I recently saw a friend who had just returned home after visiting his grandmother for her 96th birthday celebration. While she was not as active as she once had been, he told me about taking walks around the block with her every day while he was visiting. Those walks involved interactions with the neighbors, and stories from the neighborhood where she had lived for the past forty years. He described her mind as being “sharp as a tack”.
Living to 96, even in this day and age, is remarkable. To live that long with all of your mental faculties in place, even thriving, is more possible than ever, given what science is teaching us about the ways we can support a healthy brain throughout our lives. Even those who are genetically predetermined to have cognitive issues as they age are not without hope. In her new book, Feed Your Brain (Exisle), Delia McCabe reminds us that only one-third of how we age is genetic, leaving two-thirds under our direct control. She explores the latest research on how to feed the aging brain, and offers a detailed plan to take control of the health your brain.
McCabe is clear that where the brain is concerned, being proactive is crucial. She writes, “If you want a brain that’s going to work well into old age, you need to start thinking about its welfare before you suffer from any mental complaint.” Food, she insists, is the simplest way to support brain health, primarily because it is something you do anyway. The science is clear that how you eat can help your mental clarity, cognitive abilities, memory and ability to learn, and mental health.
McCabe offers the following suggestions for nutritionally supporting a healthy brain:
- Pay attention to your digestion. Your digestive system is where your body absorbs nutrients from food. If this function is not happening properly, your brain won’t have the basic building blocks to support the connections between brain cells. Identify food intolerances and allergies, eat a variety of foods, and include digestive enzymes and a probiotic to your daily routine.
- Support your brain with vitamins and minerals. The brain needs many different vitamins and minerals to remain healthy. Including a wide range of colors, in the form of fruits and vegetables, at every meal and snack time, will help supply your body with what it needs. A supplement may be necessary due to modern farming methods, foods grown in depleted soil, or major stress.
- Feed your brain the right kind of fats. The right kind of fat is required to support flexible and elastic covering for the neurons (brain cells), as well as communication between neurons. If the right kind of fat is not available, the coverings and connections become stiff, and mental capacity suffers. Eat different kinds of nuts and seeds, keeping them refrigerated so they don’t go rancid, include an organic, unrefined essential fatty acid supplement to your daily routine, cook with organic coconut oil and grass fed butter, and use organic, unrefined oils instead of margarine or other vegetable spreads.
Your brain wants to function well. When you give it the best fuel for doing just that, you’ll enjoy better moods, clarity, concentration, and learning; and you’ll finally remember where you put the car keys.