Your brain deserves good food. Although it constitutes only 2 percent of your total body weight, your brain uses 25 percent of the glucose (sugar) coursing through your entire body; if there's not enough glucose available, it goes into a state of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), with symptoms of light-headedness, confusion, slow mental functioning, and lack of consciousness. Just like the heart, the brain requires special attention to diminish risk of stroke, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease.
Think Plants. The more fruits and vegetables you eat the better. The reasons for piling your plate with more plants and less red and processed meat, and salty and sugar-laden foods are very similar to why we do it for our hearts - to keep blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and your waistline in check. High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke. Research shows that 80 percent of stroke risk is a result of high blood pressure (at or above 140/90). Strokes are caused by blood clots in the brain that come in contact with a clogged artery and cause a blockage. Lowering your blood pressure can lower your risk of stroke by 40 percent!
One study found that a Mediterranean-style diet, which emphasizes more whole grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts, olive oil, moderate alcohol and fish, and less red meat, refined grains (i.e., white flour products), and the occasional sweets decreased the risk of stroke significantly in middle-aged women. Eating this type of plant-based diet was shown to positively affect blood pressure and promote weight loss, two results that are excellent for your brain's vascular health.
On top of preventing stroke, a Mediterranean-type diet can help fend off dementia (cognitive decline) or the more severe Alzheimer's disease (AD). Researchers anticipate that about 800 million people in the United States will have AD by the year 2030. As a potential preventive measure, experts recommend that we eat more plant-based foods, particularly colorful berries like blueberries and strawberries; balance fat intake with "good" unsaturated fats like olive oil walnuts, hemp, chia and flax seeds; and eat less animal products and saturated fat. Getting plenty of physical activity and mental stimulation helps, too!
Here's a quick and easy recipe your brain - and heart will enjoy!
Greek Yogurt Parfaits: Strawberry, Hemp Seed and Cinnamon Swirl
By Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN - The Lifestyle Nutritionist