Your brain is always “on.” It takes care of your breathing, heartbeat, emotions and more. It works hard around the clock, even while you’re sleeping. This means your brain requires a continuous supply of fuel. That “fuel” comes from the foods you eat and what’s in that fuel makes ALL the difference. Put simply, what you eat directly affects the structure and function of your brain, your mood and ultimately your entire life.
That’s why high quality nutrition (like plant foods) is essential for feeding your brain. Simply put, when your brain is healthy, it performs better, your anxiety is lower and everything functions better. Caring for your brain makes it easier to be centered during perimenopause and menopause.
Just like your gastrointestinal tract has a protective barrier, your brain has one too- it’s called the blood-brain barrier (BBB). In order for your brain to be protected and function optimally as you age, your BBB must be strong and healthy. This brain barrier acts as a gatekeeper and filter, allowing beneficial nutrients to cross into your brain, and keeping the bad stuff out, because just like a leaky gut you can also get a leaky brain.
Your brain needs things like glucose, amino acids, fat-soluble nutrients, and ketones to function properly. But when the blood-brain barrier is disrupted it can’t protect you against things like heavy metals, toxins, molds, fungi, and chemicals produced by our toxic world. This can wreak havoc on your brain. Research has linked a compromised BBB with “brain fog” or cognitive dysfunction, chronic fatigue, anxiety/depression, neurodegenerative diseases (dementia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s), and other neurological conditions. The good news is that your blood brain barrier can be healed/improved and so can your brain function:
Feeding Your Brain
Get Adequate Nutrients: Your blood-brain barrier requires specific nutrients to keep it functioning properly. Plants are the most nutrient dense food in the world and contain all the nutrients that support brain health.
Get More Vitamin K2: When you don’t have enough Vitamin K2, your body stores calcium in soft tissue like your brain which disrupts your brain (and body). Vitamin K2 to the rescue. Vitamin K2 moves calcium out of places where it shouldn’t be like your brain, blood vessels, organs and skin and into the places where it should be, like your bones and teeth. Recent research has confirmed that Alzheimer’s may be partly due to calcification in the brain. You can help protect your brain from Alzheimer’s with the right form of Vitamin K2. Fermented foods (sauerkraut & kimchi) and algae like chlorella and spirulina are great sources of vitamin K2.
Eat More Plant-Based Protein: You may already know that protein optimizes brain function and maintains healthy brain regulation. But did you know that with the right sources of protein, you can increase healing, combat illness, improve mental clarity, fight fatigue, boost memory, reduce inflammation and more? Plant foods like algae (spirulina & chlorella), lentils, chickpeas, hemp seeds, nuts, quinoa, black beans and spinach are great sources of plant based proteins. When you nourish your brain with proteins found in plant foods, you feel your best as you age. Talk about brain food!
Consume Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) like Omega-3 are essential fats that your body can’t produce. That’s why you need to get them from your diet. Your brain contains more than 100 billion cells and omega-3 fatty acids are the building blocks of these cells. Are you starting to see why EFA’s are essential for healthy functioning of your brain and nervous system as we age? Additionally, omega-3s in your cell membranes aid neurotransmitter receptors (these are brain chemicals that communicate information in your brain and throughout your body). Plant foods like chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds and algae (spiralina & chlorella) are great sources of essential fatty acids. This is why chia seeds are an important ingredient in my Happy Hormone Smoothie that I teach inside of my Weight Loss & Wellness For Women Over 45 Course.
Get More Quality Sleep: Getting adequate sleep (7-8 hours a night) has enormous benefits on brain health and if you are sleeping less, you are at risk for impairing your BBB function. You probably know that melatonin helps you sleep, and that tryptophan is the precursor to melatonin. There are many plant foods that are great sources of tryptophan including dark leafy greens, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, broccoli and peas. Tryptophan helps normalize serotonin and other neurotransmitters and has even been found to reverse many symptoms of aging, including irritability, mood disorders, poor sleep, anxiety, and stress.
Don’t forget about B Vitamins: The B vitamins support healthy brain chemistry and neurological activities. Vitamin B1 is required to produce neurotransmitters, Vitamin B6 is necessary for the conversion of the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin - a neurotransmitter important for mood and sleep; Vitamin B3 is important for memory and learning and a deficiency can lead to neurological disorders like dementia and disorientation. Some great plant sources of B vitamins are spirulina, chlorella, nutritional yeast, mushrooms and spinach.
Consume more Antioxidants: Systemic inflammation can damage the BBB. Recent research has found that inflammation can lead to a compromised blood-brain barrier and health issues like Alzheimer’s or other neurodegenerative disorders. Along with avoiding inflammatory foods, adding antioxidant-rich foods to your diet can help reduce inflammation. Some of the best antioxidant rich foods are plant-based foods such as blueberries and dark leafy greens.
Reduce Radiation & Toxicity: Technology is a fundamental part of our lives (you wouldn’t be reading this without it), but unfortunately it also produces EMF pollution, which can be harmful to the blood-brain barrier. We live in a toxic world, with pollutants all around us, even in our food. One of the ways you can protect and cleanse your body and brain is by introducing more chlorophyll-rich foods into your diet like dark leafy green vegetables, chlorella, spirulina, alfalfa, green cabbage, green tea, parsley and cilantro.
Boron: You probably don’t know much about boron but it’s a mineral proven to aid in cognitive performance. Some of the research about boron is very exciting, for example in one study after just 63 days, individuals consuming high doses of boron showed higher brain functioning. This study and others show the importance of boron for membrane function, hand-eye coordination and short-term and long-term memory. Ahhh, memory ..... now that's something I want to protect! Some great plant sources of boron are raisins, almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, lentils and chickpeas.
Meditation: In addition to proper nutrition and sleep, meditation is the best way to relax and reboot your brain. Meditation is proven to help with stress, difficulty sleeping, low energy, and other lifestyle challenges. A great company is CALM whose app can be downloaded so you can listen to any of their thousands of meditations where ever you are. Recent research has shown that 50 year olds can have the brains of 25 year-olds if they meditate for just 15 minutes per day.
Exercise: Cardiorespiratory exercise — walking briskly, running, biking and just about any other exercise that gets your heart pumping — is good for your body, but can also slow cognitive changes in your brain. Here is a great article with studies from The Mayo Clinic about the benefits of exercise on gray matter in the brain.
So there you have it. These are my best tips for taking care of your brain in midlife. As we age it is so important that we keep our brain healthy.
If you would like to learn more about keeping you brain and body healthy as you age then come join us in my signature course Weight Loss & Wellness for Women Over 45. In this online course you will learn how to lose weight, balance your hormones and prevent chronic disease as you age.
Here is a link to the brand of spirulina and chlorella that I use. Use coupon code "KellyNentwich" to get 20% off all orders.