How to Keep Your Mental Edge Into Old Age

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We all want to stay mentally sharp, have good memories and decrease the risk of Altzheimer’s as we age.  Scientists have been studying foods that enable us to have healthier brains.  We only need to incorporate more of these foods in our diet to always know what we walked into a room to get and where we left our keys, at least most of the time.

Oxidative damage is the most common blame for brain decline.  The brain is highly sensitive to oxidative, free radical damage.  Foods high in antioxidants protect the brain.  The brain is the greediest organ in your body and its dietary requirements are high.

The first tip to keep your mental edge as you age is to eat three servings a day of green, leafy vegetables.   Studies at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago showed that people who consumed two or more vegetables a day had a 35 to 40 percent decrease in the decline in thinking ability over six years.  That’s the equivalent of being five years younger in age.  Doctors on the project suspect that vegetables help protect memory and thinking speed because of their high amounts of vitamin E, an antioxidant that reduces damage caused by free radicals, unstable oxygen molecules generated by normal metabolism that can damage neurons in the brain and contribute to dementia.  It also protects against the development of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the doctors.  Fruit has not shown the same benefits at this time

Vegetables contain folate, vitamin B12 or vitamin B6 to break down nasty chemicals in the body called homocysteines.  High levels of homocysteines are linked with cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.  

A large study in Switzerland discovered that people in their 60s who had the highest blood levels of vitamin C and beta-carotene scored higher on memory tests than those with low levels. And in almost all cases they got the vitamin C and beta-carotene from food, not supplements.  The top 11 foods for beta-carotene content are:

* Carrots
* Pumpkin
* Sweet potato
* Butternut squash
* Mango
* Spinach
* Kale
* Greens (beet, collard, and mustard)
* Swiss chard
* Red peppers
* Apricots

Avocados are almost as powerful as blueberries for brain health.   It is true that is is a fatty fruit, but it’s a monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy blood flow which equals a healthier brain.  

Nuts and seeds are an excellent source of the power antioxidant vitamin E.  Studies show that high levels of vitamin E correspond with less cognitive decline.  Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seed, walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, filberts, almond, cashews, peanuts and unhydrogenated nut butters all provide benefits.  

Beans stabilize glucose (blood sugar) levels.  The brain cannot store glucose and yet it is dependent on it for fuel.  Beans provide a steady stream of energy as well as a lot of good fiber.

Blueberries are pure and simple brain food, proven by many clinical studies.  People who eat them regularly for four weeks showed improvements in a number of aging indicators including decision speed and energy level.  They appeared to be protected from aged-related mental decline.   

Scientists are suggesting that blueberries may influence the way brain cells communicate.  It seems to be a phytochemical in blueberries called anthocyanins that keep brains from again.  This particular phytochemical may also help the brain make new neurons to keep from aging.  And it doesn’t matter if they’re fresh or frozen.

And, of course, we all know by now that deep, cold water fish like wild salmon and herring are brain food.  They are full of neuro-protective omega-3 fatty acids.  This also improves the mood because higher levels of omega-3 in the blood go hand-in-hand with higher levels of serotonin, a mood-enhancing brain chemical.  A study from the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging in Chicago found that people who eat fish at least once a week are significantly less likely to end up with Alzheimer’s disease.   Because fish aids communication between nerve cells, studies have shown its positive effect on learning acquisition and memory performance.  It is interesting to note that some specialists are now prescribing omega-3 fatty acids to their patients with attention deficit disorder and getting good results.

Grape juice

Grape juice increases production of the neurotransmitter dopamine and contains antioxidants which significantly improve short-term memory and motor skills.

Hot Cocoa

Cornell University, found the antioxidant content of two tablespoons of pure cocoa powder is almost two times stronger than red wine, two to three times stronger than green tea and four to five times stronger than that of black tea.  The antioxidants in hot cocoa protect brain cells from oxidative stress that can lead to Alzheimer’s and other neuro disorders.

Or if you don’t care for grape juice or hot cocoa to boost your brain power, relax with a nice glass of wine.   Red wine in moderation can be good for the brain.  It is rich in antioxidants which protect brain cells.  One glass per day for women and two for men is considered a safe and moderate amount.

Other foods that may be good for your brain include: avocados, bananas, lean beef, brewer’s yeast. broccoli, brown rice, brussel sprouts, cantaloupe, cheese, chicken, collard greens, eggs, flaxseed oil, legumes, oatmeal, oranges, peanut butter, peas, potatoes, romaine lettuce, salmon, soybeans, turkey, wheat germ, and yogurt.

Spinach is loaded with folic acid, an important chemical in alleviating depression and reversing memory loss.   Other good sources of folic acid are brewer’s yeast, lentils, romaine lettuce, okra, black-eyed peas and black beans.  

Eat foods that are rich in protein such as chicken.  Poultry is high in amino acids and tyrosine.  Amino acids are able to cross the filter between the blood and the brain.  When it crosses these barriers, it is converted into dopamine and norepinephrine which help keep us alert.  

Avoid fats and processed foods, eat a healthy breakfast and get out that New York Times Crossword Puzzle to keep your brain healthy and flexible.

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