What you eat has a tremendous impact on your present and future brain health. The food we consume plays an essential role in shaping our bodies, brains included! Eating is something that each of us does daily, so it is vital that we make conscious decisions about what goes inside our mouths if we want to stay healthy.
According to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and medical writer, investing in the right foods now can safeguard your mind during old age. You will be well on your way to a healthy and functioning brain if you begin incorporating beneficial ingredients into your daily meals while young. In this article, you will find the best nutrition tips and secrets for keeping your mind sharp.
S.H.A.R.P. – Five simple practices
One food cannot be a miraculous cure-all for your brain health. Instead, it is most likely the mixture of nutrients and foods consumed together which will yield the best results. To make his food philosophy more memorable, Dr. Gupta came up with the S.H.A.R.P. acronym. It contains five specific steps on your way to a healthier mind.
S– Slash the sugar and stick to your ABCs
The detrimental effects of sugar on the brain cannot be overstated.. Regulating blood sugar levels has been shown by science to support brain health; studies have revealed that persons whose glucose levels are higher than normal but still non-diabetic experienced a faster cognitive decline when compared to those without elevated glucose. Note that artificial sugars are also not a good replacement as the human body cannot properly digest these.
Healthhack from Healthypedia
Watch out for products labeled “diet” or “lite” or “sugar free” because that usually means they are sweetened artificially.
Dr. Gupta describes the ABCs – a method to discern the top-quality foods, the A-listers, from the ones we should include (B-list) or limit (C-list).
H– Hydrate smartly
Researchers have found that even moderate levels of dehydration can lead to confusion, disorientation, and impaired cognitive abilities. Do not wait until you feel parched; if you experience any sensation of thirst you should have drank water much earlier.
Dr. Gupta mentions alcohol by saying abstaining from it is the safest option for preserving your brain health. If you do drink, however, be sure not to exceed a healthy amount. Men are advised to consume a maximum of two alcoholic beverages daily, whereas women should be limited to one drink. This is partly because their bodies are smaller and more sensitive and an excessive amount of alcohol can increase their risk for breast cancer as well.
A – Add more Omega-3 to your diet
While numerous studies have connected Omega-3 to brain health, the evidence mainly comes from food sources rather than nutritional supplements. Consuming good food is the ideal way to get your daily dose of Omega-3 fatty acids rather than relying solely on pills.
Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, are packed with beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids. Meanwhile, wild meat including beef, lamb, venison, and buffalo, also deliver large amounts of this nourishing nutrient to your diet.
You can also get your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids from plant sources like flaxseed, oils (olive, canola, flaxseed, and soybean), and nuts such as chia seeds or pumpkin seeds. Sunflower seeds are also a great option.
R – Reduce portions
A good understanding of portion control is essential for meeting any health-related goal. It is true that indulging every now and then will not necessarily harm you or your brain, but it is vital to be mindful of daily caloric intake. Dr. Gupta mentions that all experts he had a conversation with concurred that controlling portions and calories are key elements for brain wellness.
Over the past seven decades, restaurants and notably fast food chains have experienced a tremendous expansion in portion size. This has drastically changed what we consider ‘normal’ regarding the quantity of food at home as well. Known as portion distortion, this effect is associated with the increasing prevalence of obesity cases, especially in the U.S. If we compare the 1960s to the 2020s, Americans have significantly increased in weight. In fact, men went from an average of 166 pounds back then to a whopping 200 pounds today! To obtain optimal health once more, it’s essential that we alter our mindset about portion sizes and revert them to what was deemed ‘enough’ all those years ago.
Dr. Gupta also says that fasting can be a useful tool for controlling the amount of food you consume. If done carefully, fasting can stimulate the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a crucial protein that aids in strengthening neural connections and promoting the new growth of neurons.
P – Plan your meals ahead
Be careful of turning to unhealthy snacks like carbohydrates when hunger hits. When we are hungry and not prepared with healthy snacks on hand, our basic instincts will lead us to opt for the fast “go-to” meals that taste good but lack nutritional value. In other words, ‘Hello, fries and soda!’.
To make healthy eating a lifestyle plan your main meals for the week in advance and grocery shop for fibre-rich foods. Schedule two or three days per week to do this task and you will be on your way to creating nourishing dishes.
Let’s sum up
According to Dr. Sanjay Gupta it is vital to make conscious decisions about what goes inside our mouths if we want to keep our minds sharp. The S.H.A.R.P philosophy created by Dr Gupta contains five specific steps on your way to a healthier mind: slash the sugar and separate food into categories to include and limit, hydrate, add more Omega-3 fatty acids from food sources, reduce portions, and plan your meals ahead.
Hungry for knowledge?
If you are ready for a deep dive we recommend reading ‘Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age’. Dr. Gupta’s book gives a simple and engaging explanation of complex processes that happen in your body and head, which help to prevent your mind from ageing.
This short animation by TED-Ed channels breaks down the processes behind nutrition’s effect on our brains and explains how different foods change our productivity.
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