Optimize Your Diet for a Better Brain Today!
What we eat affects every single part of our bodies, and most of all our brains. As the commanding officer of our bodies, the brain eats into the lion’s share of our body’s energy reserve because of the massive amount of fuel it needs to run everything.
There are certain foods that can improve cognitive functions like memory and focus and even help protect your brain from cognitive diseases like Dementia and Alzheimer’s in the long run.
But just like a healthy diet for your body needs a plan, so does the one for your brain. That includes what to eat, how to eat, and when to eat as well.
Here are a few tips to best optimize your diet for a better brain today and tomorrow.
Try the MIND diet
MIND is short form for the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. This was developed mixing two existing diets – the Mediterranean and the DASH – to help prevent and delay Dementia onset in older patients, and has been observed to reduce the risks by almost 35% even in those following moderately.
The best thing about MIND is that it’s a fairly simple diet to follow. There are 10 foods and food groups recommendation, and 5 foods to avoid. Staying within these limits gives you a chance to explore and at the same time eat healthy.
What to eat: Leafy vegetables, Deeply coloured vegetables, berries, nuts, whole grains, fishes – especially oily fishes, beans and lentils, poultry, olive oil, wine (in moderation).
What not to eat: refined sugar, butter and margarine, fried food, cheese, red meat, processed food.
Eat the same things regularly
No, seriously. Getting into the habit of eating same or similar meals everyday has its benefits for optimizing your diet.
Junk food is cheap, and clean eating is not. Olive oil, fish, leafy vegetables, nuts – all of these cost money. It would save you a lot of planning and budgetary trouble if you stick to similar meals every day, and that makes sticking to your diet a whole lot easier. You can meal prep once or twice a week and be done with it.
Give yourself a cheat day every week if you are following moderately, a month if rigidly. This acts as a positive reinforcement and takes the drudgery out of following any diet.
Over time, as your body starts to feel the positive effects of the diet, it anticipates its regular boost and that creates a positive loop.
Time your meals
One of the greatest impediments to achieving brain health is our present culture of chronic eating. Even if you eat the right things, too much of it is never going to help you in the long run.
- Chronic uncontrollable eating leads to obesity, and obesity is directly linked to shrinkage in the brain’s hypothalamus, so take note.
- Chronic eating prevents your brain from using ketones – a kind of byproduct of fat metabolism. Ketones act as a signal to your brain for triggering neuroplasticity.
- Fix times for each of your meals and rigidly follow it. After a certain period, your body will stop craving food at random times.
- Keep your food hidden – use covered cupboards, refrigerators, and opaque pots and jars. Seeing foods all the time gives us unconscious cues to eat, and minimizing that optic helps with your cravings.
- Avoid midnight snacking. Eating past your normal sleep time is always going to mess with your digestive system and metabolism. Allow your body time to process the food you have already taken. How to avoid? Well, go to sleep at the right time (that’s crucial too)!
- Fasting has a controversial reputation among health experts, and if you have existent digestive tract problems then you shouldn’t try this without proper medical consultation. But controlled, timed, and intermittent fasting can help your brain in many ways.
- Keep a window of 1-2 hours after waking up and before going to bed in which you don’t eat.
- Mornings are the time when many of your daily biological processes kickstart, including your cortisol production. Cortisol is linked to our fight-or-flight response and helps clear up your head much more quickly.
- Your brain and lymphatic systems are cleaning when you prepare to sleep. If you eat at that time insulin levels from the food can interfere with this process.
Research has shown that modification of food and dietary habits can work wonders for overall brain health. But just stuffing your belly with brain superfoods is not going to do the trick. Beside eating the right food, try to ingrain the right food habits also.