Monday, July 26, 2004

Food For The Brain

For people like me who are masochists and who love to test their bodies and brains to the limit by undergoing too much stress, fatigue - you better read this.

Brain health
Posted: 7:01 PM (Manila Time)
Jul. 12, 2004
Inquirer News Service

FOR decades, medical attention focused on the heart and how to keep it healthy. But the new science asks--what about brain health?

Did you know that brain cells are considered even more sensitive (than other cells) to diet? What you eat also determines how the brain will function.

Undoubtedly, the brain is precious being the seat of consciousness and intelligence.

Brain biology
There used to be a myth that you are born with a brain that has been genetically determined to be of a certain size and capacity. Your fate was sealed.

The new science says, however, that brain size doesn't determine your IQ. The brain is alive--growing, expanding and changing. Its potential is dependent on how you nourish and care for it. You can create more brain connections--grow more dendrites, receptors and synapses (neurons or parts of the nerve cell and transmission centers)--at any age.

Bruce Ewan, leading brain researcher at New York's Rockefeller University, says "the most important thing is to realize that the brain is growing and changing at all times."

Nutritional neuroscience
Scientific evidence now reveals that the right foods have natural neuro-chemicals that can enhance mental capabilities. The right diet can improve memory, neutralize stress, help concentration and thinking, and possibly prevent brain aging.

Through vitamins, supplements and certain lifestyle factors, increased brain power is achieved and brain deterioration prevented. The new science is coming up with more fascinating revelations and showing how the human brain can be cared for throughout your lifetime.

Carper says, "Without neurotransmitters, the lights in the brain would go out. They are the biochemical electrification system of your brain. They are the essence of your memory, mood, intelligence and creativity."

He adds, "The type of neurotransmitters your neurons make and release and their ultimate destiny within the brain depend greatly on what you eat."

Caring for the brain should begin before you are born, says Denham Harman, MD, emeritus professor of medicine at the University of Nebraska.

Brain's enemies
The brain is damaged by:

Free radicals--highly active and damaging atoms and chemicals resulting from diseases, radiation, poisons, smoking, etc.

Stress--It does not only cause depression or fatigue but "can cause brain damage," according to Richard Restak, MD, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Services. Everyday stress such as traffic jams, financial worries, work dissatisfaction, emotional pains can erode your brain.

Unhealthy diet--Brain cells need certain nutrients: tryptophan (an amino acid in foods) to create serotonin, the good mood messenger; choline in egg yolk aids in producing the neurotransmitter acetylcholine needed for memory, tyrosine in high-protein foods makes dopamine for proper motor coordination. Folic acid and fish oil are essential too.

On the other hand, a high-fat diet can stunt brain growth.

No exercise--Tests showed that older people who exercised did better or even scored high in brain tests than non-exercisers.

Stone Age diet
If you like your brain to function at peak power, follow our ancestors' diet.

Stone Age diet: 65 percent fruits, vegetables, nuts, honey; 35 percent lean game, wild fowl, eggs, fish, shellfish

American: 55 percent "new" foods-cereal, gram, milk, sugar, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, separated fats; 28 percent fatty meat, poultry, eggs, fish, shellfish; 17 percent fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts

Dr. Boyd Eaton, Emory University, Atlanta and co-author of the Paleolithic Prescription recommends:

* Fruits and vegetables

* Seafood-a balance of omega 3 and 6 as in the Stone Age diet. Today omega 6 fats (corn oil, margarine, baked goodies) exceed omega 3--a situation unhealthy to cells.

* Fish oil capsules

* Lean meat--white meat poultry minus the skin is good

* Nuts and legumes

* Cereals, pasta, bread--at a minimum

* Dairy foods--at a minimum

* Sugar--in limited amounts

* Processed oils like flaxseed, olive and canola

* Potassium and sodium--more potassium, less sodium

* Supplements--multi-vitamins, multi-minerals, antioxidants

Brain boosters
DHA-omega 3 type brain fat from seafood or supplements

EPA-omega 3 type brain fat from fish or fish oil

Linolenic Acid--omega 3 from green leafy vegetables, nuts, flaxseed

Monounsaturated fat like olive oil

Brain busters
Saturated animal fat-meat, whole milk, butter, cheese

Hydrogenated vegetable oils--heck labels of mayonnaise, margarine, processed foods, etc.

Trans fatty acids--margarine, fried fast foods (like French fries), processed foods

Omega 6 overload--vegetable oils like corn, safflower, sunflower.

If you feel a brain overload, sit in a quiet corner. Keep still. Imagine you can, by a mere touch of the hand, transfer your cares from your head to a passing cloud. Watch them float toward the heavens. Feel unburdened. Smile!

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It is always refreshing to know what is in your mind. Thanks!