Brain Health – Food Pharmacy

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Brain Health

Are you having trouble focusing? Do you need a picture to help you locate where you parked the car? Do you make jokes about having Alzheimer’s? Are you feeling low, sad or depressed? Are you overly worried and anxious about everyday things? Need a coffee to get you going?

According to nutritional therapist Maria Berglund Rantén, this could all be signs you need to improve your brain function. But why isn’t your brain working? And is there something you can do about it? Brain health is all about making the most of your brain. Here are Maria’s seven best tips on how to boost your brain.

Are you getting enough oxygen?
Are your hands, feet and nose always cold? Are you tired all the time? Do you have a blood pressure lower than 110/70? If the answer is yes, your cells don’t get enough oxygen. Your brain is beautifully placed at the top of your body, and if your blood pressure is low, the oxygen won’t be able to fight gravity and reach the brain. If you’re not sensitive to salt, try adding a couple of grams of Himalayan salt to a large glass of water and drink it. And, don’t forget to get physical exercise. Using your muscles also helps your mind.

Anemia is a condition where the number of red blood cells in the blood is lower than normal. It’s important to have good levels of red blood cells, hemoglobin and iron, since they help to transport oxygen to the brain and throughout the body. If you have anemia, don’t forget to determine the underlying cause and check what kind of anemia it is. Is it iron-deficiency anemia? Could it be due to low levels of ferritin? Or Vitamin B12 deficiency? Or something else? Seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider.

Are you riding on the blood sugar roller coaster?
This is fairly common, and pretty easy to fix. But whatever you do, always make sure that your brain gets enough energy. The brain is made up of very special cells called neurons. When you don’t provide the brain with energy, the neurons die (it’s called neurodegeneration). Balanced blood sugar levels will protect the brain. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. Eat protein (around 1-1,5 grams per kilograms body weight), fats and vegetables, preferably vegetables that grow above ground. Do you struggle with afternoon slumps? To prevent the 3pm sugar crash, try eating something 30 minutes before the blood sugar drops. Also, getting your blood sugar under control will help you sleep better at night.

Ketogenic diet
If you’re up for it, try a ketogenic diet. It’s a very low-carb diet, where the body turns fat into ketones for use as energy. This will turn your body into a fat-burning machine and provide your brain with more energy. If your body is ok with this kind of diet, it’s important to add phytochemicals and antioxidant powder to your diet. Otherwise it may have a negative effect on your overall health. A ketogenic diet is not recommended for athletes.

Metabolic flexibility
If your body crashes on a ketogenic diet, it means that your body does not have metabolic flexibility. In that case, try adding a small amount of carbohydrates to your diet and see if that will help maintain optimal brain function. I believe most people would benefit from eating like this. Include lots of vegetables, protein and fiber in your diet. And add small amounts of legumes, gluten free grains, root vegetables, squash and pumpkin.

Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting helps fight inflammation in the body and is good for both brain and overall health. There are many different ways to do intermittent fasting. Extending your overnight fast a little is probably the easiest way to start. Most men handle 18 hours without food, and most women around 14-16 hours. All adults should be able to fast for at least 12 hours during the night. How to plan your meals while fasting is totally up to you. Some fast one day a week, and some 2-3 times a month. I wouldn’t recommend fasting for more than three days without consulting a healthcare professional (the body will burn proteins for energy). For a 1-3 day fast, I would make 2 liters of green tea and mix it with 2 liters of water. Then I would add lots of fresh lemon and lime, and 4 tablespoons of maple syrup. Drink small amounts often to provide the brain with energy.

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