To Your Health
August, 2009 (Vol. 03, Issue 08)
Feed Your Brain
Brain health should be at the top of your list of health and wellness priorities; after all, you can live without a kidney, spleen, teeth, hair and other assorted elements of your body, but without a brain - well, there's not much you can do after that.
And you can't get a brain transplant (at least not yet), as you can with other organs and appendages, which means it's your job to find ways to keep your brain as fit as possible for as long as possible.
There are several ways to promote brain health, including exercising, which increases blood flow to the brain and encourages the growth of new brain cells; and keeping your mind sharp by playing challenging board games such as chess, which improves memory by requiring you to remember previous moves and conceptualize future moves and combinations. (Evidence suggests an active mind also may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.)And then there's eating the right foods - another great way to maximize brain health. Here are three examples:
Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with various health benefits; with respect to the brain, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is the major polyunsaturated fatty acid found in the brain and is linked to brain development and function. Good sources of omega-3s include seafood (especially cold-water fish) and supplements; manufacturers also have begun adding DHA to some dairy products.
Choline, a water-soluble B vitamin, is a chemical building block of every cell in the body; that makes it a pretty important nutrient. Evidence suggests choline may improve memory and protect against senility in old age. Good sources of choline include egg yolks, skim milk, soybeans and lentils.
Folic acid, otherwise known as vitamin B9, is well-known for its effect on fetal development: adequate daily folic acid intake can reduce the risk of birth defects such as cleft palate/lip. It's also great for improving cognitive function (your ability to think clearly and remember things), suggesting it may help protect against the development of Alzheimer's. Spinach, asparagus and avocado are all good sources of folic acid; many cereals are also fortified with B9, and it is a staple of many daily multivitamin supplements.
If you don't think your current diet will ensure adequate intake of these and other brain-friendly nutrients, consider taking a supplement containing one or more of the above. Talk to your doctor for more information about brain health and what you can do to keep your brain - and the rest of your body - functioning at its best.