Top 2 Tips for Optimal Brain Health
How healthy is your city?
MSW Nutrition is lucky… we’re located in one of the healthiest cities in the world: Austin, Texas.
Living in a place like Austin often gives us a false impression on the public’s overall approach to health and wellness.
Just to give you a few examples: every day you can find an athlete running along the beautiful Lady Bird trail downtown (locals like me still call it town lake).
You may hear about a new restaurant that offers all of its dishes cooked with avocado oil. Or how about we go get some dairy free, vegan ice cream?
MSW Nutrition’s clients are no different from the general populace here.
I encounter people who come to our clinic who have been taking turmeric supplements for years.
Others teach yoga (not just practice), have been gluten free for 20 years, and have free range chickens in their duplex backyard.
Unfortunately, this is not the norm outside of Austin.
America is staggeringly behind in its approach to wellness.
Most of America is still struggling to wrap their heads around the idea that diet soda is worse for you than regular soda (FYI: both are bad for you).
There are the basic approaches that still hold true: exercise more, sleep better and drink more water.
And we generally all agree on these things, even if your city isn’t as progressive as Austin.
But the issue of food is a big one, even in “health meccas” like our city.
Those of us who care about taking charge of our own health need to be told what to eat. We want to know what vitamins to take and what exercises to do. And we need to know the CORRECT information for all of these things.
That’s where things can get a bit sticky.
Why does food advice seem to change so fast?
This is a common complaint among people trying to be healthier.
While it’s hard to argue against the fact that vegetables are good for us… there are plenty of other difficult nutrition topics we’ve been facing lately.
For example, we have been told for years that butter is bad for you, but recently some people are saying it’s good for you.
Is bacon actually that bad for you? What happened to all that low-fat advice from 10 years ago?
Health and diet seem like they change so much with all the trends we see in the media.
But with all those different approaches – how many people tell you to nourish your brain on a daily basis?
How does one actually accomplish that? Do we take a pill? Do we complete countless rounds of crossword puzzles?
Just like most people, we don’t know where to start.
So let’s keep it simple and start at the beginning: what’s the brain made of?
What is the Brain Made of?
First and foremost: our brains are made of fat.
To be more specific, our brains are made of omega-3 DHA and omega-6 arachadonic acid.
Our brains also use cholesterol to cushion the tissue and provide us the ability to create more brain cells, or neurons.
Do you see a theme here?
Our brains are made of fat and cholesterol – the two things we were told to stay away from in our diet for the past 40 years.
1. Eat more (healthy) fat.
That’s why we tell people to eat a ton of healthy fat like avocados, salmon, almonds, and even chia seeds.
These are all foods high in monounsaturated fat, which is the best fat our bodies need and use. It’s an anti-inflammatory fat that will actually lower the chance of our brains developing health issues like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Fat fuels the brain. Eat good fat, have a healthy brain.
When it comes to processed fat, we generally advise to stay away from it. That includes sources that are high in polyunsaturated fats – especially cooking oils like canola, peanut, soy, and other seed oils.
The heat makes them degenerate in an extremely unhealthy way that is terrible for your heart. That’s where the idea of “healthy butter” comes into play.
Because it’s a saturated fat, it actually handles heat better than those “heart healthy” plant oils… and it’s better for you to cook with.
If you’re looking for safer plant-based cooking oils, go with avocado or coconut oil instead.
2. Take this one supplement for an instant brain boost.
Choline is a vitamin, found in egg yolks, that builds synapses between our brain cells, or neurons. These synapses allow us to think, breathe, and even eat.
Without enough choline circulating throughout our brain, we would have a poor functioning brain.
Lack of choline affects our memory, speech and even reaction time.
Choline deficiency has been found in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease, MS and even diabetes patients.
There are many medications that could cause choline deficiency.
A common example would be the case of SSRIs. These are meant to help the brain improve its absorption of serotonin.
However, choline is a necessary cofactor in that process… and the current SSRIs on the market actually block the production of choline in the body.
Yes, SSRIs - along with other so-called psychoactive “legal“ drugs - will produce side effects similar to the reason for which it is being given, and in many cases lower choline.
Take antidepressants that may have a side effect worse than depression? What’s the point?
There’s a better way to supplement for your mental health.
This all comes full circle to food = your medicine.
You are what you eat.
It’s a boring phase that seems outdated. It’s still a fact. Even after all these years, the honest truth is: eat healthy food, feel healthy.
You know you should be eating vegetables and fruits. A lot of them. You don’t because:
- You don’t like to, and
- They don’t taste good when you make them.
Well… those are valid points. But there’s also this wonderful thing called the Internet, which has a host of resources for making healthy foods delicious.
We would argue that the real reason we don’t eat what we are supposed to is pure laziness.
It might take longer to make a meal, but at least you know the food you are about to eat is real.
Veggies are easy to cook with and once you master the art of seasoning them well, the sky’s the limit.
Cook them up in some avocado or coconut oil, and you’re on the way to upping that healthy fat intake as well.
What about the time it takes to make them?
Total prep & cooking time for some chopped veggies, sautéed in healthy fat, with black pepper & turmeric: 5-8 mins.
That’s shorter than waiting in line at the drive thru.
Add grilled salmon and avocados to any vegetable meal and now you have enough to feed 4-5 people, at about $20-$25 total.
The basics you need to take from this article
So, now you have 2 wonderful go-to options for improving your brain health:
- Eat a lot of (healthy) fat
- Eat foods full of choline, and possibly supplement with complimentary blends to enhance it further.
Nourish your brain with monounsaturated fats, such as avocados.
And get plenty of choline from foods like egg yolks, making sure your synapses continue to fire.
Eat raw vegetables and fruits, along with small amounts of the leanest cleanest animal products and hope your gut can handle it.
If your diet is not enough, supplement.
Keep it simple and you’ll reap the benefits.