WE COMMONLY think of our brains as something set apart from our bodies. Biologically though, the way you feed your body affects your brain.
For the brain to function smoothly, it requires certain nutrients and when it consistently doesn't get what it needs, this could add up to an increased risk of various forms of mental illness like depression and dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease.
You may ask why? Well, even if the brain doesn't use food directly, it benefits from a healthy circulatory system and the best brain foods are also associated with cardiovascular health.
Recently, researchers have tried to confirm ongoing suspicions that the diets we choose could improve or harm our chances of falling into depression, or acquiring or worsening dementia.
Though this research is yet to be established, evidence is mounting in favor of certain foods and no to others.
There is now a strong movement countering the sheer use of chemical anti-depressants because of their harmful side effects.
Indeed, natural food as medicine, especially for mental illnesses, has become popular. Bananas, a popular choice, contain lots of potassium and has been identified as engendering the "feel good hormone."
The lack of vitamins and minerals not only affect the level of concentration and anxiety, but also part of our brain's other functions.
Proteins, composed of amino acids, are the ones that help release serotonin or the "happiness hormone" which is essential in regulating your mood and wellness.
Yet, a recent discovery along this line, is the high effectivity of our common vegetable ingredient for "Pinakbet" -- ampalaya.
Bitter melon or ampalaya values
A natural food well known to medicine advocates for its health benefits against diabetes and obesity, the ampalaya or bitter melon has many more benefits that are less known.
Due to its nutritional content, ampalaya could help protect against cerebral ischemia and it can also improve mental health.
It contains Vitamins B6 and B9 or folate -- all associated with depression, memory loss or even paranoia and hallucinations.
Did you know that 100 grams of ampalaya gives us four percent of the recommended daily dose of vitamin B1, four percent of the recommended daily dose of vitamin B2, two percent of the recommended daily dose of vitamin B3, four percent of the recommended daily dose of vitamin B5, three percent of recommended daily dose of vitamin B6, and 13 percent of the recommended daily dose of vitamin B9 or folate?
Yet, other than bits and pieces of information like the values of ampalaya for mental health, there is also a recently packaged mind diet.
Nutritional researchers at Rush University in Chicago designed the Mind Diet to protect your brain. The diet also includes food to stay away from for better brain health. The Mind Diet is a blend of two popular diets: the "Dash diet" and the "Mediterranean diet."
Studies are beginning to show that the Mind Diet can protect the brain from dementia, though some research has been inconclusive. One major study showed that strict adherence to the Mind Diet reduces dementia risk by up to 53 percent for people ages 58 to 98.
But what is the Mind Diet? It is a particular diet that breaks down the most healthy food types into 10 categories. It also groups five types of food you should avoid to protect your brain's health.
Along with these food groups, the diet suggests how much of each food should be consumed or avoide).
What food may protect your mind and memory?
1. Beans. Ranging from pole sitaw, kadios, red kidney beans, french or bagiuo beans, these should be eaten at least three servings per week. Beans are low-calorie, low-fat food that offer lots of healthy fiber and protein. They also have plenty of beneficial minerals such as iron and potassium.
2. Leafy green vegetables. At least six servings per week of leafy green vegetables provide plenty of nutrients. Bok choy, broccoli, mustard, spinach, and collard greens all fit this category. These food have already been proven to lower cancer risks if you eat two to three servings per week, and the Mind Diet recommends doubling this number.
3. Berries. At least two servings per week of strawberries, mulberry, and cherissa, etc. Berries are important brain food that show neuroprotective advantages. The Mind Diet particularly favors blueberries, which have been shown to benefit memory, learning, and other mental processes. The berries themselves have been shown in animal studies to protect ageing brains, and studies have also shown that blueberry extract supplements show similar improvements. Aside from blueberries, the Mind Diet also recommends strawberries which are abundant with antioxidants.
4. Wine. One glass per day. Numerous studies have shown health benefits from low to moderate wine drinking, particularly when focusing on red wines. Wines have polyphenols that may be responsible for protecting your memory as you age. Wine seems to aid in cognition regardless of dementia, and studies suggest it may lower stroke risks as well.
5. Olive Oil. Virgin olive oil is abundant with phenols, which are aromatic compounds. The phenols found in olive oil have been associated with a wide range of health benefits. These include effects that are anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antimicrobial. They also seem to be good for protecting against Alzheimer's disease and other neural disorders such as Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injury.
6. Other vegetables at least one serving per day. Not every vegetable is leafy and green, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't make it a part of your diet. Other vegetables have special phytochemicals that serve as nutrients which may protect your body in special ways. That's why the mind diet recommends one serving of these "other" vegetables each day.
7. Nuts. Five servings per week. Studies on the nutritional benefits of nuts have shown memory improvements and potential protection from neurodegenerative declines like dementia. Walnuts have been singled out as a brain food. For example, they have been shown to protect against Alzheimer's disease. The reason seems to involve the healthy oils, vitamins, proteins, and soluble fibers these nuts bring to the table.
8. Whole grains. Three or more servings per day. Whole grains retain more of their plant-based nutrients than refined grains like white flour. Many of the nutritional benefits of other plants can be found in whole grains as well. It's also recommended by both the Dash and Mediterranean diet, which have both been shown to improve your odds against dementia.
9. Fish once per week. Fish, especially fatty fishes like tuna, are full of healthy Omega-3 fats. That's one reason fish has often been touted as a brain food, and it is a huge part of the Mediterranean diet, which recommends you eat fish every day. The Mind Diet is a little more relaxed on this point. As long as you have one fish meal per week you should be getting enough according to this diet.
10. Poultry twice per week. Another way to maintain your cognitive health is by choosing white meat over red meat. Poultry is one of the most common types of white meat. Poultry includes turkey and chicken, and two servings each week or more are considered good choices on the Mind Diet.
On my succeeding column, I will be sharing my readings and research food to limit and avoid ageing mental diseases.