How to feed your brain right

Many people spend lots of time worrying about their physical appearances more than anything else. Others will do this to keep healthy and avoid catching health-related diseases, but do we often think about feeding our brains?

Being a very important and essential part of our body, there is need to pay extra attention to maintaining and preserving the function of the brain.

According to medics, we are all at risk of brain degeneration. Statistics show that if you live to age 85 or older, your risk for Alzheimer’s, for example, is 50 per cent. So clearly it makes sense to do everything possible to nurture a healthy brain.

“Your food choices may be the most influential variable you might need to control regularly for a healthy vitality and functionality of your precious brain,” says Dr Eric Musengimana, a nutrition and diabetic specialist at Diet Therapy Company in Remera, Kigali.

Musengimana says that just like the heart, stomach and liver, the brain is an organ that is acutely sensitive to what we eat and drink. To remain healthy, the brain needs different amounts of complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins and minerals as well as water.” he added.

He recommends that eating 120 grams of fish a week and other Omega-3 fat-rich foods such as avocado, soya beans, eggs and juices will keep the brain in good function.

The medic adds that eating complex carbohydrates as well as certain food components such as folic acids, a selenium and tryptophan are thought to decrease the symptoms of depression.

Dr Celestin Karangwa, a physiotherapist at TCM Technology Clinic in Kicukiro, Kigali, says eating fruits like apples, vegetables such as spinach, chocolates and drinking tea, wine (especially red wine) is good for the brain.

He says that such foods, as well as extra virgin olive oil consist of polyphenols which are protective antioxidants.

“Polyphenols are phytochemicals found abundantly in natural plant food sources that have antioxidant properties. They play an important role in maintaining general health and wellness,” says Karangwa.

He also says that antioxidants help protect the cells in the body from free radical damage, thereby controlling the rate at which one ages.

Karangwa adds that when the body does not get adequate protection, free radicals can become rampant, causing cells to perform poorly. This, he says, can lead to tissue degradation and put one at risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and cancer.

Musengimana, however, advises people to shun habits like smoking, drinking alcohol, excessive tea and coffee or chocolate consumption.

He explains that while these will better someone’s moods for a little time or temporally, they will have a negative impact on their brain in the long run.

“What seems to be less understood is that some foods can have a lasting influence on one’s mood and mental wellbeing because of the impacts they create on the structure and function of the brain,” Musengimana clarifies.

Karangwa also adds that pumpkin seeds, beans and whole grains are very important for one’s brain since these are rich in different nutrients including zinc, a mineral useful in memory development and overall brain function.

He also recommends exercising regularly, saying that activity boosts brain function by ramping up blood flow.

“When one exercises, oxygen and nutrients circulate to all parts of the body better, including your brain,” says Karangwa.