This blog will focus on things we can do to improve our brain health.
I want to help you build healthy habits step-by-step. Often we know what we should be doing for our health, but doing it consistently is another matter.
It takes at least 21 days to form a new habit (but in reality probably a bit longer than this).
I am going to give you five habits which can improve your brain health and cognition:
What will you find in this article?
- 1 1) 5-10 Minutes of Daily Brain Training
- 2 2) Take Ashwagandha
- 3 3) 10 minutes of daily meditation
- 4 4) Eat More Fish – especially oily fish (Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines and Herring)
- 5 Fish Roe for Brain Health
- 6 S.M.A.S.H
- 7 5) Eat Brazil Nuts!
- 8 Micronutrient Deficiencies and Brain Health
- 9 The End of Alzheimer’s
1) 5-10 Minutes of Daily Brain Training
BrainHQ and Lumosity can provide you with a baseline score of your current cognitive function – they will calculate your percentile (that is, that you are above X percent of people your age) for multiple areas of function.
Your target for good cognitive function is to be above 50th percentile for age, and your scores should continue to improve with practise.
Hundreds of scientific papers have shown important cognitive effects of brain training. One of BrainHQ’s training games called Double Decision reduced the risk for dementia by nearly 50% ten years after the training!
2) Take Ashwagandha
One of Ayurveda’s most prized adaptogenic herbs. It has been used for centuries to moderate the body’s response to stress, bringing both energy and inner calm. Take 500mg, once or twice per day.
Here’s what they say about Ashwagandha:
- DECREASES CORTISOL: The decrease in cortisol noted in humans has reached 14.5-27.9% in otherwise healthy but stressed humans, which is significantly larger than many other supplements.
- DECREASES STRESS: Ashwagandha appears to significantly reduce the symptoms of stress and its comorbidities (fatigue, temporary cognitive impairment, etc.) as well as biomarkers such as cortisol.
- DECREASES ANXIETY: Preliminary evidence suggests potent anti-anxiety effects in the context of chronic stress, with lesser potency in standard forms of anxiety not related to stress.
3) 10 minutes of daily meditation
- Sixty patients were randomized into intervention and control groups. The intervention group underwent 45 minutes of meditation daily for 6 weeks in addition to standard medical treatment while controls received only standard medical treatment.
- Cortisol and interleukin-6 (a pro-inflammatory cytokine) DECREASED significantly in the intervention group, whilst β-endorphin levels and BDNF both INCREASED. Quality of life score also improved in the intervention group.
4) Eat More Fish – especially oily fish (Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines and Herring)
Fish, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and ADHD
Fish, Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Omega-3 – Not all fats are equal
- EPA and DHA are the two main types found in oil rich fish.
- ALA is the type that is found implants like linseed or flaxseed.
Fish and Depression
Fish Roe for Brain Health
Did you know that fish roe/caviar is a superfood for the brain?
For example, the roe from salmon contains approximately 38%-75% of the omega-3 fatty acids in phospholipid form, mostly present in phosphatidylcholine.
Compare that to salmon flesh which only contain approximately 1% of its omega-3 in phospholipid form. The brain prefers DHA in phospholipid form and it accumulates in the brain 10-times more than DHA in free fatty acid form.
You can buy salmon roe in Waitrose, and herring roe in Sainsburys.
There are so many options of fish to choose from, but these five options are some of the best when it comes to health benefits:
To remember these use the acronym SMASH.
Let’s take a look a 5 good reasons why you should include them in your diet.
1. They are a great source of Omega 3’s
Omega 3’s found in fish are what is known as a long chain fatty acid, this refers to their structure. There are also short chain fatty acids found in nuts, seeds and plants, these are known as alpha-linoleic-acid (ALA). We can convert ALA to long chain fatty acids but the conversion is considered to be poor, particularly with a western style diet. We need Omega 3’s to support our cell membranes and maintain flexibility, permeability and the activity of enzymes.
These healthy fats are easily absorbed, high in anti-inflammatory properties, and can also help reduce cardiac issues and symptoms of auto-immune conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis.
2. They are low in Mercury
Mercury is a concern when consuming fish, but the good news is that SMASH fish are low in mercury. The larger fish, that are higher in the food chain, are known to bioaccumilate mercury in adipose tissue (fat). This is primarily because the larger the fish, the more predatory the species and therefore the longer they live.
This explains why tuna would have more bioaccumulation of mercury than say anchovies.This process is known as biomagnification. Another positive about SMASH fish is that they are high in selenium, this has the added benefit of protection from mercury toxicity. Selenium stops the oxidation in the body that is caused by mercury. Selenium is often lacking in the diet and low levels can be linked to thyroid disease and cardiovascular disorders.
3. Fish a great source of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an important nutrient for the body and it acts rather like a hormone. It is a fat soluble vitamin and oily fish, containing fat, naturally have high levels.
Fish and fish products are the best dietary sources of Vitamin D, with fatty fish such as salmon and herring containing the highest amounts. Vitamin D is important for a whole variety of functions in the human body such as immune function, protecting against cardiovascular disease, and supporting bone metabolism.
4. Fish is protective against many chronic diseases
The British Heart Foundations states that research into eating oily fish as part of a diet has shown a reduced risk of developing problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and raised cholesterol, which are all risk factors for heart disease. In addition to this, people who follow a Mediterranean diet, that is traditionally high in SMASH fish, are more likely to live a longer life and also are less likely to become obese.
5. These 5 fish are sustainable
Sustainability of a species is of importance so as not to impact on the ecosystem. Over fishing a particular species can not only impact directly on the stocks but also as many of these smaller fish are part of the food chain for other larger fish, over fishing can adversely affect their existence too.
SMASH fish, are considered to be sustainable, (of course this can vary dependant upon where they are fished), but if you are in any doubt check the supplier carries the Marine Conservation Society label as they protect against over fishing to maintain sustainability.
5) Eat Brazil Nuts!
In protecting and restoring cellular health this way, glutathione is itself being used up and so must be constantly regenerated, just as firefighters need a constant supply of water.
Low levels of glutathione can contribute to inflammation, toxicity, and loss of support for synapses.
Selenium plays a key role in regenerating glutathione when it is used up scavenging free radicals, so it is not surprising that reductions in selenium have been shown to be associated with cognitive decline.
The easiest way to get your selenium is to eat two organic Brazil nuts every day!
Micronutrient Deficiencies and Brain Health
The brain requires a constant supply of micronutrients for energy metabolism of neurons and glial cells, neurotransmitter synthesis and action, nerve impulse propagation, and homocysteine metabolism.
Deficiencies in various micronutrients, especially the B vitamins, have adverse effects on cognition.
It is not yet clear whether supplementation with B vitamins, antioxidants, or omega-3 fatty acids protects against age-related cognitive decline.
The best strategy is to get your micronutrients from food.
How do you know if you are getting enough micronutrients?
I like to track my micronutrients a couple of times a week in Cronometer. This will give you an idea if you are regularly deficient in any particular nutrients. You can then work to add in foods that are high in these particular nutrients.
The End of Alzheimer’s
If you are looking for information on Cognitive Decline and/or Alzheimer’s Disease, read our blog post: The End of Alzheimer’s. In this blog post we discuss the work of Dr Dale Bredesen who has developed a protocol for Alzheimer’s sufferers called the ReCODE Protocol.
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