Our brains are an energy-intensive organ. About 20-25 percent of daily calorie intake is used by the brain for automated things like breathing, digesting and more when we are at rest. While we don’t think about it, the brain never rests. It is constantly firing off signals between cells to maintain bodily functions 24 hours a day, every day of our lives. The brain is a glucose-hungry organ needing adequate fuel to function properly. The more intense the use of our brains, the more fuel it needs. If we are falling short on providing it all it needs, first our concentration and focus are affected. From there, the cognitive decline can spiral over time.
A recent study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found older people who ate two or more servings of fish weekly may have a lower risk of developing vascular brain disease. These are conditions that affect the blood vessels and the blood flow in the brain. The study found eating a diet rich in fish had the most benefit in those under the age of 75. By eating this amount of fish weekly, it reduced the brain lesions and other markers of brain damage long before obvious signs of dementia appeared.
The omega-3s found in fish help build and repair brain cells. Omega-3s help build membranes around each cell in the body, including the brain cells. They can, therefore, improve the structure of brain cells called neurons. Researchers have found people with high levels of omega-3s had increased blood flow in the brain. They also identified a connection between omega-3s and thinking skills. While oily fish has the highest amount of omega-3s, don’t feel you are locked in to salmon, tuna, herring and sardines. Any type of fish you enjoy will do! The exception being tilapia, which contains no omega-3s.
Additionally, antioxidants reduce cellular stress and inflammation. These are linked to brain aging and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s. Berries of all types are rich in antioxidants. They can improve communication between brain cells, reduce inflammation, help brain cells form new connections, and reduce age related neurodegenerative disease and cognitive decline.
Furthermore, adding nuts and seeds can provide both antioxidants and omega-3s. As we age, oxidative stress from free radicals can affect brain function. Research has shown nuts, especially those high in vitamin E improve cognition and reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The nuts richest in this antioxidant are sunflower seeds, almonds and hazelnuts.
Brain health adds quality to life. A happy control center encourages us to pursue life’s little pleasures. For added brain health, consider trying the recipe that follows.
Dr. Dianna Richardson has been serving Jefferson City and the surrounding communities for more than 22 years. She has worked in the field of health and nutrition as a wellness practitioner for over 30 years. Core to her practice remains use of nutrition to improve health, vitality and quality of life. Richardson holds a doctorate in naturopathy, along with degrees in nutrition and a master’s degree in public health education. She may be found at the Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center, LLC on Dix Road in Jefferson City.
1 lb cod 4 fillets
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs unseasoned, plain
1/2 tsp kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper
zest of one lemon
4 tsp Dijon mustard
juice of one lemon
fresh parsley for garnish
Preheat oven to 400F.
Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray.
In a small food processor, pulse the almonds and the panko together.
Add the kosher salt and pepper, and the zest of the lemon and combine.
Pat the fillets dry and place them in the baking dish.
Spread 1 tsp of Dijon on each fillet.
Top with the breadcrumb mixture and squeeze the juice of the lemon on top.
Spray with olive oil spray and roast for 15 minutes.
Garnish with parsley (optional).