Saturday, August 9, 2014

Boost your brain with superfoods

There is a proven link between what we put into our mouths and how well we think and feel.
There is a proven link between what we put into our mouths and how well we think and feel. Our mood, ability to learn and memory are all affected by the type of foods we eat. Our brains rely on a steady supply of essential nutrients from our diet, blood sugar and oxygen to function properly. Eating a well-balanced diet abundant in these nutrients helps improve memory and boost brain power and may also reduce the risk of age-related diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer's.
The brain is made up of 70 per cent fat and requires essential fatty acids (omega-3s) from the food we eat to maintain healthy function and development. Omega-3 fats are primarily found in oily fish such as salmon, trout and mackerel, flaxseed oil and nuts and seeds.
Protein is another important nutrient essential for proper brain function. Good-quality, low-fat protein is needed to supply our brains with essential amino acids to make neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine (needed for good memory) and serotonin (involved in mood). Foods such as eggs, legumes, tofu, organic chicken and lean meat are good choices.
Antioxidants, which include vitamins C, A and beta-carotene, are important for boosting brain power and protecting brain cells against free radical damage. Fruits and vegetables, especially red- and orange-coloured varieties, are full of antioxidant goodness.
Complex carbohydrates found in wholegrain cereals and breads (oats, rye, brown rice, quinoa) are good sources of energy, fibre and B vitamins. These foods provide your brain with a slow and steady supply of energy-giving glucose, without causing a sharp spike in blood sugar levels.

Natural stress busters

Stress is a part of everyday life, but enduring high levels of stress for long periods may be detrimental to your health. Here are some natural ways to help calm and support nervous system function and relieve symptoms of stress.
  1. B vitamins help the nervous system. Good sources are dairy, nuts and leafy green vegies.
  2. Oats have a calming, nourishing effect on the nervous system, so start the day with some porridge.
  3. Magnesium is an important anti-stress mineral. Best sources include almonds, legumes and wheatgerm.
  4. Reduce caffeine by cutting down on coffee, black tea, cola drinks and chocolate.
  5. Chamomile Tea made from chamomile, valerian or lemon balm helps stress-related conditions.

Know about Superfoods 

Superfoods are types of foods which are thought to have a very high content of certain nutrients.

  • Superfoods is a term that appeared during the 1990s.
  • It refers to types of foods which are thought to have a very high content of certain nutrients, making them exceptionally worthwhile to include in our diets.
  • Typically these food sources are high in antioxidants and essential nutrients – nutrients our bodies can't produce. Since the term has been introduced, many companies have abused the label in order to promote their products, even though they don't live up to the claims.
  • But there are foods that scientific studies show are particularly potent in their nutritional value.

What are super foods?

The main health benefits of superfoods include:
  • Helping to regulate metabolism and burn body fat.
  • Protecting the organs from toxins.
  • Lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Preventing or reducing inflammation in the body.
  • Preventing heart disease and cancer.
  • Promoting digestive health.

No definitive list of superfoods exists, but some of those that appear frequently include:
  • Oily fish, such as sardines and salmon – rich in omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Tomatoes – high in lycopene.
  • Olive oil – rich in antioxidants and good fats.
  • Brazil nuts – high in selenium.
  • Berries – high in antioxidants.
  • Broccoli – high in antioxidants and a good source of folate.
  • Beans – high in fibre and antioxidants. 
  • Natural yoghurt – contains good bacteria to fight bad bacteria.
  • Soy – rich in protein and high in fibre.
  • Tea, black or green – high in antioxidants.

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are substances in foods that neutralise free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules caused by oxidation in the human body and are linked to diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Antioxidants include vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene, lycopene and minerals such as zinc, selenium and copper. 

While many of the claims about the specific health benefits of antioxidants are still inconclusive, what is known is that eating lots of fruits and vegetables in general can help reduce your risk of certain diseases, including some cancers.

So should you specifically choose superfoods?

Superfoods do provide generous amounts of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids and offer slightly more protection against some health conditions than ordinary foods, but they are best included as part of a balanced diet. So rather than striving to just eat superfoods, it's better to simply aim for a minimum of five portions of whole fruits and vegetables per day. It's true that most superfoods contain the same nutrients as other natural foods but in higher quantities which means you don't require as much of them to get the benefits, but the simple message is: for good health, eat more fruit and vegetables, wholegrains and good carbohydrates and eat less animal protein and processed foods.

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