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Food for thought: how different foods affect your brain

Learn what to eat (and not eat) for the biggest brain boosts


By
May 18, 2017

     


“You are what you eat.”

It’s a saying we’ve all heard. But it’s truer than you might think. The food we eat doesn’t just impact our bodies. It can affect our brains with how we think and go about our day.

Park Nicollet dietitian Gina Houmann MPH, RDN, LD, explains how we can power our brains by being mindful of what we eat:

How does food affect our brains?

Consistently having too many calories or too little calories can affect your brain. Too many calories can increase the risk of cell damage in the brain. Too few calories can impair awareness, or make you feel cloudy. Choosing the right types and amounts of food can decrease your risk of cell damage. This can give your brain what it needs to work at its best.

What are the best foods for your brain?

Omega-3 fatty acids are a building block of the brain, so they’re especially important for pregnant women, babies and young children. And they are necessary for brain function and memory as you grow older, too. Omega-3s may also be protective against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Omega-3s are found in fish like salmon, tuna and halibut and also in nuts and seeds.

Fruits like berries are good for the brain, too. They have antioxidants which help clear the body and brain of damaging molecules.

What foods are the worst?

Highly refined sugars (like packaged cookies and candy) can impair brain function.

What are some tips to make sure I am eating right for my brain?

Eating for brain health is a long-term commitment. And the positive results from the diet has long-term effects. So don’t think that if you eat a blueberry today that you will do better on your test tomorrow.

In general, foods that are good for your heart are also good for your brain. The Mediterranean diet is one of the best diets for both heart and brain health. It promotes natural sources of omega-3s as well as fruits, veggies and whole-grains – all which are protective to the heart and brain.

How our brains operate is a priority for HealthPartners. So our eat-well program, yumPower and new Neuroscience Center have teamed up to offer the best brain food. You will see better-for-your-brain options at the Gingko café and in the vending machines.

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