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How to improve brain function and long-term brain health?

The human brain is the command centre for the nervous system and enables thoughts, memory, movement, and emotions by a complex function that is the highest product of biological evolution. Maintaining a healthy brain during one’s life is the uppermost goal in pursuing health and longevity. Below is a transcript of an interview our founder Laurens van Oers did with CNM, the world's leading University in Natural Medicine.

How can we naturally protect our brain? No smoking, avoiding alcohol, avoiding environmental pollutants (exhaust fumes, radiation etc.). And by eating the right foods. That includes a lot of fruits, berries, vegetables, legumes, seeds and nuts. Eat plant based protein and fish. Reduce red meat consumption. Red meat contains a lot of saturated fat that clogs the arteries and vessels and it gets stored inside organs.

Name your Top 7 Brain-Boosting Nutrients For a Healthy Ageing Brain.

  • Omega 3. These are so called essential fatty acids. This means that they need to be obtained through the diet. Most people think of fish as a good source of omega 3, which is definitely true. But there are also plant-based sources such as avocado, flax and linseeds and walnuts. These unsaturated fats are crucial to long term brain and heart health. When there is a shortage of unsaturated fat, the saturated fat is deposited on the vessel walls and in the organs, leading to a wide range of health issues. Try to get at least 1 gram of omega 3 in your diet every day by use of supplements (for people that don't eat fish, there are omega 3 supplements based on algae).

  • Leafy greens such as kale, spinach and broccoli are rich in brain-healthy nutrients like vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene. Research suggests these vegetables may help slow cognitive decline.

  • Berries. Flavonoids, these are natural substances that give the berries their bright colours. They are powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants act against both oxidative stress and inflammation, conditions that can contribute to brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases.

  • Walnuts. Nuts are excellent sources of protein and healthy fats, Walnuts are high in a type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Diets rich in ALA and other omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to lower blood pressure and cleaner arteries. That's good for both the heart and brain.

  • Tea and coffee. Mostly due to caffeine. It is linked to lower risks of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson disease and cognitive decline. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, drink tea (green or black). Tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which alleviates some of the negative side effects of caffeine.

  • Turmeric. Has a lot of benefits for the brain, including improved memory, a positive effect on depression and it helps new brain cells to grow.

  • Dark chocolate. Health benefits are present in dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or higher. Benefits include enhancing mood, improving learning capabilities and also slowing down age-related cognitive decline.

4. Do you think lifestyle changes also can have a powerful impact? If Yes, What lifestyle advice do you have for people to support their brains? Ofcourse, and it is exercise. Especially HIIT workouts, there are numerous studies showing the positive impact on the brain, on energy levels, focus, memory and mood. But even small steps can have a big impact. Such as taking the stairs or taking the bike to work. 5. How does stress affect brain health? Do you have any tips for stress management?

Stress shrinks the brain. it has been found that chronic stress can cause areas of the brain associated with emotions, metabolism, and memory to shrink. Meditation, breathing exercises, good quality sleep, exercise and supplementation with adaptogenic herbs are my go-to tips.

6. Some people consider that you don’t need to think about brain health when you are young. What do you think about it? The earlier you start, the more you will benefit from it in the future. Though the brain may be done growing in size, it does not finish developing and maturing until the mid- to late 20s. So don’t drink too much alcohol. It is linked to dementia, shrinking of the brain, but also emotional and mental health issues. Eat your veggies and berries and keep stress under control.

7. Is there any connection between your GUT and Brain health? Absolutely. You might have heard of the gut-brain-axis. The brain and gut are interconnected. The gut is also called the second brain. A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person's stomach problems can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. So if you are experiencing problems with your gut it will inevitably lead to mental health issues, stress, brain fog, lack of focus etc.

8. Can probiotics improve your brain health?

Absolutely. As said before the brain and gut are connected so improving gut health and microbiome can definitly improve brain health, mood and cognitive function.

9. What is the best diet for Brain health?

As mentioned before a mostly plant based diet. With addition of fish and eggs if wanted. Eat enough unsaturated fatty acids (olive oil, canola oil, omega 3). Plenty of veggies, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds.

10. What do you think about adaptogens? Are they important and helpful for Brain Health? They are crucial to brain health if you ask me. Science is just now understanding the importance and benefits of adaptogens. Adaptogens are natural substances found in plants and some types of mushrooms that help the body cope with stressors of all kinds. So they help us better perform under stress, and alleviate stress related symptoms. They can also improve energy, focus and long-term brain health. Examples are ginseng, Ashwagandha, Rhodiola rosea and Ginkgo Biloba. These substances have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for a wide range of health benefits.

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