Feed your head

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Don’t get excited – I’m not going to talk about “feeding your head” in a way Grace Slick might advocate. Although she now claims that famous line in White Rabbit meant “read a book”. Yeah, Grace. Whatever.

These days, though, even Grace might appreciate a new way of feeding our heads. With foods that have been shown to keep your brain healthier and help protect against Alzheimer’s Disease. And I am all about doing whatever I can to keep that at bay. An ounce of prevention and all.

No big surprise with number one on the list: Blueberries. Another of the “superfoods” – high in antioxidants, sure, but they also act as an anti-inflammatory. And that’s a big one-two punch against aging cells, especially in the brain.

I also wasn’t surprised to see Green Leafy Vegetables make the list. Spinach, especially. The reason this works for your brain is the high concentration of folate, a B vitamin. Folate is helpful in preventing strokes, which account for 25% of dementia cases.

And a big shout out to my favorites, Cruciferous Vegetables. Those are vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts. Studies done at Harvard showed that women who ate more of those vegetables did better in tests of memory and cognitive skills than women who ate the least. Significantly better. Like the equivalent of being two years younger in terms of memory.

Go a little nuts with Healthy Fats. The healthy fats, found in foods such as nuts, avocados, salmon, mackeral, tuna and olive and canola oil help to lower your cholesterol, protect your arteries and fight inflammation. And studies have shown that people with diets high in these fats (unsaturated and unhydrogenated, of course) have a much lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s than those whose diets are high in saturated and trans fats.

And here’s a surprise. Alcohol and Juice. I’ve never met anyone who seemed smarter when adding alcohol, but apparently moderate alcohol usage (for women, averaging one half to one drink per day; and for men, averaging one to two drinks per day) benefits the brain as well as the heart. They think this is due to increased blood flow to the brain, reducing the possibility of mini strokes. Moderate drinkers also do better on cognitive tests than non-drinkers. And juice? Listen to this fascinating statistic: People who drink just three glasses of fruit or vegetable juice per week had a 75% lower chance of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. Holy cow – 75% is huge.

I admit I tend to stay away from juice because of the sugar, but I think this has just convinced me to go back to an old favorite of mine, Absolut and grapefruit juice. Three times per week for strictly medicinal purposes. I can totally live with that.