Food and Brain Health – Do You Want to Make it Easy Or Hard For Your Brain to Do Its Job?

This article is devoted to the impact of micronutrients on your brain cells and on your overall health. I will also discuss specific strategies to maximize these key micronutrients in your diet. Although there is considerable interest in the genetic cause of disease the environment, particularly the micronutrient content of the diet are the primary cause of most chronic diseases. It is the deficient diet which turns genes off and on, often leading to activation of genes associated with problems like cleft lip, crooked teeth, learning disabilities, and other progressive neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Dr. Weston Price is a dentist who analyzed the diet of fourteen different primitive peoples from all five continents. He studied individuals who were still eating the traditional foods for that culture, and the first and second generation of individuals who had adopted a westernized diet. His team analyzed the nutritional contents of the various foodstuffs, the primitive and westernized diets, physical assessments, mental assessments, dental X-rays and assessments of bone densities. The book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, was first published in 1936 and the work could no longer be easily replicated because few primitive cultures continue their traditional diets anymore. His findings demonstrated that there was considerable variation in the local foodstuffs used to accommodate what was locally available.

In spite of the variation, the primitive diets consistently were very rich in vitamins, minerals and omega 3 fatty acids. The westernized diets were consistently lacking in vitamin, mineral and omega 3 fatty acids. The individuals who were eating traditional diets had straight teeth without cavities while the individuals with a westernized diet had crooked teeth filled with cavities.

Furthermore the individuals eating a primitive diet had superior physical and mental assessments as compared to those who were eating a westernized diet.

His conclusion was that lack of micronutrients led to physical degeneration. He believed that diets deficient in micronutrients turned on genes which then led to stunted growth of the mid-face, decreased intelligence and emotional stability as well as lower mineral content in bones, and lower muscle mass. More recent studies have confirmed diets deficient on omega 3 fatty acids are associated with numerous health and dental problems including mal-aligned teeth and higher rates of orthodontia dental work, learning disabilities, depression and excessive aggression. Diets lower in fruits and vegetables (antioxidants) are associated with higher rates of cancers, cataracts, macular degeneration, diabetes, high blood pressures, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis. What we eat and do not eat affects the functions of our cells and therefore our overall health.

If you want optimal health then it is critical to maximize the micronutrients in your diet. Most Americans eat only two cups of fruits and vegetables per day. Furthermore most Americans eat a relatively narrow range of fruits and vegetables. Those kinds of diets do not provide optimal nutrition for the brain. In the next several paragraphs I describe the optimal diet for brain health.

Eat a wide variety of fruits, and vegetables. Include red, blue, purple, yellow, and green fruits and vegetables. Gradually increase the number of servings per day, with a goal of at least nine cups of vegetables and fruits per day. Three cups should be dark green (spinach, chard, or mustard greens) or from the cruciferous (cabbage, kale, collards, broccoli) family, three intensely colored (red, orange, blue, purple, black) and three others. Do not count potatoes, corn, rice, or grain in the nine cups of vegetables and fruit. You can eat them, but do so after having achieved nine cups of vegetables and fruit first. Include some mushrooms, nutritional yeast and wheat germ in your diet daily if possible.

Eat fish two-to-three times a week and organ meats once a week. For those who do not eat fish, you can eat omega-3 enriched eggs (from chickens that have been fed flax meal or have been allowed free range to eat bugs, crickets, and greens). Other options for omega-3 fatty acids include fish oil, flax oil, and hemp oil. One to two tablespoons of flax or hemp oil daily is comparable to two-to-four grams of fish oil daily.

Many people ask me if they can just take supplements and not change their diets. That won’t work. There are likely hundreds if not thousands of other key micronutrients which have not yet been identified but are present in food which is rich in micronutrients. Food from a large variety of sources is always preferable. I spend more time talking about basic biology and food than I do talking about drugs. I tell them that the prescriptions I write may control symptoms for a while. But if they want to improve their depressions, slow down their multiple sclerosis, they need to give their mitochondria and their cells all of the necessary building blocks for life.

Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine”. He is correct. It is the best advice for us all.

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