You are what you eat, and what you eat helps your body grow and develop in amazing ways. Even adults can continue developing and growing, especially when it comes to your brain. Several foods are extremely beneficial in aiding the brain to develop healthfully from birth through adulthood, and also assist with the aging brain, too.
The brain thrives on several elements, mainly glucose, vitamins, minerals, and other essential chemicals, with glucose, or a simple sugar that is one of the main components in carbohydrates, being the most essential. Glucose encourages the brain to create new connections and add myelin, or the fatty sheath to axons. Axons are long threadlike parts of nerve cells where impulses are conducted from cell body to other cells. If the brain receives too much of one component or not enough of another, it is not able to function properly or create new connections.
From birth, the brain is ready for rich nutrients to aide in the healthy development of the central nervous system. At birth, the brain contains 100 billion neurons, the most the brain will ever have. Along with all those neurons, synapses, or connections between brain cells, are also rapidly developing. And, once born, infant’s that are breast-fed have a slight cognitive advantage over formula-fed babies. Diet is not the only thing essential to an infant’s developing brain. Those raw brain cells are ready to soak up as much information as possible, and engaging in interactive play and providing lots of physical affection aides in healthy development, too.
Once a child hits adolescence, the brain undergoes another big growth spurt – correlating with the body’s development. During these essential years, the teenager begins making more and more decisions for herself, including what she likes and dislikes eating. Through MRI research, it has been found the teenager’s brain goes through a “use-it-or-lose-it” phase where if certain neurons have not been exercised they are lost. The frontal lobe goes through great developments during this time and encouraging healthy eating habits aides in the brain’s development as well as the teenager’s day-to-day functioning. There are even fun ways to sneak those healthy foods into school lunches that will not cause teens to toss their lunch but actually enjoying eating brain-boosting foods.
In older adulthood, memory can be boosted through various exercises, even meditation, but is greatly enhanced through proper diet. The adult brain continues to grow and develop and is greatly expanded by outside stimuli. Participating in new and different activities, staying social, getting a good night sleep, and exercising play a role. But, eating a healthy diet and maintaining proper hydration is what keeps the brain ticking. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be a main part of any adult’s diet.
No matter what your age, there are simple ways to change your diet to include brain-boosting foods the whole family will love. As adults, enjoying fresh fruits and vegetables models positive eating behaviors to children and encourages them to try new things. Other foods rich in healthy brain boosters include:
-Salmon: Not only is this fish full of flavor, it is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which helps brain cells function at their best. Tuna and sardines are also fishy options high in omega-3. Adding salmon into a family meal is as easy as broiling fillets, or adding canned salmon to your favorite pasta.
-Blueberries: These small sweet and tart berries are full of antioxidants and are rich in Vitamins C and E. Antioxidants fight aging as well as the effects of free radicals, which are unstable molecules found in everyday items and are also created in the human body during metabolism. Without antioxidants to fight them, free radicals can reek havoc on the body and speed the aging process. Adding blueberries to your morning cereal or even to a fresh salad adds a touch of sweetness as well as lots of brain-boosting power.
-Nuts: Along with seeds, nuts are full of fiber and lots of beneficial fats. A handful of nuts or seeds provides the body with long-term energy through their high concentration of complex carbohydrates and Vitamin E. The healthy carbohydrates found in nuts boost the brain productivity and alertness. Offering nuts or seeds as a snack keeps hunger away and is a healthy option instead of chips. Almonds are the best choice, with peanuts offering the least amount of healthy fat than any other type of nut.
-Green vegetables: Although not everyone’s favorite, green, leafy veggies are an essential component for a brain-boosting diet. Fresh vegetables are full of antioxidants, which along with fighting free radicals also reduce the risk of developing cognitive impairments. The best bets are spinach, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Even if you are not a fan, adding chopped fresh spinach to pasta creates a healthy meal, and creating a purée of steamed broccoli makes a fun and different side dish for any meal.
So, what are you waiting for? Start adding some healthy brain-boosting foods to your diet today.
Sarah is an art educator and parent. Visit Sarah’s website here.