Everything About Food For Brain

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Here's how to construct an eating plan that can help turn your brain into a lean, mean thinking machine and, not incidentally, help protect against cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, premature aging, obesity, and other ills.

As a general rule, when strolling the produce aisles, think color. Anything brightly colored is brain food, loaded with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that maintain brain health and enhance mental performance. And if all else fails, just like the ad says, you shudda had a V-8.


Contains four calories per gram. Should supply 15 percent of your total calorie intake.

Everything About Food For BrainNeeded to manufacture brain tissue, enzymes, neurotransmitters, and myriad other brain chemicals. Choose 5 ounces (women) to 8 ounces (men) animal protein from lean sources: skinless poultry, lean meats, organ meats; fatty fish such as salmon, herring, tuna, and sardines, plus other seafood; skim and low-fat dairy products. Increase intake of soy protein foods such as calcium-fortified tofu, soy milk, and textured vegetable protein; soy foods contain isoflavones and thousands of other beneficial compounds animal foods lack.


Contain four calories per gram. Should supply 65 percent of calories.

Vegetables and fruit are packed with antioxidant vitamins and thousands of other powerful antioxidants, minerals, and fiber. Tank up on dark leafy greens; cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale); red/yellow/orange vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, summer and winter squash; fruits such as berries, cherries, apples, apricots, oranges, grapefruit, red grapes, peaches.

The government recommends that you get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
That's pathetic, say many researchers — yet more than two-thirds of Americans, especially meast-and-potatoes-and-pizza men — don't even get that. (Real, smart men do eat salad.) Experts urge you to eat as much and as many fruits and veggles as you can pack in — 10 servings if you want. Watery, crunchy fruits/veggies are very low in calories; eat ad lib. (A serving is one whole fruit or vegetable, a half-cup cooked or 1 cup raw greens.)

Grains, starchy vegetables, and legumes are packed with B vitamins, antioxidants, trace minerals, and fiber. Whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta, grains, potatoes, and yams are loaded with energy-boosting, feel-good complex carbohydrates (and some fat-free protein). Complex carbs, digested more slowly than simple sugars, keep blood sugar levels steady and brain energy high for prolonged periods. Refined flour products won't kill you, but even "enriched" versions don't put all the good stuff back, and lack fiber. Get 5 to 11 servings daily (the latter if you're a big guy or female triathlete). A serving equals one slice of bread, one potato, or half a cup of grain or beans.

Table sugar (sucrose) or honey is okay if used sparingly, but it lacks vitamins and minerals; limit to a few teaspoons daily (one Coke has 10 teaspoons!). Avoid corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup, which raise triglycerides more than sucrose; they're in zillions of prepared foods, including ketchup.


Contains nine calories per gram. Current government recommendations call for fat intake to supply no more than 30 percent of calories. But that may not be low enough to keep your brain from clogging up.

"The same low-fat diet that ensures cardiovascular health will ensure brain health," contends cholesterol expert Charles Glueck, M.D. The dietary fat level that reduces or eliminates depression and boosts cognitive performance is a skimpy 10 to 15 percent.

Sounds a bit too austere? Relax. Oregon's William Connor, M.D., contends that a diet supplying no more than 20 percent of calories from fat confers adequate health benefits head to toe.

But 40 percent of that fat should be in the form of essential fatty acids (EFAs), preferably from fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna. And get this — caviar is an excellent source of EFAs. You can take one to two capsules of fish oil daily (a gram of fat each). It's not only the best source of the most beneficial n-3s for the brain, it lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels, too. Limit saturated fat intake to four to six percent of your overall calories. Avoid hydrogenated fats; they're saturated fats. Use only a microthin smear of low-fat margarine, if you must. (Sorry, butter is still worse.)

The rest of your fat should come from vegetable oils rich in n-3s. To get n-3 fatty acids in a favorable ratio to n-6s, use flaxseed, canola, soy, and walnut oils rather than corn, safflower, or sunflower oils. Throw these oils away, and avoid eating foods containing them. Olive oil has little n-3 but is mostly harmless monosaturated fat; mix with canola oil to flavor salads. Use olive oil cooking spray. Mono-rich peanut oil is okay in small doses, too.

But don't overdo the EFA-rich oils, either. You need no more than two to three teaspoons of EFAs per day.

Assume you'll get half your fat from even low-fat foods. That leaves half you can add as oil. Limit yourself to 20 grams (women) to 25 grams (men) daily.

Remember, dietary cholesterol does not raise blood cholesterol levels in two-thirds of the population, Trouble is, you don't know whether you're a dietary cholesterol "responder" without medical tests. Better to keep cholesterol Intake below 300 mg per day.

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