Healthy Food for a Better Brain

By: Dr. Pascale Michelon

We have all heard about special diets for people with heart problems. But did you know that some foods are also specifically good for brain health? Here are the main components of our diet that seem to have a positive effect on brain functions:

Omega-3 fatty acids
These acids (e.g., DHA) are normal constituents of cell membranes and are essential for normal brain function. Fatty acids can be found in fish (salmon), kiwi, walnuts. In contrast, trans or saturated fats have been shown to decrease cognitive performance. These are found in dairy products, meat, and butter.

Antioxidant foods
The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative damage, which explains why antioxidants are needed for good brain health. They are found in a variety of food: Alpha lipoic is found in spinach, broccoli and potatoes; Vitamin E is found in vegetable oils, nuts, green leafy vegetables; Curcumin is found
in the curry spice; Vitamin C is found in citrus fruit and several plants and vegetables. Berries are well known for their antioxidant capacity.

These have antioxidant effects. They are found in cocoa, green tea, Ginko biloba tree, citrus fruits, wine and dark chocolate.

Folic acid (or folate)
Folate is generated by the liver after the intestine has absorbed vitamin B. Ade­quate lev­els of folate are essen­tial for brain function. It is found in spinach, orange juice and yeast.

How do I get all these?
The best advice is to eat a balanced diet, similar to the Mediterranean diet.

One last word about food and the brain
Surprisingly what happens in your guts can also influence your brain functions.
Several gut hormones such as leptin (which sends signals to the brain to reduce appetite), ghrelin (which acts as an appetite stimulant) or insulin (which is secreted by the anticipation of meals and during digestion)  have been found to enhance memory formation through their action on the hippocampus, a brain structure essential for memory formation. These hormones have an influence on the plasticity (the ability to change) of the connections between neurons in the hippocampus.


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