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Feed That Brain!

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Remember Popeye the Sailorman? He was constantly guzzling spinach to get those great big bulging muscles. Well what you eat not only affects your muscles, but your brain too and you are about to find out why his girlfriend Olive Oyl had the right idea . . .


We all know that to stay fit and strong and healthy we need to be including good sources of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients into our daily diet. Keeping your body in peak condition as you approach your fifties and beyond is all important, and to have a memory that keeps on growing and doesn’t let you down means feeding your brain and neurons well too!


What you eat affects how well you think.
Imagine being able to boost your IQ, sharpen your memory, improve your mood, and keep your mind youthful. Research shows that you can do all of these by just eating the right foods. Pretty impressive, huh? The way your body moves, your intelligence, your memory, and even your lungs filling with air, all rely on brain cells so it would be crazy not to feed those cells with the good stuff.


Everyone knows that for the past twenty years or so we’ve been told that fats are bad for us and that a huge emphasis was placed on reducing the fat content of foods—even the good fats and there is now speculation that there may be a strong link between reducing the fat intake in our diets and the explosion of diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease in our aging population. We now know that the brain needs fat to grow, develop and keep a healthy memory function. Why not try out this free memory test: Give It A Go!


Not many people know this, but approximately two thirds of the brain is made of fat, but not just any old kind of fat; our brain cells require very specialized fats to function at their peak. There are two types of fat that we eat; good fats—omega 3 fatty acids (found in oily fish, nuts, avocados, etc.) and bad fats—omega 6 trans fatty acids (french fries, pizza, burgers, potato chips, etc.), which are produced by the chemical processing of corn oil and other vegetable oils used in so many fried and processed foods.


Unfortunately, with all of the food processing that takes place today, and because so many of the ingredients that are actively bad for your brain are used in almost everything pre-made in the supermarket, it can be a challenge to make sure that the foods you are eating are the right ones.


Protein at each meal is essential to keep those blood sugar levels balanced, and lean meat, eggs, fish, nuts, soy etc are the best way to stop the rapid absorption of carbohydrates. This will prevent the all too familiar—brain slow down that comes from eating simple carbohydrates such as donuts, pizza, or candy.


Popeye was a very healthy sailor as spinach in now considered one of the super foods, literally overflowing with nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants, but Olive Oyl (named after olive oil) was feeding her brain with all of that amazing omega 3 and it kept her slim too!


The best way to put this information to use it to think “balanced diet” as you plan your meals.


Lean Protein
Fish—Salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring (also listed under fats)
Poultry—Chicken and turkey (skinless)
Meat—Lean beef and pork
Eggs—Free-range and/or organic eggs are best
Tofu and Soy products
Dairy products—Low fat cheeses, cottage cheese, low fat yogurt (sugar free) and low fat or skim milk
Beans and lentils—Also listed under carbohydrates
Nuts and seeds, especially walnuts—also listed under fats


Complex Carbohydrates
Berries —Especially blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries (keep frozen berries on hand as well)
Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, peaches, plums
Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts
Oats (the long cooking kind), whole wheat items, wholemeal bread with at least three grams of fiber
Red or yellow peppers (much higher in Vitamin C than green)
Pumpkin squash
Spinach—For salad or cooked, adds fiber and nutrients


Fats
Avocados
Extra virgin cold pressed olive oil
Olives
Salmon—Also listed under protein
Nuts and Nut Butter, especially walnuts, macadamia nuts
Brazil nuts, pecans and almonds—Also listed under protein



By Gillian Eadie for Not Just the Kitchen

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