick roasted butternut squash for brain food.

Beta carotene deficiency

100 percent wholemeal for brain food.

Homebake bread flour

Bucketful of peppadews for brain food.

Bernard Preston

Vitamin C deficiency symptoms

Eggs Florentine with added arugula for brain food.

Eggs Florentine

Kefir in a funnel for second brain food.

Kefir benefits

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