Here is a list of foods that are particularly high in Omega-3, antioxidants, or other substances that promote brain health.
Fish and Seafood
Fish are a great source of Omega-3, and research is strong on the benefits of fish and seafood consumption. In fact, oily ocean fish are the most potent anti-inflammatory food you can put into your body. However, with the publication of research that also shows high amounts of mercury and Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in some fish, eating fish and seafood is a little bit scary in today’s toxic world. Research has shown that mercury and PCBs can lead to mental impairment in adults, and can be particularly dangerous when ingested by pregnant women and small children. My recommendation is to limit your intake of the mercury-laden fish – such as swordfish, king mackerel, shark, tilefish, and albacore tuna – and instead take advantage of the many types of fish and seafood that are high in Omega-3 but low in mercury or PCBs – Atlantic and Spanish mackerel, wild Pacific salmon, herring, anchovies and sardines.
For more information, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s website for recent information on which fish are high in mercury levels, and which are low. You can also visit the Environmental Working Group’s website, which provides you with a tuna calculator to determine safe limits.
There is now an abundance of research on the health benefits of whole grain consumption. Including whole cereal grains in the diet has been linked with protection against type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, various cancers, obesity, depression and even skin conditions such as acne. As we point out in our book Your Skin, Younger, a long-term diet high in whole grain cereals has been shown to be protective against the development of the visible signs of aging (i.e. skin wrinkling during the aging process).
In 1930 General Foods took out a full-page ad in Good Housekeeping magazine under the banner “Your dining table can do damage your dressing table can’t repair!” It was an ad for fiber-rich Post’s Bran Flakes. Turns out they were right. Seventy-one years later a study of almost 500 older adults would show that a diet high in whole grains is associated with fewer skin wrinkles and visible signs of aging. Additional research is now linking healthy digestive functioning (and intestinal bacteria influenced by dietary fiber) with skin health. Whole grains are well known to be rich in dietary fibers which help balance blood sugar, improve digestive health, and they are also rich in skin protective vitamins and antioxidants.
Yogurt and Kefir
In recent years there have been a number of studies showing that fermented dairy products are important in health promotion. The bacteria residing in the intestinal tract can play a crucial role in overall health. Fermented dairy products can deliver beneficial bacteria (including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria) to the intestinal tract. These bacteria can have a profound influence on health beyond the GI tract – for example, the consistent intake of yogurt through adulthood is associated with a decreased risk of the visible signs of aging later in life. A recent University of Toronto study has shown that oral delivery of yogurt bacteria can diminish anxiety in adults with chronic fatigue syndrome. Human research shows that oral consumption of these probiotic bacteria can decrease inflammation not only in the gut, but throughout the body as well. Since most chronic medical conditions (from arthritis to psoriasis) are rooted in inflammation, the regular consumption of fermented dairy is recommended.
The benefits of the bacteria (found in fermented dairy) for skin health is discussed in detail in the Skin Digestion chapter of Your Skin, Younger.
Purple/Deep Red Foods
Foods that contain purple-colored pigments called anthocyanins are now being recognized as extra special when it comes to the protection of our blood vessels and our nerve cells. Examples of foods high in anthocyanins include blueberries, bilberries (European blueberries), blackberries, dark cherries, purple carrots, pomegranate, acai, purple sweet potatoes, purple cauliflower, black grapes and beets.
The purple pigments found in these foods offer significant antioxidant protection, enhance signaling between nerve cells, protect the blood-brain barrier, strengthen blood vessels that supply blood to the brain, and exert a significant anti-inflammatory effect capable of reducing pain.
Green foods contain a precious mineral – magnesium – that is worth its weight in nutritional gold. Magnesium makes up an important part of chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants. Found in nature’s greens, magnesium can quench the flames of inflammation in both the heart and the brain.
This is the yellow powder found in curry, and in a number of experimental studies it has been shown to have significant neuroprotective and mood-enhancing properties. Part of the reason for this might be the fact that turmeric contains curcumin. Curcumin is an absolutely brilliant plant antioxidant and has significant anti-inflammatory properties.
Ginger has significant anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. Gingerol, one of the many active chemicals found in ginger, has been shown to specifically inhibit inflammatory chemicals of neuropsychiatric significance. In addition, research has shown that ginger can influence the manufacture of inflammatory brain chemicals at the genetic level, and that it protects the fat components of the nerve walls against free radical attack.
Research shows that regular consumption of green tea has multiple health benefits. Green tea contains a blend of phytochemicals called catechins, which are potent antioxidants with significant anti-inflammatory properties. It inhibits the growth of potentially harmful bacterial while promoting the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria.
To see what specific brands, supplements and other super foods
Dr. Logan recommends visit www.drlogan.com.
Dr. Alan C. Logan is a Connecticut Board-Certified
Naturopathic Physician and invited faculty member of Harvard’s School of
Continuing Medical Education, where he lectures in the mind-body medicine
courses offered at Harvard.
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