The food you put in your mouth does more than nourish your body. It tremendously impacts brain health. Learning, mood, memory and reasoning skills are all impacted by diet. There are basic core eating principles to follow to optimize brain function in both children and adults.
You want to improve the health of your intestinal tract in order to maximize the health of your brain. The bacteria and other organisms that reside in your digestive tract determine the majority of the chemical levels in your brain as well as the health of individual brain neurons and neurogenesis, or the formation of new neurons..
Here are a few basic rules to follow to optimize brain health:
- Eliminate artificial sweeteners and reduce sugar consumption to the fullest extent possible.
- Include high fiber foods in your daily diet. High fiber foods include leafy greens as well as most raw plants. Plants should dominate every meal.
- Include probiotic rich foods in your daily diet such as kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and yogurt. Be aware (avoid) of pre-sweetened yogurts.
- Set a goal to reduce or even eliminate processed foods from your diet. You want to focus on eating whole foods. A good rule of thumb is to eat foods that have no list of ingredients, or at least only contain ingredients that you might also find in your own kitchen.
As we age, we become even more concerned with neurogenesis or the formation of new neurons in the brain. Neurogenesis is most active in our hippocampus which is responsible for memory. At any age, diet can impact this area and affects learning, memory and consolidation of information.
Here is how to maximize the health of your hippocampus:
- Increase omega-3 fatty acid foods and try to reduce consumption of omega-6 fatty acids. Foods with high omega-3 fatty acids would include fish, flax, avocado, pastured meat, pastured eggs, olive oil. (Omega-6 fatty acid foods would include industrial seed oils such as vegetable oil and commercially raised animal meat).
- Avoid high fructose corn syrup
- Eliminate artificial sweeteners and reduce sugar consumption as much as possible
- Increase your consumption of phytonutrients which are the colors found in plants. Basically you want to eat a colorful diet including as many different plants as possible.
- Avoid supplements – Use whole foods instead.