Dr. Wolfson would say that the heart is the most important organ in the body. Would you expect a cardiologist to think otherwise?
But just about everyone (including Dr. Jack) knows that without good brain health, not much else matters.
It can be argued that your brain is the most important organ in your body. Your brain essentially controls everything. It allows you to learn new things, store memories, think thoughts, and feel emotions. The brain is also critical for controlling and coordinating your actions and regulating your autonomic nervous system.
Every day, your brain is constantly at work and keeping your body’s systems running. Yet, if you aren’t eating well, getting enough sleep, aren’t exercising, or have high levels of stress, then your brain begins to age at an accelerated rate.
As your biological age advances so does the age of your brain. Every year that you get older, it becomes more imperative that you work on optimizing brain health.
Symptoms such as brain fog, difficulty concentrating, difficulty performing daily tasks, and increased forgetfulness can indicate that your brain is aging more rapidly and needs support.
A healthy brain has neurons (or brain cells) that are able to effectively communicate with one another and with other organ systems.
An aging brain means decreased brain cell communication and decreases in the size of certain brain regions. When brain cell communication is reduced and there is atrophy, or a shrinking of brain cell regions, then the result is a reduction in learning and memory. It also puts one at a drastic risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
As we live longer and longer, we must work on optimizing the health of our brains. Additionally, brain health is greatly linked to heart health. As you take care of one, you take care of the other.
Ultimately, when it comes to protecting your brain health it comes down to one thing: an anti-inflammatory diet. The goal must be to lower inflammation. Neuroinflammation (inflammation of the brain) is the top cause of AD and dementia.
There are also other factors to take care of when it comes to halting brain inflammation. The first is blood sugar. Overtime, elevated blood sugar damages the brain vasculature and further increases inflammation. The second thing to focus on is gut health. There is an established gut-brain connection that must be supported. 2019 research showed that leaky gut syndrome is a risk factor for AD and dementia.
Keeping these three factors in mind, the Paleo diet combined with some sort of fasting regimen, is the way to go for brain health.
Way back in 2004, a novel study concluded that the best way to prevent AD was to decrease dietary carbohydrates and increase essential fatty acids. The authors concluded there were two main reasons why carbohydrates contributed to AD. They said that high carb diets damage brain cells and signaling pathways.
Another study concluded that in order to optimize brain health, one’s diet must focus on an abundance of omega 3 fatty acids, anti-inflammatory foods that promote gut health.
The Paleo diet.
There are many parallels between the Paleo diet and the Mediterranean diet. Research published in Nutritional Neuroscience concluded that the Mediterranean diet was significantly linked to higher plasma levels of a protective marker called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). A study in 2019 found that higher levels of BDNF have shown to lower one’s risk of AD or dementia by a striking 33%.
The following seven foods are rich in nutrients that aid in decreasing inflammation, protecting neurons, increasing brain cell communication and preventing neurodegenerative disease.
Wild-caught fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are the best foods for your brain. They are excellent sources of essential omega 3 fatty acids, which have been associated with improved brain function and mood. The body cannot produce these omega 3 fats on its own, therefore they are considered essential. A study published in Neurology found that those who had low levels of omega 3 fatty acids in their red blood cells had accelerated brain aging, smaller brain volumes and increased levels of cognitive decline. Fatty fish, like salmon, also contain other necessary brain nutrients such as zinc, vitamin D, choline and magnesium. Aim to eat fatty fish at least 3-4 times per week for brain (and heart) health.
Eggs are brain food. Egg yolks are a great supply of choline. Choline is a key nutrient for brain health and memory formation. Research has shown that choline is neuroprotective and that adequate intake is needed to boost cognition and prevent cognitive decline. Eggs are a complete protein, contain all the micronutrients needed for health and have abundant amounts of choline. Try keeping hard-boiled eggs in the fridge for a great Paleo snack any time of the day.
Avocados are rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, which contribute to healthy blood flow. Healthy blood flow leads to a healthy brain. They also contain folate, vitamin E, potassium and magnesium, all of which are nutrients for brain health and reduced neuroinflammation. The brain also needs adequate amounts of dietary fat for proper functioning. Avocados are one of the best fats for the brain and the heart. An avocado a day keeps the doctor away.
We consider organ meats a superfood as they have a very high nutrient density. Avocados tend to contain more nutrients (in the most absorbable forms) than any other food, gram for gram. Organ meats are also the best source of choline, which is an essential nutrient for the brain. They also contain key brain nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, potassium, chromium and omega 3 fatty acids. Additionally, they are rich in B vitamins such as B12 and folate, needed to support methylation and brain function. Try out some Paleo organ meat recipes today or supplement.
Organic berries are rich in age-defying antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients. Their high levels of antioxidants are protective against age-related memory loss and neurodegeneration. These antioxidants are protectors of brain cells, but they also have other jobs too. One study showed that berries can actually alter the way that brain cells communicate and as a result, lower inflammation and enhance cellular survival in the brain. Throw organic berries into your daily recipes or try juicing fresh, organic berries.
Eating enough healthy fats daily leads to a healthy brain. This is one of the reasons why the Paleo diet is so neuroprotective—it is rich in an abundance of healthy fats (and low in carbohydrates). Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants that are beneficial for the brain. In fact, a 2019 study found that extra virgin olive oil increases cognitive functioning, reduces the effects of aging on the brain and helps to ward off AD. Use organic extra virgin oil abundantly.
Spinach has some of the highest levels of folate compared to any other leafy green. Folate is a key B vitamin for brain health. Leafy greens also contain antioxidants and have key anti-inflammatory nutrients. Furthermore, leafy greens are a great source of dietary nitrates, which get converted to nitric oxide in the body. A recent 2018 study published in Frontiers of Physiology concluded that the link between cardiovascular disease and severity of neurodegeneration is the result of depleted levels of nitric oxide.
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