10 Ways To Improve Your Brain Health and Performance For A Better Life
Brain health improvement is as important as keeping your body healthy. Our brain is a so-called “command center” that controls everything in our body. Improving your brain fitness results in various benefits that improve your life.
Keeping your brain healthy early in adulthodd helps you greatly in wading off certain brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Dementia, and others.
Here are the best tips on how to improve your brain health and performance overall:
1. Walking in nature in nature is good for your mental health.
Science proves it; Do not underestimate the power of a walk in the woods: A new study suggests that even a 90- minute stroll in a natural environment can lead to measurable changes in the brain, and may help combat depression.
Previous research has shown that just a 50-minute walk in nature can improve your mood, decrease your anxiety and even improve your memory. But for the new study, published by PNAS, the research team wanted to see if they could understand what the mechanisms for these positive effects might be. Source
2. Add “superfoods” to your diet
Researchers have discovered that an array of different foods can actually improve brain fitness and function. It makes sense when one considers the fact that a healthy diet can improve physical health; the brain is a physical organ, so it’s rather logical that it would be impacted by diet and other factors that influence the body.
These brain-friendly foods, sometimes called “superfoods,” are said to enhance an array of different aspects of brain health, from improving short-term memory, to increasing alertness, to improving one’s problem-solving abilities, mental acuity and beyond!
Here are 15 power foods that have been found to improve brain health and mental wellness in an array of different ways. Consider adding these superfoods to your diet for optimal brain power! (Credits: MommyEdition).
Superfood #1 — “Oily” Fish
Numerous studies have revealed that “oily” fish like Salmon, Mackerel and Trout, along with fish oil supplements, serve to promote optimal brain health. These fish contain high levels of an Omega-3 fatty acid called DHA.
Superfood #2 — Tomatoes
Lycopene-rich tomatoes have been found to help individuals maintain optimal brain health for longer, enabling their bodies to stave off the impact of damage that’s caused by free radicals, which progressively damage the brain over time, resulting in an age-related decline in mental capabilities.
Superfood #3 — Blueberries
Blueberries, which are rich in antioxidants and compounds called polyphenolics, have been found to improve short-term memory and concentration, while also delaying the onset of conditions such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Superfood #4 — Strawberries
Like blueberries, strawberries contain polyphenolics and flavinoids, which have been found to cleanse the brain, eliminating the toxins that serve to inhibit an array of functions, including memory.
Superfood #5 — Sage
Sage is commonly used to add flavor to a wide range of different culinary dishes, but it also contains powerful antioxidants and compounds that are similar to those that are found in Alzheimer’s medications.
Superfood #6 — Broccoli
Broccoli is high in Vitamin K, which has been found to enhance brain function. Vitamin K has been found to reduce your chances of developing age-related dementia. The nutrient also helps your bones to retain calcium, while inhibiting the development of macular degeneration and artery “hardening” that’s associated with cardiovascular diseases.
Superfood #7 – Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc, which serves to boost your memory, problem-solving skills, and mental speed. They also contain a substance called niacin, which serves to enhance GABA activity in the brain (while also reducing LDL cholesterol levels); this resulPumpkin seedsts in decreased anxiety. Anxiety can have a dramatic impact on an individual’s ability to sleep and concentrate, so this serves to improve mental function as well.
They also contain lots of protein, antioxidants and essential minerals like copper, iron, magnesium and selenium.
Superfood #8 – Whole Grains
Whole grains such as wheat and oats contain choline, which enhances the body’s ability to produce acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that improves memory. So you’ll enjoy a boost to your short-term working memory and your long-term memory when you eat plenty of whole grains.
Superfood #9 – Walnuts
Walnuts are another source of polyunsaturated fats and Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly alpha linolenic acid or “ALA.” Multiple studies have found that just a handful of walnuts per day will improve memory function, cognitive abilities and concentration.
Superfood #10 – Caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant that’s most often found in coffee. As a stimulant, caffeine boosts your ability to concentrate and focus.
What’s more, coffee also contains antioxidants, which promote all-around brain health. Recent research also suggests that coffee can lessen one’s chances of developing depression, which can impact a wide array of different brain functions.
Superfood #11 – Spinach
Spinach is high in lutein, an antioxidant that cleanses toxins from the brain and prevents age-related mental decline. That’s according to a study performed at Tufts University’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging.
Superfood #12 – Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate contains caffeine, so you’ll enjoy benefits that are similar to what you would see as a result of drinking coffee – improved mental acuity, better attention-span and improved concentration.
Superfood #13 – Water
Dehydration has a significant impact on brain function, including memory, reasoning ability, attention span, decision-making abilities and concentration. The brain can actually shrink when you’re dehydrated. Fluids also serve to flush toxins from the body; when these toxins remain in the blood stream and reach high levels, they can seriously inhibit one’s ability to think and concentrate. (It’s actually these toxins that cause your body to shut down and die in a situation involving extreme dehydration.)
Superfood #14 – Avocado
Avocado is a popular superfood that’s high in Omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamin K (among more than 20 other nutrients!), which promote better brain function, while lessening the chances that you’ll develop age-related brain health problems such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia.
Superfood #15 – Beets
Beets (and beet juice) contain lots of nitrates, which serve to increase blood flow to the brain. More blood flow means more brain power, including better memory, sharper reasoning skills, improved attention span and better concentration.
3. Ditch diet soda
Gulping down an artificially sweetened beverage not only may be associated with health risks for your body, but also possibly your brain, a new study suggests.
Artificially sweetened drinks, such as diet sodas, were tied to a higher risk of stroke and dementia in the study, which published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke.
The study sheds light only on an association, as the researchers were unable to determine an actual cause-and-effect relationship between sipping artificially sweetened drinks and an increased risk for stroke and dementia. Therefore, some experts caution that the findings should be interpreted carefully.
No connection was found between those health risks and other sugary beverages, such as sugar-sweetened sodas, fruit juice and fruit drinks. (Source: Dimentia Study)
4. Indulge in Sauna Therapy for better Brain Health
Other research has shown sauna use increases levels of norepinephrine, a stress hormone that increases focus and attention, as well as prolactin, which may promote myelin growth, helping your brain to function faster and repair nerve cell damage.
Researchers have also found a link between heat exposure and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons. BDNF also triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health.
Exercising in heat increases BDNF to a greater degree than exercise done at lower temperatures, suggesting heat stress (i.e., sauna use) is beneficial for brain health.
They found that exercising in heat increased the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, which is thought to stimulate cerebral output of BDNF. Heat stress also benefits your brain by:
- Preventing aggregation of proteins in your arteries and brain
- Increasing production of dynorphin, which helps cool your body down. Although dynorphin has the opposite effect of endorphins, it sensitizes your brain to endorphins that your body produces
- Increasing production of growth factors, which in turn promote the growth of brain neurons
5. Take Vitamin B for Brain health
The meta-analysis in question, which investigated the effect of vitamin and mineral supplementation on schizophrenia, found that studies using high doses of vitamins B6, B8 (inositol) and B12 in combination were very effective for improving schizophrenic symptoms. Low doses were ineffective.
They also found that supplementation with B vitamins appear to be most effective when implemented early on. According to Firth:
“High-dose B vitamins may be useful for reducing residual symptoms in people with schizophrenia, although there were significant differences among the findings of the studies we looked at.
There is also some indication that these overall effects may be driven by larger benefits among subgroups of patients who have relevant genetic or dietary nutritional deficiencies.”
One of the reasons for B vitamins’ effect on a wide range of mood disorders and neurological and psychiatric conditions relates to the fact that these vitamins have a direct impact on the methylation cycle, and are required for the production and function of neurotransmitters and the maintenance of myelin, the fatty sheath surrounding your nerve cells.
Without this protective coating, nerve signals become slow and sporadic, which can lead to motor function problems, cognitive losses and changes in mood. B8 also aids in cell communication, allowing your cells to properly interpret chemical messages and respond accordingly.
Meanwhile, B6, folate and B12 (in combination with S-adenosylmethionine or SAMe) regulate the synthesis and breakdown of brain chemicals involved in mood control, including serotonin, melatonin and dopamine. Hence, a deficiency in one or more of these B vitamins can also play a role in depression. (Source: Mercola)
6. Eat chocolate cake for breakfast
Results of research out of Syracuse University in New York have proven there are several health benefits to consuming chocolate cake.
The study was conducted on 968 participants between the ages of 23 and 98, and followed their normal dietary habits.
According to their findings, when eaten regularly, chocolate can have a positive effect on cognitive performance, and can improve your memory and abstract thinking. (Source)
7. Move your body
You’d think that sitting in one place damages the body only without really affecting the brain. This is, unfortunately, wrong. Not being physically active can cause multiple health problems and can diminish the brain’s performance.
It’s a good idea to be on the move as much as possible because you’ll promote blood flow and improve overall health. Try walking to your workplace instead of taking the bus or car, or better yet, drive a bicycle! (Source)
8. Do Yoga
As yoga boosts serotonin, Serotonin is a neurotransmitter very much involved in your mood: the way you think about the world and even yourself. Serotonin helps with mood balance, and low levels of this important neurotransmitter can lead to depression. You might already be familiar with serotonin, because there are lots of antidepressant drugs on the market which essentially increase levels of serotonin on the brain. But you can actually boost your serotonin without taking drugs. Yes, that’s right, yoga is a natural way to increase your serotonin and help uplift your spirits.
Also, a recent study showed that just by doing one single 20 minute yoga session you can actually improve the function of your brain. Researchers reported that a single 20 minute session of hatha yoga significantly increased the ability to maintain focus and take in, retain and use new information. So try doing yoga before a test or before a job interview. You might pleasantly surprised how much better yoga will help you focus and concentrate on your work. (Source)
9. Avoid sugar
When we eat sugary foods, our blood sugar levels spike and our pancreas releases insulin to remove the sugar from the blood into the cells or, in the case of fructose, it goes straight into the liver where it is stored as glycogen or, when glycogen stores are full, as fat. The conundrum is that this process causes our sugar levels to drop sharply, which can leave us feeling irritable and exhausted. To re-energise, we start craving more sweets. Thus, a never-ending vicious cycle begins.
A diet high in refined sugar and processed foods can cause mood swings, low energy levels and inflammation in our bodies as well as low immunity and poor digestion. All of these issues can have a negative impact on mental health. (Source: Katrin Nürnberger)
10. Take beetroot
A recent study done by Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC, states that drinking beetroot before exercising may aid brain performance for older adults. Researchers found that older adults who consumed beetroot juice prior to engaging in moderately intense exercise demonstrated greater connectivity in brain regions associated with motor function. In recent years, beetroot has gained popularity for its potential health benefits, which include reduced blood pressure and increased exercise performance. Such benefits have been attributed to the high nitrate content in beetroot.
When consumed, nitrates are converted into nitric oxide, which studies have shown can lower blood pressure and increase blood flow to the brain, particularly to a region associated with motor control, cognitive functioning, emotion, and other brain functions. Such connectivity is usually seen in the brains of younger individuals, the team notes.
Take care of your brain health. Stay positive at all times and never take issues on brain health and performance for granted.