An optimally functioning brain keeps all our faculties ticking. Naini Setalvad lists a number of foods to boost various aspects of brain function.
How often is it that you find yourself entering a room and then forgetting the reason for coming there in the first place? Do you tend to forget important tasks and then wake up in the middle of the night when you suddenly remember them? These are signs that your brain has gone into a state of inactiveness and needs to be rebooted. Your brain is the control centre of your body. It keeps your lungs breathing, heart beating, and allows you to move, feel, and think. Your memories and thoughts are stored in your brain. If your brain is not working at optimum levels, your short-term and long-term memories, both can fade, rendering you forgetful. Lack of sleep and exercise, and environmental conditions play a role in slowing your brain function too. A brain which doesn’t work smoothly is a playground for degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, dementia, anxiety, and depression.
So how do we ensure that our brain is always functioning optimally and our gray matter is healthy and witty? Food is your answer.
The best menu for boosting your memory and cognitive function should include these brain foods:
Cow’s ghee: Also known as liquid gold, cow’s ghee is a super food for the brain. It serves as a lubricant for the faster functioning of the brain. Cow’s ghee is said to promote memory and intelligence according to Charaka, the author of the most influential texts of ayurveda, thanks to its high Vitamin A content.
Banana: An excellent source of potassium and magnesium, bananas are great intelligence boosters. The potassium helps deliver oxygen to the brain and magnesium promotes proper electrical activity between nerve cells in the brain. Both of these nutrients aid normal cognitive function and help keep the brain sharp. Bananas may also help in preventing age-related cognitive declines in memory.
Strawberries: Everyone’s favourite red berries are brilliant brain boosters. Strawberries are a rich source of anthocyanins and other flavonoids which improve memory. Make sure you include these in your diet when they are in season.
Walnuts: This nut has the shape of the human brain and hugely benefits it too. The high levels of Omega 3, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals found in walnuts help improve mental alertness. Consume a handful of walnuts daily.
Turmeric: Some people refer to turmeric as powdered gold because of the amazing health benefits this ancient spice is bundled with. Scientific research has proven that curcumin, which is the active component of turmeric, can directly enter the brain and benefit the brain cells. It also boosts a growth hormone that helps brain cells grow. Turmeric prevents the onset of Alzheimer’s as the brain’s intake of oxygen improves.
Cocoa: Cocoa powder is a great mood booster and improves blood flow to the brain. Packed with flavonoids and antioxidants, which serve as brain boosting compounds, cocoa assists a great deal in learning and improving memory.
Leafy vegetables: When we have low levels of iron in our system, we tend to become more forgetful. Our best source of iron is leafy vegetables like spinach, fenugreek, amaranth, and dill leaves. These are high in iron and have the ability to lower mental deterioration and risks of dementia.
Coconut: All the auspicious ceremonies in India are never conducted without a coconut. Today, the whole world is talking about the importance of coconut and its oil, something that we in India have known and revered for centuries. 70 per cent of the gray matter in our brains is made up of fatty acids, which are found in coconuts. It is no wonder that the southern part of India is known for its brain power as coconut and its oil are featured abundantly in their diet.
Coconut water: Coconut water is a natural electrolyte filled with vitamins and minerals that maintain your electrolyte balance. A low electrolyte balance will cause one to feel disoriented and weak, thus slowing brain functioning.
Salt: Optimum intake of sodium (in the form of salt) helps prevent short term memory loss and confusion. However, rock salt and sea salt are better options than table salt; so, switch over to these in your food.
Water: Keeping yourself well hydrated is directly proportional to your smooth cognitive functioning. Hence, water needs to be your best option for hydrating yourself, followed by coconut water. Water leaves you feeling content, revived, and serves as the best ‘pick-me-up’.
Sunlight, exercise, and fresh air: Although these three are not foods, it is scientifically proven that all three are important to maintain and improve brain function. Sunlight provides you with much needed Vitamin D3, which makes you feel fresh. Exercise keeps your brain active and alert, whereas fresh air gives direct oxygen to the brain, which is needed for its proper functioning.
Vitamins: Vitamin D3 and Vitamin B12 are both evenly linked to good brain operation and memory upkeep. See that you keep your levels at an optimum.
These were the foods which boost your brain memory. Some of the foods which inhibit brain and memory function are:
Alcohol: Alcohol has never had a good association with its name as it leads to moments that you don’t remember due to foggy brains. It dulls your mind while making you violent and abusive to a level where you don’t know what is happening within and around you.
Processed foods: This kind of food is made from heavily refined ingredients as well as additives and chemicals. Processed foods, unlike whole foods, stimulate dopamine, a feel-good transmitter, which can lead to excessive food cravings and addictions. Multiple scientific researches have proven that eating processed foods is linked to chronic diseases.
Aerated drinks: Too much consumption of any aerated drink will have many negative effects on your body in the long run.
Sugar: Sugar has found inadvertent acceptance in our regular diet because of its excessive usage. People consider sugar as tasty, satisfying, and irresistible. However, I describe it as addictive, toxic, and deadly. Sugar has the same hedonic effect on your brain as any other drug; it makes you dependent on it. Not only diabetes but deadly diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer also have their roots in the over-consumption of sugar.
Mentioned above were few of the foods one should stay away from to ensure a healthy brain, free from any mental harm and/or affliction. So, follow these tips and eat smart to reboot your brain.
1 cup walnuts, shelled
1/2 cup fresh curds, beaten
4–5 Kashmiri red chillies
1 tbsp raisins
Salt, to taste
Pound the walnuts and chilies together.
Mix curds, salt, and raisins well.
Add pounded nuts and mix well.
Chill before serving.
Serve with sticks of carrots, beets, celery, dry bread or as a replacement for pickles.
Strawberry and banana smoothie
½ cup crushed ice
Mix all the ingredients in a blender and serve chilled.
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