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Feed your brain with the right nutrition

Brain CoralI have shared many times the importance of recognizing our human bodies as a huge bundle of cells all performing their various tasks directed by our DNA coding. As we begin designing our gardens, we consider what our plants will need to thrive to provide us with healthy nourishment or beautiful flowers, shrubs, and trees: good soil, compost, mulch, water, and space. We often don’t provide ourselves as much attention to detail affecting our health.

As gardens require the right amount of nitrogen, potassium, calcium, microorganisms, worms, air flow, and room to grow, we humans have nutrient requirements as well for our optimal growth and health. The wrong kinds of fats can make for a sluggish brain. Refrain from highly processed, fried, and fatty foods. These are full of bad trans fats. Light colored fats and oils in grocery stores have been processed for long times at high heats to insure shelf life, are exposed to store lighting, and we consumers have no idea the actual age of the product. Then we store them for weeks, sometimes longer, in our cupboards. Generally these oils are rancid trans-fats (bad fats) when we buy them. Processing takes away any rancid odor.

Brains want good fats. The best fat choices are virgin olive oil, high oleic sunflower and safflower oils, nut and seed oils like walnut and sesame, and avocados rich in healthy fats. These fats have lower oxidation damage from free radicals that translates into less inflammatory responses by our immune systems.

Controversy still abounds over saturated fats, but our brain cell membranes require saturated fats for structure and strength. Plant based sat-fats are a great choice, like coconut and palm oils, and real butter made from grass fed cows. Animal fats are high in sat-fats that can provoke an inflammatory response, so consuming less animal meats will not be that harmful to our brains.

Essential fatty acids (EFA) are crucial for brain health and must be consumed through diet. The best EFAs are Omega 3s from cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel, and some tuna as well as flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds. Dark leafy greens and vegetables contain healthy EFAs.

Omega 6 fatty acids are in olive oil, nuts, and seeds. We generally get enough of these EFAs in our diet. To increase my O3s for balance with both important fatty acids, I make a blend of one cup flaxseeds, 1/3 cup each of pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. Mix these together and then grind about two tablespoons for topping on salads, in soups, in smoothies, and I even top my yogurt to increase my Omega 3s. Sometimes I toss in some chia seeds. You can even make blends of various nuts and grind for a delicious topping. Store in the fridge and grind only what you need each time to preserve nutrients and oils.

Educating ourselves and the young about the nutrient requirements of a healthy brain will insure optimal functioning throughout one’s life and maintain brain function as one ages. Improving diet even once dementia has begun can slow the progression. That’s really good news.

Krystle Shapiro, LMT, MSHN owns NewTritionally Yours! providing nutrition education classes and consultation. She can be reached at 208/290-6760.

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