We’ve all experienced days when our thinking and memory were a bit sluggish and other days when our minds seemed to be functioning at full-throttle. Wouldn’t it be nice to have more days with clarity of mind and full-throttle thinking? While all of the brain’s workings aren’t completely understood, researchers have unlocked a few important nutrition and exercise-related factors that can help you achieve optimum brain performance, perhaps even better than what you’ve ever had! If you incorporate the following practices, you be well on your way to nurturing a healthy brain.

1) Get enough rest – It has been known for some time know that getting enough quality sleep is essential for proper brain function and memory solidification. It is also thought that reading or studying something right before bed-time is especially helpful for reinforcing retention of that material. To store information, the brain creates neuro-pathways, and these are reinforced during sleep.


Recent research is also pointing to the importance of resting the mind while awake. Neuroscientist at New York University found that neuro-pathways are reinforced if the brain is given a chance to be idle after acquiring new information. [1] Giving our brain a few moments of idle time during the day can be difficult in our society. With computers, TV, cell-phones, i-Pods, and the like, our brains hardly have time to rest. Try taking a few moment throughout the day to cut out all the noise. The extra time you take to rest when asleep and awake can help your mind more efficiently process all those important goals and tasks throughout your day.


2) Eat the right foods – Fat, carbohydrates, and protein are all important for optimum brain function, but it’s important to get the rights kinds. One of the most important kinds of fats for brain function, one many people are short on, is Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). DHA is an Omega-3 fatty acid that is an important building block of the brain’s structure.[2] Adequate Omega-3 consumption is shown to improve the brain’s circuitry and synapse health and may improve overall brain function. The recommended dietary consumption of Omega-3s is 1,500 to 3,000 mg per day.


As far as carbohydrates, these are the brain’s required source of energy, and it’s preferred type of carbohydrate is glucose. In fact, all of the body’s cells operate most efficiently using glucose as an energy source. There are at least two important reasons why the brain operates best on glucose. For one, glucose is metabolized in the brain in a way that causes it to signal the body to feel full once it has had enough; this is not true of fructose. Secondly, in a recent study that compared the effects of fructose and glucose on the brain, it was found that glucose resulted in an increase in neurological activity for 20 minutes after consumption, while fructose consumption resulted in a depressed state of neurological activity for 20 minutes.[3] While the implications of these results are not yet known, it seems to me that increased neurological activity is what we’re looking for! Unfortunately, many people’s diets are high in added sugars which are typically fructose-based. Glucose is found in whole-food staples like potatoes, vegetables, grains, and seeds.


Finally, the brain relies on protein for proper memory function. It uses a special type of protein to mark neurological pathways for short and long term memory. It can’t make these markers, however, if you don’t have enough protein in your diet! Be sure to get all the amino-acids your body needs by eating high-quality protein sources like, meat, dairy, and quinoa.


3.) Exercise – It turns out that the old adage, “dumb jock,” simply isn’t true. Physical exercise is an important, perhaps even vital, part of optimum mental/brain health. Studies have found that regular exercise from 20-40 minutes in duration can improve brain activity from 80-120%. Exercise also improves brain plasticity and neurogenesis. In other words, exercise helps the brain learn and operate better. Finally, statistical studies have draw a firm correlation between exercise and decreased levels of depression. So, there’s really no excuse for not getting outside to play and exercise.[4][5] Not only will it help improve your attitude, taking the time to exercise/play, will actually help you work more efficiently.


Conveniently, if you’re living a nature-based lifestyle you’re already doing these things! Obtaining rest is so much easier when we trust in the Lord and know that he is taking care of us. It can be so easy to be moved by circumstances and think that we have to do everything in our strength, never giving ourselves an opportunity to rest. Yet, I can’t help but think of how Jesus slept peacefully while a storm was threatening to capsize his boat. What a great example of trusting in the Father’s care! Also, if we look to the Creator and realize he created good things for his children, it’s easy to see that eating the foods he made for us (vs the processed foods made by man) will lead to good health. Furthermore, he created a beautiful nature for us to get out and enjoy, to move in, to run in, to play in. Mental, physical, and spiritual health are inextricably linked in various ways So it’s not surprising that exercise and rest (which can be an important spiritual discipline) promote good mental health and optimum brain function!



Originally posted 2011-10-05 17:24:00.


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