Although exercise routines tend to focus on improving areas below the neck, studies have shown that activities we do to shrink our waistlines can be influential–or even detrimental–to the health and functioning of the brain.
"We all know by now that overeating and bad habits like smoking and not exercising can make us look and feel bad," says David Perlmutter, MD, FACN, a neurologist and author of The Better Brain Book. "What people may not realize is that other activities perceived as healthy may in fact harm the brain as well as the body."
Dr. Perlmutter suggests these five tips for achieving better physical and cerebral health.
1. Use your head while browsing the supermarket.
Many foods marketed for dieting–such as low calorie entrees and sugar-free treats–are commonly found in the frozen food aisle, right next to full fat ice cream, frozen pies and other foods that may be too tempting to resist. By shopping the outer ring of your grocery store you'll find yourself buying fresh foods and eating a more brain-healthy diet. A diet considered brain healthy is one that also reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes, encourages good blood flow to the brain and is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and calories.
Fruits and vegetables are good sources of antioxidants, which help the body neutralize harmful free radicals and enhance the process by which the brain makes its energy. The more color in the fruits and vegetables, the more antioxidants.
2. Be mindful of toxins found in healthy foods.
Fruits, vegetables and fish are commonly considered healthy foods. However, according to U.S. government data, strawberries, peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers and imported grapes were among the produce found to have the highest levels of residue from pesticides. Those who are routinely exposed to pesticides have a dramatically higher risk of Parkinson's disease. Look for organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible. And be sure to wash all fresh foods before eating. Certain fish also may be extremely high in mercury, a known brain toxin. Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency advise pregnant and nursing women, as well as children, to limit their fish consumption.
3. Change your fat, change your brain.
Most Americans mistakenly believe that the less dietary fat the better. But nothing could be worse for brain health. The emphasis needs to be on the type of fat we consume, not the amount.
Monounsaturated fats are naturally high in antioxidants and are commonly found in olive oil, canola oil, nuts and avocados. Polyunsaturated fats include the all-important essential fatty acids, fats that cannot be made by the body and must be obtained from food. Adequate levels of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), the omega-3 fatty acid found in the brain, eyes and heart, are critical for optimal brain development and function in infants, and ongoing brain function in adults. DHA has also been associated with reducing the risk for Alzheimer's disease, dementia and age-related macular degeneration, a major cause of blindness.
Fatty fish is the primary dietary source of DHA, making it difficult for most people to get enough of this important brain nutrient from diet alone. (Experts recommend about 220 mg a day for adults). Fortunately, there is a non-fish, vegetarian DHA source that is derived from microalgae known as life's DHA. Today dietary supplements and fortified foods with DHA from microalgae are becoming increasingly available.
4. Water your brain
If you're feeling sluggish, this may be a sign that your brain needs water. Drink at least eight glasses of water a day as adequate hydration is critical for optimal brain function. To reduce consumption of chlorine, pesticides and heavy metals, drink bottled water (spring or distilled) or tap water purified by reverse osmosis.
5. Get mental and physical exercise.
Physical exercise oxygenates the blood, maintains good blood flow to the brain, and actually encourages the formation of new brain cells! For the most benefit, find an exercise or some physical activity that you enjoy, and challenge your mind by varying your program. Bicycle one day. Walk the dog the next. Try new activities like wall climbing or fencing. But regardless of what activity you choose, always use appropriate head protection. While we can replace a damaged knee, precious little can be done to repair a damaged brain. So a helmet when bike riding, snow skiing, or in-line skating is clearly using your head.
Courtesy of ARAcontent