Let’s face it, we all like to think we are in control. But the truth is, 90-100% of our decisions come from a primal, instinctual and sub-rational (below the level of conscious reasoning) part of our brain. The part of our brain responsible for conscious thought either provides rationalizations for our sub-rational decisions, or acts as an override mechanism that allows us to revise them.
We have the tendency to interpret new information in a way that serves to confirm our pre-existing beliefs. We need to make efforts to take into account the interaction of these 2 systems when interpreting our own behavior (and in efforts to understand the behavior of others).
Exercise, even simply walking and stretching has been shown to prevent cognitive decline (likely due to improved circulation as well as the release of serotonin). Did you know that our lymph glands (our key detoxification pathways) need movement in order to do their job? Unlike our blood, they have no pump and so rely on the relaxation and the contraction of the muscles and joints to move them. Your lymphatic system can easily become stagnant, especially when your sedentary & it becomes overwhelmed with toxic debris.
The quality of our decisions decrease significantly when our brains are low on energy. Too much energy too quickly (processed foods, refined carbs, Sugar) is just as bad, as it increases your adrenaline – causing irritability, anxiety and difficulty concentrating. We must ensure we are properly hydrated, have intervals of movement, and are eating adequate protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs which are all slow releasing energy sources – providing sustained energy throughout the day. No crashing. No hanger.
60% of our brain’s dry mass is fat. The type of fats we consume everyday has a profound effect on how we think and feel. Our brain and nervous system depend on specific fats (saturated, monosaturated, cholesterol and omega 3 & 6). We can make the first 3, but need to ensure we get our omegas from outside sources. Omega 3 and 6 should also be consumed in balance (1:1), and they were before the industrial revolution. Now our consumption looks more like 1:20 in favor of omega 6, so our focus really should be on omega 3. Low levels of omega 3 are known to be involved in conditions like ADD, depression and schizophrenia. They also help reduce inflammation, which is a precursor to almost any disease.
Here are a handful of my favorite brain foods I eat regularly
- Overnight Oats – contains most B vitamins which help support the nervous system. Deficiency of B vitamins can lead to poor concentration and memory, irritability, stress and low mood. I also like to add hemp hearts and chia seeds to my overnight oats to add omega 3 content.
- Eggs – Packed with amino acids, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. They also contain phospholipids – memory’s BFF. It helps create the covering of our nerves, promoting smooth signaling. Phospholipids also help make acetylcholine, our brain’s memory neurotransmitter. They enhance mood, mind, and mental performance, and protect against age related memory decline, and Alzheimer’s.
- Pumpkin & sunflower seeds – contain omega 3 which is essential for optimal brain function, keeping stress and depression at bay. They also contain magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium – all of which are important for concentration, memory & keeping calm.
- Avocado – contains omega 3, vitamin E, and most B vitamins, being great for the nervous system and optimal brain function.
- Salmon (or other oily fish) – Oily fish are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids. In addition to the omega 3s, salmon also contains vitamins A, Bs, D and selenium which are all involved in protecting the nervous system from age-related damage and has been documented to help with depression.
- Dark chocolate – contains Tryptophan (a precursor to serotonin) which helps to elevate mood. Choose chocolate with a 70% cocoa content or higher. Your taste buds will quickly adapt to the bitterness and milk chocolate will soon taste overly sweet/gross.
- Dark fruits & vegetables – The darker the produce, the higher the antioxidant content. Antioxidants protect the brain from oxidative stress caused by free radicals which is a major factor in aging.
Self-care and de-stressing routines like yoga and meditation will also help us make the best use of our brain. Stay tuned for my upcoming post focusing on this!
If you would like to make a change and not sure where to start, book and appointment with me here and I will help you get started!