How to Keep your Brain Healthy
Your brain is the most complex living structure in the universe.
It has the capacity to store more information than a supercomputer and to create a network of connections that far surpasses any social network. This organ has enabled humans to evolve beyond any other in the animal kingdom. (1)
Why I care about brain health
Brain health is a subject close to my heart. As a brain tumour survivor, I know first hand how fragile this powerhouse of an organ can be.
10 months after losing my husband to a rare type of cancer, I was diagnosed with a Grade III/IV brain tumour. After months of clumsiness and head rushes, and having to push for tests and scans because I knew something was wrong, getting a diagnosis was a relief. I had spent 2 years with Lars when he had cancer, so I had learnt alongside him about being as fit as possible, physically, nutritionally, mentally, everything. I’d also seen the importance of doing the things that make you happy to improve your chances of survival. How getting in the sea boosted Lars’ mood and energy to battle what life was throwing at him.
One bold decision I made was to have aggressive surgery to try and get rid of the whole tumour. But that came with potential risks to my functioning and, at worst, my life.
I went through the serious, deep operation, radiotherapy and chemotherapy with support from family and friends, and that of some amazing souls within the NHS. Brain surgery on my temporal lobe was absurd, you lose your mental health, not just your physical. It isn’t visible, but it is so much more.
Finding the way back to appreciating my life has been a journey; living by the sea, creating good food, travelling again to see good friends when possible and re-educating my brain to new challenges after the heavy surgery; my healing continues, my language still stumbles; my memory is limited; this is my world now.
For #brainawareness week I wanted to share some of my favourite brain boosting recipes and life tips to keep your head health in as good working order as possible.
My top three brain boosting recipes:
Your nutritional choices certainly play an important role in your overall health. Not many of us think about the importance of good nutrition on our brains and yet the brain and the gut communicate continuously, in fact the gut is often referred to as the second brain. Chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, are made in the gut and communicate with the brain via the vagus nerve. Serotonin, known as the ‘happy hormone’ is one such neurotransmitter but there are many which can have a profound effect on our mood and wellbeing.
Here are 10 of the best foods for your brain:
3. Fatty Fish
5. Leafy Greens
6. Pumpkin Seeds
10. Tea and Coffee
Try out these recipes to give your brain a healthy boost by simply tapping the image:
FISH CHOWDER GF – DF – V – NF – SS
Fish is often referred to as brain food, especially salmon as it contains the fat omega It is recommended that we eat fish 2-3 times a week
TOASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS
GF – DF – V – VE – NF
This super easier recipe is one for the pantry. Keep your seeds topped up by making use of those left-over seeds from your pumpkins and squashes. Perfect to use on top of salads and soups.
PINEAPPLE TUMERIC SMOOTHIE GF – DF – V – VE – NF – SS
It’s great to re-enlighten your energy and warm you from the inside out. Packed with anti inflammatories and antioxidants. This is a good box to tick before the day has begun.
Here are 5 ways to keep your brain healthy: (2)
1. Mental Stimulation
Through research with mice and humans, scientists have found that brainy activities stimulate new connections between nerve cells and may even help the brain generate new cells, developing neurological “plasticity” and building up a functional reserve that provides a hedge against future cell loss.
You can stimulate your brain by doing ‘mental gymnastics’ such as word puzzles, maths challenges or manual dexterity such as drawing, painting and craft. By scheduling these into your week, you can offer yourself some self care and brain training.
2. Get out and exercise.
Using your muscles also helps your mind. Exercising regularly increases the number of tiny blood vessels that bring oxygen to the brain, which is responsible for thought. It also makes your brain work more efficiently and adaptive which translates into better performance and reduces mental stress. This all helps your heart as well as your brain.
3. Improve your diet
Good nutrition can help your mind as well as your body. For example, people that eat whole foods including fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, unsaturated oils (olive oil) and plant sources of proteins are less likely to develop neurological diseases.
4. Care for yourself
People who are anxious, depressed, sleep-deprived, or exhausted tend to score poorly on cognitive function tests. Good mental health and restful sleep are important goals when considering your brain health.
5. Stay Social
Strong social ties have been associated with a lower risk of brain disease, as well as lower blood pressure and longer life expectancy. Keeping in check with friends and family, gives you purpose and helps you to thrive in today’s highly pressurised society.
You can find more recipes, digital health links and nutritional insight in thw Wholesome World health and wellness app.
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