Archive for the ‘brain foods’ Category

Top Brain Foods

July 23, 2015

Study after study has found a relationship between what we put in our mouths and how well we can perform important thinking and memory tasks. There are indeed some foods that have been shown to improve brain function, protect against age-associated cognitive decline, even Alzheimer’s disease, and encourage focus and clarity.

avacado1Avocados—High in fiber and free of sodium and cholesterol, avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids widely acknowledged as the secret to a healthy heart and brain.

Beets—Beets are a good source of naturally-occurring nitrates, which help open blood vessels in the body, increasing blood flow and oxygen to places lacking in oxygen.

Berries—The high antioxidant content of berries helps protect brain cells from damage by harmful free radicals. Also, berries change the way the neurons in the brain communicate with each other. These changes can prevent inflammation that can lead to brain cell damage and thereby improve movement control and function.

Caffeine—The mild stimulant found in coffee has been shown to improve mental acuity, in addition to coffee’s antioxidant richness which helps maintain brain health. Some research suggests that drinking coffee can actually stave off depression in women.

Dark chocolate—In addition to the caffeine content in dark chocolate, which is thought to play a role in maintaining mental acuity, chocolate is rich in flavonoids, a class of antioxidant that helps to improve blood flow (and thus brain health) by regulating cholesterol and lowering blood pressure.

Fatty fish—The omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, in sardines, salmon and other fatty fish are well-known brain boosters, which have been linked to lower risk of dementia, improved focus and memory.

Garlic— Garlic’s inflammation-reducing properties may be beneficial for your brain. Researchers have found that the organo-sulfur compounds in garlic actually worked to kill glioblastoma cells, a type of malignant tumor cell. Aged garlic extract, known as AGE, may play a part in protecting against brain function loss, as indicated by its ability to increase memory, cognitive functions and longevity.

Olive oil—great source of monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to actually slow brain aging.

Spinach—Leafy green and cruciferous vegetables such as spinach are rich in the antioxidant lutein, which is thought to help protect against cognitive decline.

Walnuts—Full of heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory nutrients, walnuts are the only good nut source of alpha linolenic acid. They means they help promote blood flow, which in turn allows for efficient delivery of oxygen to the brain.

Water— Our brains depend on proper hydration to function optimally. When you lose too much water, brain tissue actually shrinks. Dehydration can affect cognitive function, and impair short-term memory, focus and decision making.

Wheat germ—Foods such as wheat germ and eggs are rich in choline which is involved in the body’s production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that boosts memory.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping people of all ages improve cognitive skills. Our customized brain fitness programs take brain performance to new levels by strengthening nerve cells and improving cognitive power and concentration. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

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Breakfasts with Brain Power

July 23, 2014

yogurt1You hear it all the time—“Eat your breakfast!”

Eating a good breakfast can not only help you maintain a healthy weight and give you energy to face the day, but it also can increase your ability to concentrate.

The trick is to incorporate into your breakfast foods known to keep brain cells healthy and maintain cognitive ability. Here are some suggestions for breakfasts built with powerful nutrients for your brain:

Yogurt with walnuts and berries—The yogurt provides a foundation of protein. The walnuts add brain-saving omega-3s and the berries serve up one of the most concentrated sources of antioxidants. You can even add a little high-fiber cereal (shredded wheat for example) to ensure everything gets digested slowly for steady energy (and better concentration) all morning long.

Fried eggs “plus”—Fried eggs become healthier when you cook them with a brain food like olive oil; tomatoes, spinach, and an apple on the side round out the meal with important antioxidants.

Dressed-up cereal—When you shake up a basic bowl of cereal with pumpkin seeds and sliced peaches, you are adding brain-friendly vitamin E, healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants.

Salmon on toast—Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and experts think it is responsible for helping brain cells communicate with each other better. Spread a slice of whole grain toast with lox (smoked salmon spread), and add a dollop of cottage cheese for a breakfast that’s filling and fiber- and protein-rich.

Waffles with yogurt—Replace the syrup with yogurt on your favorite waffles. Top with berries and a little flaxseed and you’ve got a tasty breakfast everyone will love.

Want to power up your ability to concentrate? Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. We also have specialists in college counseling and athletic college prep counseling on our staff. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Care and Feeding of the Aging Brain

June 14, 2014

brainfoods1We are learning more about the human brain every day, but there is still much about it that remains a mystery. One thing we do know is that our brains can deteriorate if we don’t take care of them.

So here are some things you can try to keep your “gray matter” healthy:

Eat brain-healthy foods—Choose foods that are lower in fats and cholesterol. Increase your intake of dark fruits and vegetables, fish and lean proteins. Instead of candy, snack on almonds and blueberries. Healthy snacks can lower blood sugar and improve cognition. Also, the Omega-3s in walnuts have been found to improve mood and calm inflammation that may lead to brain-cell death.

Read for half an hour a day— The Mayo Clinic Study of Aging found that reading books (in addition to other cognitive activities) can lead to a 50 percent decrease in your chances of developing dementia.

Exercise—Walking your dog or yourself for just 20 minutes a day can lower blood sugar and increase blood flow to the brain so you can think more clearly. Don’t forget about dancing. Learning new moves activates brain motor centers that form new neural connections.

Be a social animal—According to the Yale Medical Center, people who sustain close friendships and continue to socialize live longer.

Become a student again—Challenge your mind by taking courses at your local college, university, community college or adult education center. Many institutions offer discounts for senior students.

Learn a musical instrument—Recent studies show that after only four months of playing an instrument an hour a week, seniors experienced improvements in the areas of the brain that control hearing, memory and hand movement.

Improve your powers of observation—Stare straight ahead and see if you can make out what’s at the periphery. Walk down the street and scan to the left and right. These actions activate rarely used areas of the brain that can atrophy if not used enough.

Get out of your comfort zone—Try tasks that are opposite your natural skills. If you like numbers, learn to draw. If you love language, try logic puzzles.

Write it down—Research shows that handwriting helps stimulate the areas of the brain that deal with thinking, language and memory. Write stories or keep a daily journal for starters.

Sleep—Seven or eight hours of good sleep a night helps prevent memory loss and gives the brain to relax and process things you learned during the day.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. We also have specialists in college counseling and athletic college prep counseling on our staff. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Study Ties Saturated Fat to Alzheimer’s Risk

January 23, 2014

brainfood1A recent study found that dietary saturated fat cut the body’s levels of a key chemical—apolipoprotein E (ApoE)—that helps protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

Study participants who received a high-saturated-fat, high-sugar diet showed a change in their ApoE that made it less able to help clear the amyloid. If left loose in the brain, amyloid beta proteins are more likely to form plaques that interfere with neuron function, the kind of plaques found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Diet also directly affected the amount of loose amyloid beta found in cerebrospinal fluid. People on a high-saturated-fat diet had higher levels of amyloid beta in their spinal fluid, while people on a low-saturated-fat diet actually saw a decline in such levels.

While this study is preliminary, it adds another small piece to the growing evidence that taking good care of your heart is probably good for your brain too. We tend to focus on diet in terms of weight and heart health, but often overlook that diet is critical for healthy brain aging. In addition, many of the things the brain needs to function properly—fatty acids and certain amino acids, for example—come only from food.

People focus on diet in terms of weight and heart health, but they overlook that nutrition can be key to cognitive function as well. According to research team member Suzanne Craft, a professor of medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine, “Diet is a very underappreciated factor in terms of brain function. It’s quite well accepted for your heart and your cholesterol and your blood, but diet is also critical for a healthy brain aging. Many of the things the brain needs to function properly—fatty acids, certain amino acids— come only from food.”

Optiminds’ brain fitness programs take brain performance to new levels by strengthening nerve cells, and improving cognitive power and concentration. Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

Eat Smart for a Healthier Brain—Part II

May 5, 2013

While the modern American diet is increasing the incidence of obesity and diabetes, it is also wreaking havoc on our brains. Here are more “superfoods” you can add to your daily diet to help increase your odds of maintaining a healthy brain for the rest of your life.

Whole grains—Oatmeal, whole-grain breads, brown rice and wheat germ are just a few examples of whole grains that can reduce the risk for heart disease. They promote cardiovascular health, meaning good blood flow to your body’s organ system, which includes your brain.

Beans—Often unappreciated for its health benefits, the humble bean stabilizes glucose (blood sugar) levels. While the brain is dependent on glucose for fuel, it cannot store glucose.  It relies on a steady stream of energy, which beans can provide. Any beans will do, especially lentils and black beans.

Pomegranate juice—With its potent antioxidant benefits, pomegranate juice helps protect the brain from the damage of free radicals. And no part of the body is more sensitive to the damage from free radicals than the brain.

greentea2Freshly brewed tea—Tea contains potent antioxidants, especially the class known as catechines, which promote healthy blood flow.  In addition, the modest amount of caffeine in tea can boost brain power by enhancing memory, focus, and mood.

Dark chocolate—In addition to powerful antioxidant properties, dark chocolate contains several natural stimulants, including caffeine, which enhance focus and concentration, and stimulate the production of endorphins, which helps improve mood. It is best to limit your intake to one-half ounce to 1 ounce a day.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

Eat Smart for a Healthier Brain—Part I

April 25, 2013

There is a lot of focus these days on how much food we consume. We should also be aware of what kind of foods we are consuming, especially when it comes to our brain health. While the modern American diet is increasing the incidence of obesity and diabetes, it is also wreaking havoc on our brains.

The brain is the most metabolically active organ in the body. There is mounting evidence that feeding the brain healthy foods can help us maintain a healthy brain well into our old age.

Adding some “superfoods” to your daily diet can help increase your odds of maintaining a healthy brain for the rest of your life. Here are some suggestions:

blueberries1Blueberries—Fresh or frozen, adding blueberries to your diet can help protect the brain from oxidative stress and may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Studies have shown that diets rich in blueberries significantly improved both the learning capacity and motor skills of aging rats, making them mentally equivalent to much younger rats.

Wild salmon—A “clean” fish in plentiful supply, salmon is rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are essential for brain function. Omega-3s also contain anti-inflammatory substances. Other oily fish that provide the benefits of omega-3s are sardines and herring.

Nuts and seeds—Just an ounce a day of nuts and seeds can boost vitamin E levels to lessen cognitive decline as you get older. The choice is wide: walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, filberts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seed, and unhydrogenated nut butters such as peanut butter, almond butter, and tahini. Raw or roasted doesn’t matter; choose unsalted if you need to restrict sodium.

Avocados—While the avocado is a fatty fruit, it has monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy blood flow, which contributes to a healthy brain. Avocados also help with hypertension, a risk factor for the decline of cognitive abilities.

See our May 5, 2003 post for Part II.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

Everyday Tips for Maintaining and Improving Your Brain

March 25, 2013

Spring is here and it’s a great time to sweep out the mental cobwebs and get your brain in shape. Here are some tips you can implement every day to keep you and your brain on track.

  • Appreciate your brain as a living, constantly changing entity.
  • Nourish your brain with good food. The brain weighs only 2 percent of body mass but consumes over 20 percent of the oxygen and nutrients we take in. The benefits of eating well extend to your brain as well as your body.
  • Your brain benefits from physical activity. Physical exercise enhances neurogenesis, which is the growth of new neurons in the brain.
  • Think positive, future-oriented thoughts. Eventually, they will become your default mindset. Stress and anxiety can kill neurons and subdue the growth of new neurons.
  • Challenge yourself mentally. The point of having a brain is to learn and adapt to new environments. Once you grow new neurons, where and how long they survive in your brain depends on how you use them.
  • Aim high. Always keep learning. The brain keeps developing , no matter your age, and it reflects what you do with it.
  • Be an explorer and traveler. Adapting to new locations forces you to pay more attention to your environment and make new decisions.
  • Don’t outsource your brain to media personalities, politicians or other people. Make your own decisions and your own mistakes—and learn from them.
  • Develop and maintain stimulating friendships. Humans are social animals and need social interaction to thrive.
  • Laugh often, especially to cognitively complex humor.

Above all, practice. Practicing these suggestions every day will turn them into internalized, unstoppable habits.

Concerned about maintaining your mental capacity? Check out our Optiminds Brain fitness programs that take brain performance to new levels by strengthening nerve cells, plus improving cognitive and concentration power. Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has been helping to improve the cognitive skills of clients of all ages. Call us today at (248) 496-0150 or email us at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit our website at www.optimindsct.com.

Eating to Improve Brain Power—Part 2

December 22, 2012

With New Year’s resolution time coming up fast, now is a great time to refresh your knowledge about which foods can give you a boost in terms of brain power. Here, in Part 2 of “Eating to Improve Brain Power,” we continue our list of good bets for foods that will give you a “cognitive” edge.

Caffeine. This mild stimulant found in coffee improves mental acuity, which might explain why coffee enthusiasts guzzle 120,000 tons of the stuff each year. Also, coffee’s antioxidant richness helps maintain brain health. And some research suggests that drinking coffee can actually stave off depression in women.

Spinach. Spinach is rich in the antioxidant lutein, which is thought to help protect against cognitive decline. A Harvard Medical School study found that women who reported eating the most leafy green and cruciferous vegetables had a markedly lower rate of cognitive decline, compared to those who ate the least.

Dark Chocolate. Antioxidant-rich dark chocolate is healthy for your whole body, but its caffeine content is thought to play a role in maintaining mental acuity. Chocolate is rich in flavonoids, a class of antioxidant that helps to improve blood flow (and thus brain health) by regulating cholesterol and lowering blood pressure.

Avocados. Avocados are full of monounsaturated fats that improve vascular health and blood flow, making them another brain food.

Water. When a person becomes dehydrated, their brain tissue actually shrinks. Studies have shown that dehydration can affect cognitive function and impair short-term memory, focus and decision making.

Wheat Germ. Wheat germ is a rich vegetarian source of choline, a nutrient involved in the body’s production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that boosts memory. Eggs are another good choline source.

Beets. Beets are a good source of naturally-occurring nitrates, which help improve blood flow to the brain.

Garlic. Garlic may help stave off some forms of brain cancer, according to research published in Cancer, the medical journal of the American Cancer Society. Investigators found that certain compounds in garlic actually worked to kill glioblastoma cells—a type of malignant tumor cell.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at www.optimindsct.com.

Eating to Improve Brain Power—Part 1

December 15, 2012

Study after study has found a relationship between what we put in our mouths and how well we can perform important thinking and memory tasks. In addition to considering which specific nutrients may help brain function, we also need to look at the totality of our diets. A recent British study found that a diet high in saturated fat actually caused damage to neurons that control energy and appetite in mice. Other studies have shown that when we eat our meals can be a factor in our performance.

Doctors say cognitive abilities can start dropping in your 40s. But there’s mounting evidence that what you eat can help improve brain function right now.

In this blog post (Part 1) and the next on December 15 (Part 2), we list some of the foods that have been shown to improve brain function, protect against age-associated cognitive decline and encourage focus and clarity. Hopefully, you will find some of your favorites among them.

Walnuts. Walnuts are chock-full of heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory nutrients, and are the only good nut source of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which helps promote blood flow, which in turn allows for efficient delivery of oxygen to the brain.

Olive Oil. Olive oil is a great source of monounsaturated fats, which have been shown to actually slow brain aging.

Berries. A recent study published in the Annals of Neurology found that a diet high in blueberries, strawberries and other berries was linked to a slower mental decline in areas like memory and focus in a large sample of middle-aged women.

Sardines. Fatty fishes like sardines and salmon are a well-known brain booster, thanks to the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, which have been linked to lower risk of dementia, improved focus and memory. Sunflower seeds might be a good alternative.

For more brain superfoods, see our blog post for December 15, 2012.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at www.optimindsct.com.

Being Overweight Can Affect Brain Function

July 7, 2012

Studies have shown that the brain appears to shrink more and age faster in overweight people. For example, in a study that compared brain images of people who were of normal weight with overweight (body mass index of 25-30) people of the same age, the overweight people had 4 percent less brain tissue and their brains looked eight years older than their normal weight counterparts. The brains of obese subjects (BMI over 30) had 8 percent less tissue and looked 16 years older. The loss of tissue depletes brain reserves and puts people at a higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

A long-term study of more than 6,500 people in northern California found that those who were fat around the middle at age 40 were more likely to succumb to dementia in their 70s. A Swedish study found that, compared to thinner people, those who were overweight in their 40s experienced a more rapid, and more pronounced, decline in brain function over the next several decades. Another study of 114 middle-aged people (aged between 40 and 66) found that the obese tended to have smaller, more atrophied brains than thinner people; other studies have found similar results. Pronounced brain atrophy is a feature of dementia. While our brains usually atrophy with age, research shows that being obese appears to accelerate this process.

We don’t know yet whether or no obesity-associated brain damage can be reversed. But those two old friends, a healthful diet and plenty of exercise, have repeatedly been shown to protect the brain. Foods like oily fishes and blueberries have been shown to stimulate the growth of new neurons. And whether you are fat or thin, young or old, the best hope you have of guarding your brain is to eat well and exercise.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has been helping to improve the study, reading and cognitive skills of clients of all ages. Find out more about Optiminds brain fitness programs and cognitive skills training by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or email us at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit our website at www.optimindsct.com.


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