NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Nourish Your Brain with a Healthful Diet

Nourish Your Brain with a Healthful Diet

            Have you ever gone into a room and forgotten what you went to retrieve?  Don’t worry!  That happens to most people at least sometime.   But to avoid memory lapses, have you fueled your brain lately?  Just like your car, your brain needs fuel to cooperate effectively. Consuming a well-balanced diet that includes food rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can be beneficial for the brain and the rest of your body, too.

            Again, thinking of your body as a car, oxidative damage in the human body is similar to how a car rusts. The free radicals are the salt, sand and other elements that damage a car. Oxidative damage occurs when harmful molecules called free radicals cause damage to the body’s cells.

            Just as you can treat some rust spots on a car, some damage to your body’s cells can be fixed. However, some rust is too advanced. When your cells get damaged by too many free radicals, health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer may occur. Your brain also can be attacked by free radicals, which may lead to decreases in memory and think and, in advanced cases, even dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

            You can take steps to decrease oxidative damage and protect your cells. Just as paint and wax protect your car, antioxidants protect your cells. Antioxidants are found naturally in some foods. They help protect your cells from free radicals that cause oxidation damage.

            Several vitamins have antioxidant properties, especially vitamins C, E and beta-carotene (which your body converts to vitamin A). These vitamins work to remove free radicals from the body.  Foods rich in antioxidants may help slow or prevent oxidative damage.

            Eating a variety of healthy foods is good for your body and your mind. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, broccoli, brussel sprouts, strawberries and cantaloupe.  Vitamin E can be found in vegetable oils, nuts, leafy greens and some fortified cereals.

            Beta-carotene gives dark-colored vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach and winter squash their distinctive colors. 

            Omega-3 fatty acids are “essential” fatty acids, meaning they are not produced the body so you need to obtain them from your foods.  One of the omega-3 fatty acids called DHA is needed for bran function. DHA is part of your brain cells and helps transport nutrients in and out of the cells.  It can be found in all fish, but is especially high in pink salmon, wild trout, albacore tuna and shrimp.



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