Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Top 10 Brain Foods

Want to keep your mind sharp and nourished? Here are 10 highly effective brain foods that improve memory, mood, concentration, and overall clarity.
Eat up.
1.    Blueberries—Blueberries serve a wide range of functions for improving mental function. Most notably, regular blueberry consumption has been shown to improve memory function. Furthermore, blueberries are rich in antioxidants, helping to prevent free radical damage. Still not convinced? Research has found that blueberries can also reverse age related declines in motor function, balance, and coordination.
2.    Salmon—Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, salmon helps your brain develop tissue for increasing your brain power. Furthermore, salmon also plays a key role in fighting Alzheimer’s and other age-related cognitive disorders.
3.    Flax seeds—Flax seeds are crammed with ALA- a healthy fat that aids the cerebral cortex in functioning better. This is the portion of the brain responsible for processing sensory information. Keeping it sharp is vital.
4.    Coffee—Regular coffee drinking has been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and other mental disorders. That’s because caffeine is good for the brain (in moderation), and it contains antioxidants. The important thing to note is you shouldn’t add in all the other junk to your coffee (the ridiculous Starbucks drinks crammed with sweeteners and fatty products).
5.    Mixed nuts—Peanuts, walnuts, pecans, and other nuts contain properties that help with everything from fighting insomnia to promoting mental clarity and strong memory. Walnuts are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids while almonds contain natural mood-enhancing neurotransmitters.
6.    Avocados—Don’t let the avocado’s fat content fool you. It’s a healthy fat that promotes blood flow, keeping your mind functioning at its peak. That’s not all: Avocados have also been shown to reduce blood pressure.
7.    Eggs—Egg yolks are rich in choline, an essential nutrient to improving memory function.
8.    Whole grains—From oatmeal to whole grain bread, whole grains are excellent brain foods as they improve circulation and contain essential fibers, vitamins, and even some Omega-3. Just make your sandwiches from whole grain breads to enjoy the benefits.
9.    Chocolate—For me, this is the yummiest brain food of all. Dark chocolate is antioxidant-rich, and it also improves focus and concentration. Milk chocolate, on the other hand, improves memory and reaction time.
10.    Broccoli—Broccoli has been shown to improve memory function as well as slow the aging process. This means a broccoli-rich diet will keep you young and sharp.
Which brain foods do you enjoy?

How to boost brains of young men

Exercise is not only good for overall health, but also beneficial for grey matter. Researchers have shown that fitter a man is, the higher his IQ. 

According to Daily Express , Swedish researchers have suggested seven simple ways to boost brains of young men.

1. Get going
Researchers have found a link between cardiovascular fitness - exercise that elevates heart rate and makes you sweat - and higher IQ scores. A mix of running and cycling, or any participation sport is just enough to boost brainpower.

2. Feast on fish pie
Fish really good for brain. Giving teenage boys a fish dinner at least once a week boosts their intelligence, irrespective of whether they get a good education, according to research at the University of Gothenburg.

 3. Explore meditation
According to meditation expert Dr Fred Travis, "Meditation works as it teaches us to turn our attention - which is usually directed outwards at what’s going on around us - inwards." He believes meditation boosts brainpower by encouraging "integration" - a state when the whole brain works in harmony.

4. Sip tea
Caffeine really does sharpen the mind but to get the best effects regular tea breaks are preferable to a strong morning espresso. Throughout the day, your brain fills up with adenosine, a chemical thought to cause mental fatigue. Caffeine blocks the brain’s adenosine receptors, countering the chemical’s dulling effects. To maximise alertness and minimise jitters, frequent small doses work best.

5. Take a power nap
Numerous studies have found people perform better on memory tests after a short nap, an effect that’s more marked in men.

"Naps get rid of all the clutter which accumulates if you keep doing things without a rest," said Professor Jim Horne, who runs the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University.

"To be effective naps must be short - not even 20 minutes. Any longer and the full-blown sleep process can kick in and you can wake up feeling groggy and thick-headed," he added.

6. Do a few puzzles
Crosswords, puzzles and even good riddles are a great way to give your brain a workout. Research shows that regular mind challenges generate new nerve growth, which can halt the decline of mental function that comes with age.

7. Play your favourite tunes
In a study at the University of California researchers found teenagers who studied piano and sang daily in choirs were much more successful at solving puzzles and scored up to 80 per cent better in spatial intelligence tests than a non-musical control group.

Listen to music every morning. You don’t have to become a classical music buff. Guitar-based rock was found to improve concentration and boost memory just as much as Mozart in a study at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Will Power and Your Brain!

It’s the second week of January and how it’s going with all those New Year Resolutions? If like millions of us the answer is not very well, don’t despair. Just blame it on the brain!
There is some interesting research about will power which suggests that if we try to focus on making too many changes at once the prefrontal cortex, (the part of the brain responsible for willpower), becomes overloaded. And so we give into temptation. This part of the brain is also responsible for short term memory and problem solving, among other things, so it’s pretty busy most of the time!
In one experiment, led by Baba Shiv at Stanford University, U.S.A., several dozen undergraduates were divided into two groups. One group was given a two-digit number to remember, while the second group was given a seven-digit number. Then they were told to walk down the hall, where they were offered either a slice of chocolate cake or a bowl of fruit salad.
The students with seven numbers to remember were nearly twice as likely to choose the cake as students given two digits. The reason, according to Prof. Shiv, is that those extra numbers took up valuable space in the brain—they were a “cognitive load”—making it harder to resist a fattening dessert. In other words, willpower is so weak, and the prefrontal cortex is so overtaxed, that all it takes is five extra bits of information before the brain starts to give in to temptation.
That’s an amazing piece of information and seems to suggest that strength of character and positive thinking has little to do with losing weight! (And this was an experiment about food choices). But, suggests, Jonah Lehrer, this is not so different from simply thinking about the brain as a muscle like any other. Your leg muscles get tired after a lot of activity and so does your brain. It too needs a bit of rest and recuperation!
Other experiments have also shown that exerting willpower successfully requires energy, which is… er… food in some form or another! And as losing weight is often one of the most common resolutions across the western world for both health and vanity, and that requires us to eat less, a vicious circle seems to be emerging here!
But don’t despair yet. There are tactics you can employ. One is the art of distraction. For example, do you remember hearing about the marshmallow experiment some time ago?
Research by Walter Mischel at Columbia University et al, has demonstrated that people who are better at delaying gratification don’t necessarily have more restraint. Instead, they seem to be better at finding ways to get tempting thoughts out of their minds.
Prof. Mischel  found that four-year-old children who are better at resisting the temptation of eating a marshmallow—(they get a second marshmallow if they can wait for 20 minutes)—are the ones who sing songs, play with their shoelaces or pretend the marshmallow is a cloud. In other words, they’re able to temporarily clear the temptation from their mind. They seem to instinctively know that will power is weak and so focus on something else as a distraction.
And you can practise self control in other areas of your life and strengthen your will power muscle!
Do let me know how you’re getting on with any new goals for 2010 and any tips you might share.

13 brilliant ways to keep your brain young

As a silver surfer, I was pleased to see that research has found going online can boost your brain power.I think the amount of problem solving your brain has to do when tracking down information on the net is similar to playing chess or bridge.
In other words, it has your grey matter working overtime.
However, logging on is just one of many things we can all do to help our brains fight ageing.
Although it's important to realise that a single lifestyle change won't reverse a lifetime of bad health habits, latest research suggests many factors can play a part in keeping your brain young and alert.
So here's a guide to what's well worth a try...

(1) Surf the net
Don't feel guilty about idle surfing - using the net is a good workout for your brain.
University of California researchers compared the brains of middle-aged people who rarely went online with regular users who were otherwise similar.
After doing web searches for an hour a day for five days, areas of the prefrontal cortex - the part of the brain which controls the ability to make decisions and learn - was much more active in the net users.

(2) Drink a hot choccie
I enjoy a hot chocolate drink every night before bed, so I'm very glad to know it could help keep my brain alert. Recent research found that flavanols - plant chemicals abundant in dark chocolate - stave off fatigue and boost mental sharpness. It's thought that they work by widening blood vessels, boosting blood flow to the brain.
The scientists doing the test asked people to do a range of mental arithmetic tests before and after having a flavanolrich chocolate drink and found the drink boosted their performance.

(3) Work up a sweat
This is my favourite brain booster and one I've experienced first hand. When I was preparing for a cycle ride a few years ago, about six weeks into hard training I started to notice my memory has improved - it was like being a teenager again! I soon realised this was due to all the extra oxygen being pumped into my brain.
A recent Swedish study backed up my own experience when it found that any exercise that gets you out of breath improves IQ scores in tests. The researchers speculated that the increased flow of oxygen to the brain actually promotes the production of new brain cells.

(4) Meditate
This is one habit that works for me when I'm travelling - I let my mind become still and settle into a kind of twilight state, similar to that reached by meditation, for a few minutes.
Afterwards my brain feels recharged and so much brighter. Research by the Center for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania has come to a similar conclusion.
The researchers found that people who meditate enjoy improved brain function - including better memories.
In another study, people who meditate performed better than their non-meditating counterparts on a series of mental agility tests.

(5) Stand on your head
Research suggests that this parlour trick may improve your overall brain health by increasing blood flow to the brain. Of course, for those of us without the gymnastic skill to do it safely, there are easier ways to get the same benefits including hanging your head over the sofa for a few minutes, or lying on the floor with your feet up on a wall.

(6) Brush and floss daily
We keep learning more and more about how dental hygiene can affect our whole body, and now a study had found that oral health is linked to brain health.
A team of British researchers found that people with gum disease scored relatively badly on cognitive function tests.
The researchers deduced that the gum inflammation may also be damaging the white matter in the brain, resulting in slower mental function.

(7) Get married
Middle-aged people in a stable relationship are half as likely to develop dementia as those who live alone, according to a study from Sweden.
This link is pretty well established and it's all down to the constant social interaction married couples enjoy.
Just talking about the shopping or the latest news means we avoid social and intellectual isolation. And of course it means you might indulge in a brain-boosting spot of sex...

(8) Sing a song
The deep breathing needed for singing forces more oxygen into the brain, while memorising lyrics and rhythms gives the brain a thorough workout. Anecdotal studies, supported by UK Alzheimer's charities, have also found singing to be good at improving communication in dementia patients.

(9) Drink red wine
In mental arithmetic tests set up by a team at Northumbria University, men and women did better after being given resveratrol, the "wonder ingredient" in red wine. It's thought the plant chemical found in grape skins - as well as most berries - increases blood flow to the brain by widening blood vessels.
Personally, I think a handful of berries on breakfast cereal is the healthiest way to get plenty of this nutrient.

(10) Have an apple a day
Drinking two glasses of apple juice a day could help to keep your brain healthy, according to a study in the Journal Of Alzheimer's Disease.
Apple juice seems to reduce the amount of a protein that is responsible for forming the sticky plaques commonly found in the brains of dementia patients and thought to impair memory.

(11) Make love
Sex boosts the levels of a brain chemical called prolac tin which appears to help create and nurture new nerve cells in the brain, according to Professor Perry Bartlett of the University Of Queensland's Brain Institute, Australia.
Here's yet another reason to keep the home fires burning.

(12) Be a bit different
When I first read that varying everyday activities could keep your brain in good shape, I began to start brushing my teeth using the other hand and reversing the way I hold a phone. Taking a different route to work or simply swapping your knife and fork around can also help. These little changes all force your brain to adapt to new things and create new pathways, which helps keep more brain cells alive.

(13) Wake up and smell the coffee
Three to five cups of coffee a day when you are middle-aged can cut your risk of developing dementia later in life by up to two thirds, a large, 21-year Finnish study revealed when it was published in the Journal Of Alzheimer's Disease last year.