Sunday, September 4, 2011

Mind your brain, keep it active

Dr Shikha Sharma

Keeping the mind active and the brain healthy is one of the most important aspects of health in the older years of your life. Body degeneration is an active and constant process, but then the body also works just as actively and constantly to regenerate. This also applies to the brain. However, if the brain does not get the raw materials it requires, the regenerative process suffers.

There are certain things that the brain requires to stay healthy:

1. Brain-specific nutrition: The brain is literally made of ‘good’ fats – a lot of its nerve coverings are manufactured from good fats and oils. Physically, brain development is very rapid from the moment of birth to the age of two years. So a baby needs lots of good fats to ensure that it has the necessary supply of essential oils for brain development.

wellnessGood fats are also responsible for neurons and the entire nervous system. Good fats include unprocessed, unrefined oils from nuts and oil seeds. Seeds are a treasure trove of healthy minerals, B vitamins and folic acid. They are a naturally rich source of iron and zinc, and are also good sources of healthy protein.

Sesame seeds are an excellent source of calcium – particularly important during adolescence, childbirth and menopause. All seeds are a source of vitamin E. So eat almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, chilgoza, hazel nuts and pistachios. Add sunflower and flax seeds to the mix. Unhealthy oils and fats are transfats, over-processed and refined fats, deep fried and refried oils, adulterated oils and excess saturated fats.

Antioxidants are very important for the brain. This is because the brain is susceptible to tissue problems due to its high level of work and regeneration. Antioxidants ensure that the brain has enough cleansing and detoxifying agents to keep it clean and healthy. Good antioxidants for the brain are organic fruits and fresh vegetables, green tea (without milk and sugar) and some herbs.

Good proteins are just as important for brain development. These include sprouts of organic dals like mung, channa, lobhia, moth and so on. Tofu, soya milk and organic lean fish are good sources too. The brain requires a lot of carbs to function effectively. Starving makes the brain dull, but be warned – so does gluttony. Good carbs are fruits, dry fruits like dates, figs and raisins, whole grains like dalia, oats (not the instant variety), unpolished rice, barley, whole corn and millets.

2. Herbs that facilitate brain regeneration: These include yastimadhu (liquorice or licorice), guduchi, shankhapushpi, mandukaparni, chitrak root, brahmi, vacha, haritaki, kustha and shatavari.

3. Oxygen: Oxygen is vital for brain health. Aerobic exercise, pranayams, dancing, active playing… all of these contribute to lung expansion, thus ensuring that oxygen reaches the brain.

Nuts4. Mental exercise: Challenging, enjoyable problem-solving puzzles, learning new languages, learning a new skills… all this creates a very healthy and active brain.

5. Physical exercise: Physical exercise promotes blood circulation to the brain and helps the regenerative process.

6. The moderation of certain lifestyle hazards: Food and alcohol addictions, lack of sleep, too much anxiety, nicotine, over-medication and a sedentary lifestyle make us dull.

Brain health is a combination of all the factors above. Keeping your brain healthy also promotes overall health.

Know your brain
1. Your brain forms 2 per cent of your total body weight but uses 20 per cent of your body’s energy – enough to light a 25-watt bulb.
2. The brain uses glucose as fuel. When you work late, eat fruits and dried fruits like raisins, prunes, dates and apricots. They provide healthy sugar and minerals.
3. Alcohol weakens connections between neurons. Take multivitamins and detox the liver frequently if you drink alcohol regularly.
4. The brain produces 70,000 thoughts a day on an average.
5. Humans make new neurons throughout their lives in response to mental activity. So join hobby classes or a social welfare activity.
6. A study of one million students showed that students who ate lunches that did not include artificial flavours, preservatives and colours did 14 per cent better on IQ tests than students who ate lunches with these additives.


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