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Smart Foods for a Healthy Mind
All too often, a one-dimensional approach is taken to dieting. The goal is always to benefit your body, but what about your mind? What are the best foods for your brain?
Those that say we have four bodies - physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual - understand the importance of a diet that is good for our mind as well as our physical bodies. After all, three of those four "bodies" concern the health of the mind.
Unfortunately, there are many diets out there that place a total emphasis on the goals of the physical body while neglecting the health of the mind. But the brain needs fuel in the same way that the body does. When a diet neglects the mind, it can leave the dieter feeling dull and sluggish.
In your quest to limit caloric intake to get the body you desire, don't starve your brain in the process!
Here are the things worth knowing about smart foods to feed a healthy mind:
1. Brains Beg for Balance
Feeding the mind is a tricky game because the brain operates on glucose acquired from recently-consumed carbohydrates (fruits, grains, etc), however, high glucose levels damage cells in the body including those in the brain.
Giving the brain too much glucose, it's primary fuel for healthy functioning, raises blood sugar levels and promotes the release of a hormone known as cortisol. Both of these issues result in short-term memory impairment and poor cognitive functioning.
Researchers has indicated the brain works best with about as much glucose in the blood stream as can be found in a single banana. For this reason, it's advisable to graze on several smaller meals throughout the day to keep glucose levels at a consistent level for optimal brain functioning.
2. Fat: Really Good or Really Bad
Dieters should know that not all fats are created equal. Different fats have different impacts on the body.
While any gram of a single fat contains exactly 9 calories, some fats should be avoided altogether while others are very, very good for you and essential for survival.
Trans fats are the worst type of fat. They are found primarily in foods that have been chemically processed and are considered even worse for you than the next worst type of fat, saturated fat.
Saturated fats are found commonly in meats, butter and cheeses. They promote high cholesterol and cognitive deficits. Studies on rats fed a diet high in saturated fats showed clear damage to the area of their brain charged with memory formation.
A diet high in saturated fats also increases the risk of stroke and heart disease.
Unsaturated fats are the healthiest. Essential fatty acids like Omega-3 have been demonstrated to be really, really healthy for cognitive functioning.
Just a few of the studied benefits of diets rich in Omega-3 fatty acids include:
- stave off depression, schizophrenia, and other mental health disorders
- reduce plaque build-up and blood clots
- improve skin health, combats psoriasis and acne
- prevent cancer
- lower cholesterol levels
- reduce inflammation of the bowels
- improve lung health, reduced asthma attacks
Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in eggs from hens fed on a flaxseed diet, flaxseeds, pecans and walnuts, salmon, olive and canola oil, and soybeans. Many people add a fish oil supplement to their diet to ensure they are getting enough Omega-3 fatty acids.
3. Best Brainiac Bites
So what are the best foods for a highly functioning and healthy mind? Here is a rundown of foods most widely correlated to enhancing cognitive function. Best of all, almost none of these foods violate the objectives of a diet aimed at reducing one's physical weight!
- wild salmon
- beans (and lentils)
- brown rice (and other whole grains)
- dark chocolate
- grape juice
- fresh tea
- olive oil
- red wine
- enriched eggs
- green leafy vegetables
There you have it. A comprehensive list of foods full of antioxidant power to keep your brain functioning at its best well into old age. It's almost impossible to get too much of some of these "smart" foods, so eat up and enjoy! Just go easy on the wine and dark chocolate, okay?