A healthy brain diet is not all that dissimilar to a healthy body diet.
However, there are a couple of important caveats that come to mind.
One is that the brain, while it is 2% of our weight, it uses 20% of the fuel we consume, which means that there are lot of potential free radicals floating around in the brain, which means that I need to make sure there are plenty of antioxidants available to back up my brains usual free radical annihilators.
Another important consideration for neurons is that they are composed of mostly omega 3 fatty acid, and in order to keep your neurons soft and supple and open to communication with neighboring neurons, they need enough of the right kind of omega 3 fatty acic, preferrably from ocean going fish, which are not carrying too much mercury. Mercury is not good for your brain diet.
I do not like to cook or eat fish very frequently, so I get my omega 3 fatty acid from supplements, but those supplements need to be processed so that the mercury is removed from them also.
Try to stay away from farmed fish, as they are subject to the same deficits as any other kind of farmed meat, disease, and they are fed with food that does not nourish.
Simon Evans, Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt, Ph.D. go into a great detail about a brain diet that is healthy in their e-book titled, Brainfit for Life.
Here is an excerpt speaking to micronutrients and their importance in the antioxidation process.
"The other major components of nutrition are
micronutrients. These are typically much smaller than the
macronutrients (although not always) and are the vitamins,
minerals and other small molecule nutrients that your body
needs for its daily duties. Today we know of 13 essential
vitamins, meaning you cannot make these vitamins from
scratch and have to get them from your diet. You must also
obtain all of the minerals that you need from your diet. Some
we require in large amounts, like Calcium, Sodium and
Potassium. Others, called trace minerals, we require in smaller
amounts, like Zinc, Copper and Manganese. A high quality
multi-vitamin / multi-mineral can help you get all of these in
the appropriate doses.
So what do micronutrients actually do?
"....One major role that many micronutrients play is acting
as antioxidants to help minimize oxidative damage and
oxidative stress, which we previously discussed. Many
vitamins have antioxidant properties to halt free radicals in
their tracks. If you remember, free radicals sometimes escape
from the energy production process to start a chain reaction of
electron stealing that can cause damage. Antioxidants have
extra electrons to donate to the free radicals so they never get
started on their rampage through the cell.
It’s very important to provide a variety of antioxidants
so they are always available in different parts of your cells and
tissues to halt oxidative stress. Some do a better job in fat
others are better inside the water part of cells, and others
do better floating around in the blood. This is why variety is
key. In fact, the color of fruits and vegetables represents the
type of vitamins and antioxidants they contain. If you strive to
eat different colored fruits and vegetables every day you will
help provide a variety of antioxidant protection.
Many foods, particularly unprocessed foods, contain all
three macronutrients and many micronutrients, so they will
contribute some portion of what our bodies need. However,
you should try to be aware of what you are eating, even if you
think you are eating ‘healthy’ or ‘organic’ because this doesn’t
necessarily mean you are getting a good balance of nutrients.
Processed or refined foods are particularly tricky. They can be
super-tasty, have a freakishly long shelf life, or be some
incredible color never seen naturally on this planet. But in most
cases they have had most of the nutritional value removed by
the manufacturing process. Fortified processed foods can be
especially misleading. Often times the food has most of the
vitamins and minerals stripped out of them, then with a few of
them added back earns the label, ‘fortified’. Relying heavily on
these sources of food can get you into trouble."
So Professor Evans and Professor Burghardt suggest eating a variety of colorful food in order to get a balance of micronutrients necessary for protecting your neurons.
I would suggest that the micronutrients and phytochemicals, like lycopene in the skin of the tomato, are stongest when the fruit or vegetable grows to maturity on the vine, branch, or in the ground. If it is picked green for shipping the phytochemicals do not get a chance to develop fully. So get your colorful fruits and vegetables locally as well.
Omega 3 Fatty Acid
Now for the Evans and Burghardt take on the role of omega 3 fatty acids, in balance with omega 6 fatty acids.
..."Furthermore, when it comes to the brain omega-3s play
another role. In fact, brain tissue has a higher concentration of
omega-3s than most other tissues in the body (along with eye
tissue and sperm). Omega-3s are very important components of
the cell membrane that we talked about above. Brain cells
connect and talk to each other, but they do so in a very ‘fluid’
way. They aren’t hard wired, like electrical wiring, but are
flexible, more like Jell-o. This flexibility is required in order to
make new connections and learn things.
Omega-3s contribute to the brain’s physical flexibility
and the less omega-3s in the brain cell membranes the more
rigid and stiff they become, decreasing their ability to
communicate efficiently. Also, research shows us that diets low
omega-3s can alter the levels of specific signals in the brain
dopamine and serotonin) that are involved in regulating
Not sure about you, but I like to have pleasant feelings, so I want to make sure there is plenty of micronutrients available for feeling good.
A healthy brain diet needs lots of micronutrients, macronutrients, vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytochemicals, and no processed food, which is filled with neurotoxins like msg, an appetite stimulant, and high fructose corn syrup, which causes my pancreas to flip flop.
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