How to Boost Brain Power
We commonly associate the foods we eat and vitamins we take with our digestion, as it is an easy connection to make (you eat something that doesn’t agree with your body and immediately feel bloated, for example). However, many people don’t understand the close relationship between the foods we eat and the supplements we take and our brain function, which is equally (if not more) important.
How often have you felt the following symptoms? Perhaps you’ve chalked them up to “just getting old?”
- Poor memory
- Brain fog, aka, feeling like sentences and thoughts just aren’t coming together smoothly.
- Depression or anxiety
- Anger or increased irritability
- Inability to concentrate
- Low libido
Unfortunately, these symptoms are increasingly common in modern day society. The good news is that they can be greatly improved by brain-healthy foods, certain key lifestyle choices, and the right supplement regimen.
When we have weak cell membranes and mitochondria (what make up our cells and convert food to energy), low nutrient status due to a diet lacking in healthy foods, blood sugar imbalances, hormone imbalances and/or high stress, our brain health is severely compromised.
Foods that lead to poor cognitive function include trans-fats, refined sugar and carbs and harmful chemical additives in processed foods (among others). Foods that are integral to healthy brain function include healthy fats and nutrient-dense foods. Some of the most common are
- Wild caught fish
- Coconut and olive oil
- Grass-fed butter
- Raw nuts and seeds
- Good quality protein sources
- Foods high in B vitamins and magnesium
- A wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables
Bottom-line: don’t let bad foods slow you down.
While foods should always come first, including a few key supplements for cognitive health is an excellent way to boost brain power and function.
Ginseng is an ancient herb that works to boost your energy while also lowering blood sugar levels and reducing stress.
Gingko Biloba leaf and extract has been shown to support memory and reduce premature aging caused by free radical damage through its impressively high antioxidant content.
GABA is a powerful neurotransmitter that plays an important role in the nervous system and can work wonders in helping you cope with the stressful demands of the modern world.
Last but certainly not least are several essential lifestyle factors that must be considered for optimal brain power.
Vitamin D is a critical nutrient for brain health, and you should strive to get 20 minutes of direct sunlight (without burning) per day. If you live in a cold climate, you might need to supplement. If you can withstand 20 minutes of direct sunlight without burning and without sunscreen, even better.
Sleep is probably the single biggest lifestyle factor (or overall factor) for optimal brain health. When we sleep, we not only undergo major detoxifcation and restoration, but we also store memories. According to the National Institutes of Health, without enough sleep, we lose our problem solving and reasoning abilities, among other negative effects.
Without enough sleep, we lose our problem solving and reasoning abilities, among other negative effects.
Never underestimate the effects that your diet and lifestyle choices have on day to day brain function. While not everything is under our control to change, some key factors are, like eating healthier foods, getting plenty of rest and sunlight, and including a few key supplements in our daily routine. You might just be amazed at the difference these (relatively) simple changes can make in your quality of life.
It’s important to always consult a physician and dietitian before starting any new workout plan or diet.
Rachel Fiske is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant and graduated from Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition in Berkeley, California. She is also a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Rachel focuses on issues of weight management, GI problems, hormonal imbalances, fatigue and more via a whole foods diet and lifestyle changes.