Continuing Care Retirement Community

Continuing Care Retirement Community

 

Dr Andie Stethoscope Feb 2014CropResize​Often I am asked, “Does food really influence the health of my brain?” The answer is yes!

You’ve probably heard the adage “You are what you eat.” This is particularly true when it comes to your brain. Our brains are constituted mostly of fat.  If “you are what you eat,” and our brain is mostly fat, the next question I am asked is, “So you mean I should eat fat?” Again, the answer is yes!

But we must be mindful to eat healthy fats, in order to nourish our brain with good fats which will enable proper functioning. If we eat bad fats, we will suffer the consequences. So which fats are healthier than others? Those which contain omega-3 and omega-6 fats are healthiest for our brains. The typical American diet easily provides enough omega-6 fats, but it is a bit more challenging to get proper amounts of omega-3 fats. Foods which are particularly high in omega-3’s include wild-caught, cold water salmon such as that which is from Alaska. Walnuts, walnut oil, flax seed, flax seed oil, and pumpkin seeds are examples of other foods which contain healthy omega-3 fats. Another alternative includes omega-3 fortified eggs. These fats — also known as unsaturated fat — are structurally more conducive to brain health. They allow the cell membranes of the central nervous system, have more fluidity, thereby enabling the transmission of signals more readily. Saturated fats, or trans-fats, are more stiff. When they become incorporated into the cell membranes, we develop cells which are more resistant to conduction of impulses. Other healthy food choices for optimization of brain health include those foods which are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are like the garbage trucks which travel to cells in the body, scavenging free radicals. Free radicals are produced by the body as a waste product. If not removed properly, they may eventually cause damage to surrounding healthy tissue and cells. The brain is a free radical magnet, because free radicals love to stick to fat. ​Foods which contain antioxidants — and therefore, may have a protective effect on the brain — include colorful foods such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, kale, and spinach. Sugar can increase the amount of free radicals in the body, and should be avoided.
Bottom line: being more mindful of food choices can ultimately influence your brain function. You can, indeed, eat your way to brain fitness!
Andie Iannuzzelli, DO, FACOI Medical Director Medford Leas

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