This week as a part of CKNW’s annual Health Series, we’re taking a look at healthy eating habits.
All week we’re speaking with certified naturopathic physician Dr. Allana Polo about ways to improve your diet.
Today’s topic: what you can eat to keep a healthy brain.
LISTEN: CKNW Health Series – Nutrients for brain health
If you’re looking for a food to help your brain, not necessarily to get smarter but just to clear out the ‘cobwebs’ and help with focus, Dr Polo says there are plenty of places you can start.
First off is turmeric, which we spoke about yesterday, which she says can increase levels of a growth hormone our body uses for brain function.
Another, she says, are Omega 3s.
“Which are fatty acids like salmon or fish oil capsules. The beautiful thing is your brain is 60 per cent fat. By incorporating good fat into your body, you’re just helping the neuronal connection and communication within the brain.”
Another good option are antioxidants, says Dr. Polo.
“You can take antioxidants through a capsule, or you can do it through food: dark, rich, colourful fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants are really important because your brain requires oxygen to function, and if you have a lot of free-radical damage, or if there’s a lot of oxidative stress in the brain, then these antioxidants are really helpful for brain function.”
Fruits like blueberries and strawberries and vegetables like spinach and broccoli are all rich in antioxidants.
Beyond simply boosting your brain function, Dr. Polo says nutrients like Omega 3s and antioxidants can have both preventative and restorative effects on your grey matter.
“I think first and foremost they are preventative if you start them at an early age. So if you’re able to get on to your Omega 3s and your antioxidants at a younger age, then you’ll probably be able to mitigate the long-term health effects,” she says.
“But, again, taking them when you’re older you can definitely notice a difference from starting Omega 3s and memory and cognitive function. There are things that we can do, short term or long term, that make a good health impact.”
So does bulking up on the right foods really mean you’ll be able to remember the name of that guy you always forget when you go to a party?
“I have a few supplements that are really good for memory. My favourite is gingko, which you may have heard of. There’s phosphatidylserine and phosphatidylcholine – substances that are amazing for memory. And L-Carnitine. Those are my four favourite supplements for memory, and they definitely do help with long-term or short-term memory if you take them often,” she says.
Polo says L-Carnitine is an amino acid, found in many protein powders or supplements, which also pays dividends when it comes to losing fat.
“It has multiple purposes. But the most beneficial part of L-Carnitine is that it crosses the blood-brain barrier, so it gets into the brain. Any time you’re taking it you’re just helping cognition and functioning in the energy transport in the brain.”