There’s nothing quite like tucking into a huge bowl of freshly picked berries. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, loganberries – they’re all utterly delicious.
And they’re all amazing for your mental performance too.
It’s commonly assumed that this is due to the incredible quantity of antioxidants that they contain. These prevent the body’s cells from damage by free-radicals and help prevent the formation of plaque around brain tissues, which is one of the main causes of Alzheimer’s disease.
But in fact, this is only part of the story. An article in The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry pointed out that they help improve signalling in the brain, and help reduce inflammation, which improves motor function and boosts thinking power. They’re also packed full of nutrients such as vitamin K, vitamin C, manganese and copper.
All berries are also packed full of a compound called anthocyanin, which is what gives them their rich dark color and works as an effective anti-inflammatory for the whole body.
Experts recommend that we should be treating ourselves to around three portions of berries every single week. Sounds like it’s about time to indulge in a delicious super-food berry smoothie!
The absolute best way to get enough brain-building omega-3 fatty acids in our diets is to nibble on a handful of nuts every day.
Not only are they delicious, filling and packed full of essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, iron, zinc and magnesium, they also contain significant amounts of DHA, a type of omega-3 that improves cognitive performance, repairs age-related memory damage and even boosts the brains of new-born babies and helps relieve symptoms of ADHA in kids. Phew- what a mouthful!
Nuts also contain high levels of the B-vitamins, which are becoming increasingly difficult to consume in the modern diet, and also help support your nervous system, build new cells and promote mental health.
If you’re having trouble choosing I’d suggest you opt for walnuts. They really are the best of the bunch as they delay brain aging and boost brain-power in one hit. Almonds are also awesome for gray matter due to their high levels of vitamin E, and are really versatile and yummy – but any will make a huge difference to your brain-power.
Enjoy a small handful every day (and no, you shouldn’t worry about the calories!)
Avocados are one of those foods that are underrated, and in fact until a few years ago, some health figures recommended to stay away from them due to their fat content.
That is, until they discovered that this fat content was incredible at helping to ward off dementia and brain aging, as well as boosting your overall health. This fat is known as oleic acid and helps to build myelin in our brains, and allows our thought processes to become more efficient. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
It’s said that avocados are among the most complete foods on the planet, and what’s not to like about them? They’re rich, they’re creamy and they give an overall boost to whatever meal you could ever dream up.
They’re also packed full of vitamins and minerals, high in protein and also help boost the levels of a neurotransmitter called dopamine in your body, helping you feel more focused and happy.
Avocados can be eaten in so many ways, but my absolute favourite has to be in a delicious, colorful salad. Aim to consume around half an avocado every couple of days.
Cocoa For Creativity
Great news for every chocolate-lover out there – cocoa helps you to feel good, remember more of what you are learning and to focus like a ninja!
But the truth is, the benefits depend on the quality of the chocolate and the way you choose to consume it. I’m afraid plucking a family-sized bar off the shelves of your local store isn’t going to be excuse enough – you need it dark, pure and dairy-free.
Cocoa works miracles on our brains because it’s high in two types of compounds that promote a healthy brain – these are flavonoids and flavanols. Flavonoids are a type of antioxidant that improve memory, focus and attention and help to clear out damaging free-radicals from the cells of our bodies. Flavanols are a specific type of flavonoid, which helps to improve blood flow to the brain for around two to three hours after consumption.
Let’s not forget that cocoa also contains high levels of the mineral magnesium, which also helps to promote memory and learning, as well as having a relaxing effect upon the whole body. Sounds like a great excuse to eat more!
The ultimate way to enjoy cocoa is to purchase some pure and unadulterated raw cacao power and add it to
your baked goods, smoothies and desserts. Unfortunately there isn’t an RDA of cocoa so it’s up to you to find the best dosage for you – a little goes a long way.
Green tea. Love it or hate it? Most of us have tried its slightly bitter and earthy flavor for ourselves, but if you haven’t you should definitely give it a go. As far as beverages go, it’s about as healthy as it gets. Not only does it contain incredible amounts of polyphenols, the antioxidants that help protect our bodies and brains from the damage of free radicals; it’s also high in an amino acid called l-theanine which promotes great mood, learning and memory. And the benefits don’t just stop there.
Studies carried out by the University of Basel, Switzerland have discovered that green tea improves your mental performance and memory, helping to improve age-related memory decline. Along with the plaque-reducing effect it has upon the brain, green tea could be the perfect solution to help defy dementia and Alzheimer’s disease too.
In another study presented at the 2015 International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases,
suggested that green tea consumption was linked to less mental decline, whether this was a daily dose, a weekly dose, or somewhere in between.
Green tea also contains a significant amount of caffeine, which helps to improve your focus and your mental performance. In fact it actually contains around 24mg of caffeine in every cup, compared to around 14mg in a cup of black tea and around 47mg in an espresso, so don’t go overboard on the stuff. Black tea also shares similar benefits as green tea, so choose the one you enjoy the most.
Aim to drink at least one cup of green or black tea per week, or more if you really enjoy the taste. If you’re not a fan, you can also find green tea capsules at your nearest health food store.
Broccoli is one of the true super-foods that has stood the test of time and is absolutely amazing for your brain and your performance, in addition to the rest of your body. This is because it’s high in a substance known as lignans. This is a phytoestrogen that is involved with optimal thinking such as reasoning and remembering.
It’s also a great way of protecting your body from central nervous system decline, such as the type seen in Alzheimer’s disease. As discovered by researchers at King’s College, London, broccoli contains high levels of a compound called glucosinates, which inhibit the action of a neuron-damaging enzyme called acetylcholinesterase, which are linked to the onset of the disease.
And in addition to all of that, broccoli is also a great source of a B-complex vitamin called choline, which actually boosts levels of the key neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This helps improve cognitive function, promotes mental clarity and helps you develop a better short-term memory than you ever thought possible.
Enjoy broccoli several times per week as part of your meal or a yummy side-dish.
Beets help you to enjoy more energy, both mentally and physically. This is because they contain generous amounts of natural nitrates which, when eaten, get converted to nitric oxide. This allows the walls of your blood vessels to expand, including those in your brain so you get that extra boost of oxygen and energy. As you can imagine, this takes your cognitive performance to a whole new level.
They are also the only source of the phytonutrients called betalains. These have an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effect upon the brain and the body, and might even help to tackle cancers and age-related decline.
Be aware that these betalains are rather unstable, so for best effects, enjoy your beets juiced or only lightly cooked. I love grating fresh beets into a salad or adding them to a fresh juice. And of course, your urine may also develop a slightly pink tinge after eating beets, but that’s nothing you need to worry about.
Your parents were right when they told you to eat up your greens! Just one serving per day of spinach, spring greens, kale or collards packs a nutritional punch and will help reduce cognitive decline and memory loss.
It’s packed full of essential minerals that can be difficult to get from other food sources, and is high in the antioxidant, lutein, which helps to promote effecting learning, language and memory.
Researchers at Rush University in Chicago also found that those who eat a daily serving of greens have
brains that are around 11 years younger than their biological age. They suggest that this might be owing to the high levels of vitamin K. Vitamin K is a nutrient of special interest in the field of brain medicine as it plays an important role in blood clotting and regulating the amount of calcium in the brain – both benefits that can improve the symptoms experienced by Alzheimer’s sufferers.
You can enjoy all of these benefits by eating a range of green leafy veggies, not just spinach. Why not add a daily portion of brussel sprouts, kale, collards, Swiss chard, cauliflower or even cabbage to your diet to reap some incredible results.
I know what you’re thinking – water isn’t even a food! And you’re absolutely right, but just like food it’s one of the basic fundamentals of life and deserves a mention.
Our brains are around 85% water, and rely on this water to provide the electrical energy for thought processes and cognition to occur. Therefore it makes a ton of sense that if you neglect to drink enough water, you risk damaging your power of cognition, learning ability and also mood in the process. Dehydration is also linked
closely to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, Autism and even ADHD. Studies have shown that just a 1% drop in hydration results in a 5% decrease in performance. Do the math and you will see how important it is to keep hydrated!
And not only that, one study found that students who took a bottle of water into an exam actually performed better and got better grades than those that didn’t.
It’s all too easy to forget about drinking enough water, especially if we have busy lives. We wait until we feel thirst and wonder why it doesn’t seem to help. Thirst is a late sign of dehydration and you will probably feel the effects before you actually feel like a drink.
So make sure you drink water regularly, whether you feel thirsty or not. Invest in a reusable aluminium bottle and sip throughout the day. Aim to drink between 2-3 liters for optimum hydration and optimum performance.
Garlic provides so many benefits to your health, you’d be absolutely silly not to get your daily dose, and it’s a true super-food when it comes to improving your mood, memory and focus (as well as a host of other things).
It contains a wealthy of sulphuric compounds that possess brilliant anti-oxidant properties and can take on almost any illness you could think of. One of these, known as FruArg is particularly interesting to us because it plays a protective role on brain cells, helping them to withstand lifestyle stresses like drinking too much alcohol, smoking, sustaining a brain injury and chronic stress.
Garlic also promotes better blood flow to the entire body, including the brain, and has been shown to fight certain cancers when studied in lab conditions. Lastly, garlic will help improve your memory, your mood and your learning by increasing the levels of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HTP) levels in your brain. This is a type of serotonin receptor, which will help you feel great, boost your motivation, help you to enjoy more rejuvenating sleep AND remember everything you need to easier than before.
Garlic is delicious and absolutely effortless to add to your everyday diet. If you’re not a fan, opt for garlic capsules or tablets instead. You can ingest between 300 to 1,000mg of garlic extract per day, depending on your wishes.
The suggestion that you should ‘think more positively’ might come off as sounding slightly strange, but there’s a whole heap of research to prove that it actually does work wonders when it comes to feeling happier and more positive about your life; like enjoying clarity of thought, protecting yourself from age-related memory loss and heightening your mental performance.
The reasons are clear. The most influential part of our lives isn’t how much money we have in the bank, nor how educated we are, nor what kind of job we might have. It’s actually how we see the world, in other words, our perspective. If you see the world as a threatening place and believe that you are not worthy to claim your own role within it, your body will react as if it were true, the levels of stress hormones in your body will skyrocket and your thinking will become clumsy and clouded. As a result you will age faster and feel unhappier.
But if you instead concentrate on the positive things, downplaying the bad and feeling gratitude for the good, then you will allow yourself to blossom, reduce levels of stress hormones and increase levels of the happy hormones too.
This doesn’t mean pretending that everything is fine when deep down you know that it isn’t, but it does mean taking the time to see what is beautiful in your life. It all starts right there with you.
Humans were never designed to live the kinds of sedentary lives that we do today. We sit to eat breakfast, we climb into the car and sit as we commute to work, we sit all day at our desks working hard on our computers and we repeat the process when we arrive home, feeling so exhausted that we settle on the couch for the rest of the evening. This lack of movement is what is killing our brains and our intelligence slowly.
For our brains and bodies to function as they should, we need to move our bodies, we need to get blood flowing through our cerebral blood vessels and pour vital oxygen into our brain cells. We need the stimulation of the fresh air for our senses and to feel the healthy endorphins flood our system.
The only way to do this is to get more exercise. Now, don’t panic, I don’t necessarily mean sweating it out in the nearest gym (although that wouldn’t be a bad idea!).
Instead, begin by welcoming movement into your life. Take the stairs instead of the lift, park further away and walk the few last blocks to work, get up from your desk every hour and take a bathroom break, head out and have a stroll in the fresh air. It all counts.
You can even download an app to your smartphone if you need help with this. A good place to start is with a pedometer app, which counts your paces and helps you to reach the ideal 10,000 steps per day. What could you do to reach this target?
Quit Processed and Artificial Sweeteners
If you have read my book, Healthy Living: 30 Powerful Daily Habits, you will have seen the benefits that quitting processed and artificial sweeteners can have upon your health as a whole. Right now we are going to concentrate on the harm these things do to your brain.
Now, it’s usually sugar that gets the bad press, being deemed as a ‘white poison’, and whilst this is true, it’s only part of the story. When people hear that sugar is damaging to their health, they often turn to artificial sweeteners instead, thinking that they are performing a kindness to their body and helping themselves to heal.
What they don’t know is that artificial sweeteners might actually be worse for you than sugar.
The artificial sweetener that is used most widely in diet soft drinks and foods is aspartame. Studies have proven a strong link between this artificial chemical and brain damage. That’s right – aspartame could actually be harming your brain-power, affecting your thought processes and ultimately making you stupider.
So what do you eat if you have a sweet tooth but want to protect your brain? The most healthful way to get a little sweetness into your life is to enjoy whole foods such as fruit, which not only have that wonderful taste you so crave, but also provide a multitude of brain-boosting nutrients and antioxidants.
Want to boost your brain-power and language-processing skills, as well as postpone the possible onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia? Experts suggest that being bilingual can help to slow age-related brain decline and grow new brain connections. But you don’t have to be older to enjoy its benefits. One study showed that teenagers who spoke more than one language outperformed their monolingual peers.
Let’s delve a little deeper to understand why. For a monolingual person, using language will only ever activate one side of the brain. However, for the bilinguals, both sides of the brain are active when using language. This means that a brain that is more comprehensively ‘exercised’ and fitter as a result, not just when it comes to languages.
And as the icing on the cake, researchers at the University of Ghent discovered that bilingualism can postpone the onset of Alzheimer’s by around four years. Sounds like it’s time to dig out those old textbooks!
Get Your Sleep
Life’s too short to waste hours sleeping, right? Actually, that’s twisted logic. Getting enough sleep is the easiest and most effective way to boost your brain-power and feel energetic and revived the following day. And better still, it doesn’t cost a cent and will make you feel amazing too.
When we sleep, we give our bodies the chance to recharge, both physically and mentally. We give it the opportunity to clear out the informational input we have been providing it over the course of the day, keep what is good and trash what isn’t. In a nutshell, sleep helps us learn and retain more information.
We all know what it’s like when you are sleep-deprived. Your brain feels foggy, you’re grumpy and irritable, you become forgetful, clumsy and everything seems like an enormous effort. If you begin to prioritize sleep, all of this will become a thing of the past and you will feel ready to tackle what life might throw at you.
So do it! From this very moment, vow to put your body first and make sleep a priority to see some incredible results. Experts recommend that you should get around eight hours of sleep per night, but the true figure really does depend on the individual – I find that a figure closer to nine works best with me, but find what works best for you.
Listen To Music
Not only is music a wonderful treat that can help you feel uplifted, alive and happy, it can also have some really great benefits for you memory, focus and attention, language skills AND physical coordination. Sounds like a great reason to put on some of your favorite tunes, if you ask me!
It works by activating both sides of your brain, exercises every part of it, and increases the activity in the corpus callosum – the connection between both sides of your brain. In addition, it also has an effect upon our
emotions and allows us to move to a place beyond language. This TED animation by Anita Collins explains what happens in the brain when you play a musical instrument, but is also useful when it comes to understanding the effect that music has upon the brain. Take a look.
The take-home message is to simply ‘listen to more music’. Rediscover your favorite tracks, switch off the television and let music awaken your brain and your senses.
Avoid Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
MSG, or monosodium glutamate is a food additive that works as a flavor enhancer and is routinely added to many Asian foods and canned goods. The bad news is that it acts as a neurotoxin (and destroys brain cells and as a result), negatively affects brain function and causes a wide range of symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, diarrhoea, high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels and also vision damage.
It works by hyper-stimulating the nerves and processes in the entire body up to the point of damage. There are numerous studies that support this fact, such as the one carried out at the Robert S. Dow Neurobiology Laboratories in Portland, which discovered that MSG causes neuron death and related conditions.
The trouble with MSG is that it is not routinely labelled so it can be difficult to know when you might be consuming it, or not. The best course of action is to avoid processed ingredients that you cannot pronounce, and instead concentrate on eating nutritious, fresh wholefoods that will feed your body and your brain.
Imagine if you could boost your brain by doing ‘nothing’? Does that sound too good to be true? You’ll be pleased to know that this is almost certain if you choose to take up a mediation practice. You’ll feel stronger and happier, less stressed and more focused on the things in life that really matter to you.
If you have ever experimented with mediation in the past, you will know that after a session, no matter how short, you feel energized and uplifted and also at peace with the world. These feelings you might have experienced have also been backed-up with cold hard science too.
Meditation has been proven to work better than prescription drugs for depression, improves levels of focus and concentration, protects the aging brain by increasing the volume and density of your gray matter, and reduces anxiety too.
It’s very simple to start mediating. Just find a quiet place and allow your attention to follow the motion of your breath. And that is almost all there is to it. If you are having trouble finding the time to practice, start with just a few minutes every day. There are many 30-day mediation challenges out there that can help give you the push you need to begin.
Yoga is the time-tested method of finding inner peace and outer strength at the same time. Its benefits include reducing stress, helping you to sleep, improving your mood, supporting you though grief, healing low self- esteem issues, and also helping you feel great.
It works in much the same way as meditation by encouraging you to focus on the breath, but unlike mediation, yoga encourages you to use your body as you do so. It’s an amazing way to find inner strength and focus and put you back in touch with your body and your inner world. All of this stuff often gets buried beneath the madness of modern life, so it can be very healing to find it again.
It can also work wonders for depression and help stimulate your focus and your information retention. So
instead of hitting the caffeine before an important exam, why not take a yoga class instead?
Once again, I’d like to thank you for purchasing this book. I hope this information has helped you discover some wonderful ways you can protect those precious memories, boost your brain-power, supercharge your IQ, feel happier and also help to protect yourself against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
You don’t have to settle for cognition that doesn’t work in the way that you wish. You don’t have to continue to operate through a kind of ‘brain fog’, or find your attention and focus drifting away at every opportunity, affecting your life, your career and your happiness.
Simply eat the best-quality plant-based wholefood diet that you can, add in some delicious herbs and spices, drink more water, be kind to yourself, develop some effective stress-management techniques, try aromatherapy and also utilize some wonderful herbal and dietary supplements to feel and operate at your
best, all of the time. And yes, you will probably remember where you left those car keys too!
It’s time for us to draw this book to a close, but make sure you stay connected with the Carma Books community and email list for more books on holistic health and wellness. Reach out again soon for forthcoming, much-talked-about health subjects, just like this one.
Until next time, I wish you a wonderful journey in happiness and health!