9 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power – Susan Smith Jones

1. Grab an apple a day

The old saying that an apple a day could keep the doctor away is really true when it comes to your brainpower.  This much-loved fruit has a potent antioxidant that appears to protect brain cells from free-radical damage, a Cornell University study says. Quercetin may be the magic compound. In experiments with rats, researchers found that brain cells treated with this antioxidant, and then exposed to cell-damaging hydrogen peroxide, had significantly less damage than cells treated with vitamin C or not treated at all. More studies are needed to see if quercetin can truly fight off Alzheimer’s disease. But since apples — especially the skins — are loaded with quercitin, it would behoove you to snack on one daily. It just might be your ticket to a retirement chock-filled with memories.

2. Be a berry fanatic

Any time of year, find ways to add berries to a host of foods you already eat—whether fresh or frozen. Enjoy them in smoothies, fruit salads, and cereals, for dessert, or simply as a snack out of hand. Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries, cranberries and other varieties boast phytochemicals—pigments that create berries’ blue color, which are thought to defend the body against damaging carcinogens and free radicals. Who’s the best berry of them all? Blueberries. One of the richest sources of antioxidants, the blueberry also is rich in vitamin C and folic acid and offers lots of fiber and potassium – all this with minimal calories. Blueberries are known as the “brain berry.” More than almost any other food, they enhance mental function. So instead of keeping your brain function in-the-pink, choose, instead, to keep it in-the-blue. Just one half cup a day retards aging and can even reverse failing memory.

3. Prevent memory loss with herbal support

You can stop memory loss with a “nuclear” plant. Gingko biloba is the world’s longest living species of tree, and it’s so hardy, it even withstood the atomic bomb! But researchers are excited because ginkgo improves circulation and blood flow, increases mental clarity, and even clears up headaches. It will really get your focus back on track! Gingko contains a unique blend of terpene lactones that enable extracts of this herb to increase circulation to the brain and other parts of the body. And for Alzheimer’s disease, it’s one of the best herbs. In a study published in 1997 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers gave 202 people with Alzheimer’s either a placebo or ginkgo extract (120 mg a day). A year later, the ginkgo group retained more mental function, and subsequent studies have corroborated this finding. It’s safe, but it has anticoagulant properties, so increased bruising is possible and, like garlic, is not recommended to take seven days prior to surgery.

4. Asparagus could be the answer

One of the key players in better brain function is the B vitamin complex — specifically folate, thiamin, B6, and B12. Experts say that low levels of B vitamins can result in poor memory and possibly Alzheimer’s disease. It’s been well documented that people well nourished with B vitamins perform better on memory tests than those with B deficiencies. And according to recent studies, eating enough folate in particular may significantly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers think a drop in homocysteine levels could be the key. Several studies have disclosed higher levels of the amino acid homocysteine — also linked to heart disease — in people with Alzheimer’s. So why don’t you make asparagus part of your memory-strengthening diet?

5. Sound advice from monkeys

Maybe monkeys are wiser than we think. Their favorite food is the banana and this versatile fruit will add to your brainpower well into your golden years. At a Twickenham (Middlesex) school (England), 200 students were helped through their exams by eating bananas at breakfast, break, and lunch in a bid to boost their brainpower. Research has shown that the potassium- and B6-packed fruit can assist learning by making pupils more alert. In my private practice, this simple tip alone, of eating one banana a day, also has done wonders for mental acuity with all of my patients between 50 and 85. Embrace being a goldenite and keep bananas close at hand.

6. Turn on to turnips

A turnip might not be your favorite vegetable, but it is certainly a prizewinner when it comes to enhancing your mental capacity. One of the secrets to staying mentally alert as you age is getting enough vitamin E. Keeping your brain sharp at 70 or 80 may be as simple as eating vegetables like turnip greens and spinach, which are teaming with this potent antioxidant.  Vitamin E helps fight free radicals — unstable molecules that damage your cells. This damage has been linked to cancer, heart disease, and more recently, memory loss and Alzheimer’s. A 10-year study of Chicago residents over the age of 65 found that eating vitamin-E rich foods is more effective than taking a supplement in protecting against Alzheimer’s.  So focus on getting your vitamin E naturally and turn to these greens to help you feel your best. (Refer to Susan’s 3-book healthy eating Hay House series for more information on the best foods sources for all of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients.)

7. Remember the rosemary

You may have heard the old saying “rosemary is for remembrance.” It has an element of truth to it. Rosemary* is full of antioxidants that will help to keep your memory sharp as a tack. This pungent herb can enhance your sauces and enliven up breads and muffins. And plain beans turn interesting when you add a taste-builder like rosemary. But keep this in mind; a tiny bit of rosemary goes a long way. Start with a minimal amount. You can always add more, if needed. So when you reach for your seasonings, remember rosemary.

8. Exercise for life

Okay, it’s not a food but it’s imperative if you want to keep you mind strong and healthy well into your “goldenite” years. Not only does regular exercise assist in the weight loss arena, reduce stress, make your skin aglow, and your spirit soar; it also keeps your mind alert, focused, and strong. That’s right. Studies have found that engaging in a regular exercise program – a few days a week – works wonders for maintaining your long term memory.

9. Activities guaranteed to bring joy

There’s no doubt about it. The foods you eat have a profound effect on your brainpower. But there are also a few other activities, such as exercise, that you’ll want to remember (pun intended) to incorporate into your weekly activities so that your mind remains vibrant and stoked. These include regular ample sleep and purified water, meditation, and time in nature; all of these lifestyle choices will benefit in keeping your stress levels down and your heart smiling. To the list, I also suggest to keep your mind active with reading, crossword puzzles, and board games such as backgammon, chess, and even checkers. Yes, even card games will fill the bill. Also, infuse your week with activities that have your heart. For example, play with your dog, call your mom, scratch behind your kitty’s ear, fly a kite, laugh often, give generously, find a way to give service, and tell your loved ones how much you love and appreciate them. Finally, always remember to spend some quality time out in nature several times a weekly and when the urge strikes you, seek out and find rainbows, especially double rainbows, ladybugs, dragonflies, and butterflies. Not only will these calls of nature augment your brainpower, they also will bring more sweetness, passion, and joy into your life.

Susan Smith Jones, Ph.D, is the author of Health Bliss (Hay House, RRP $29.95) and Recipes for Health Bliss (Hay House, RRP $29.95).

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