The Connection Between Food and Our Brains – Brain Health Part 6

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This is part 6 of my series titled, brain health. I’ve found this topic so fascinating as a person in recovery. My initial interest came from the selfish concern of wanting to know if my brain would heal from the abuse of drugs.

Now I like to share what I’ve learned and continue to learn about the brain because it’s quite fascinating.

Up until now, I’ve been reviewing the book, Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina.

I’ll continue to review that book in future posts but today, I’m going to introduce a topic from a book titled, Brain Food by Lisa Mosconi, PhD., INHC.

Just a little background on Mosconi:

  • Holds a dual Ph.D. degree in neuroscience and nuclear medicine from the U of Florence, Italy
  • Board-certified integrative nutritionist and holistic health-care practitioner.
  • Associate Director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College (WCMC)/New York-Presbyterian Hospital
  • Associate professor of neuroscience in neurology
  • Founded and was formerly the director at the Nutrition and Brain Fitness Lab at New York University (NYU) School of Medicine
  • Assistant professor in the NYU Department of Psychiatry

Um, basically, she knows a thing or two about the brain and nutrition. 😉

Prevention

This is a personal finance blog with an emphasis on recovery.  My recovery is what attracted me to brain health but the more I study it, the more I realize a lot of it is about prevention.  Wouldn’t you rather be preventing disease than treating it?

A similar question could be asked about your finances. Wouldn’t you rather be preventing financial distress than recovering from it?

The fact is we need both – prevention and treatment. I’ve recovered from a lot so I certainly would never scoff at treatment. It’s necessary and thank God there are options for treatment of all kinds.

However, once we recover from something we are more keen on wanting to prevent it from happening again, yes?  I feel that way about keeping my brain & body healthy.

Food for the Brain

I was surprised to read that the brain is most easily damaged from a poor diet. The bad news is if we’ve had a lifetime of poor eating habits, our brain has suffered. The good news is that we can easily do something about it. I guess I should be careful about using the word easy. Sure changing eating habits may be easily accessible but I know that changing habits is not easy.

It may be simple but not easy. However, it’s worth it!!

Mosconi talks about food as magic and that there is a lot more to it than calories and nutrients. Think about food in nature like berries or vegetation. These things have been growing for thousands of years and are designed to protect their dormant seeds.

Additionally, plants produce phytonutrients which fight oxidative stress and inflammation. That sounds like something I’d like to give my body!

Mosconi talks specifically about the blueberry and how the phytonutrients are also responsible for the color, scent, and taste which makes it attractive to birds. The bird is the perfect recipient of the blueberry because of things like digestion and excretion. These things allow it to spread the seeds a great distance.

These plants are brilliantly designed to survive and spread. Moreover, they are brilliant things from which to receive nourishment.

Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash

The Brains Needs Nutrition

The human brain has different nutritional needs than the rest of the body. One of the amazing things about the brain is that it supplies many of its own nutrients. However, the rest comes from the food we eat.

There are five major groups from which to obtain nutrients:

  1. Proteins
  2. Carbs
  3. Fats
  4. Vitamins
  5. Minerals

The key in finding the right nutrients for the brain is to find ones that can actually pass the blood-brain barrier. This is a little teaser as I will be exploring this part in future posts. For now, let’s turn to lifegiving water…

Hydration is Essential

It will take some time for me to fully delve into this book by Mosconi. For now, I”m settling in on hydration as the most important thing to focus on. I’m finding it interesting that while our body is comprised of 60% water, our brain is actually made up of approximately 80% water.

Mosconi reports that there is research which shows that a reduction in water consumption by 3-4% can have negative effects on the brain. Things such as moodiness, fogginess, headaches, and loss of energy can occur. Additionally, dehydration can cause actual brain shrinkage. Ugh! This is not something most of us want to experience.

Although, the negative effects of dehydration on the brain can be easily reversed by increased water consumption.

I think the typical the rule of thumb on how much water our bodies and brains need is eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. And there is research to back this up. Drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water a day can improve brain performance by as much as 30%!

Some things to consider as you up your water intake –

  • If you live in a warmer climate, you’ll need more.
  • Are you a professional athlete? Or even an amateur athlete? You’ll also need more.
  • Are you on the back 9 of life? You’ll also need more.

In regards to the last bullet point, apparently, our thirst can change as we get older. Intentional water drinking habits are a good hedge against fluid imbalance. Furthermore, fluid imbalance may contribute to cognitive decline and neurological disorders.

I don’t know about you but these are enough reasons to stay hydrated. 🙂

How Should We Get Our Water?

Obviously, the best answer is just from plain water. Yes, while coffee and teas are comprised of water, the caffeine counteracts some of the effects of the water by dehydrating you. Soft drinks contain a ton of sugar which definitely counteracts the benefits of the water in it. Sports drinks contain a lot of sugar and sodium so again plain water is best.

However, unsweetened coconut water is a great way to hydrate as it is chock full of potassium. Additionally, aloe vera juice is a great option because it is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal. Furthermore, it is comprised of 99% water. Bingo!

Now here is the part that gets me. How about carbonated water, which I love. Naturally, carbonated spring water is good but that can be quite expensive to purchase and since this is a personal finance blog, we look at costs!

Seltzer water and soda waters are artificially carbonated. The bummer is that seltzer has no sodium salts so they won’t help you stay hydrated.  Club soda usually contains minerals that have been added but Mosconi talks about how laboratory-produced nutrients are far less beneficial than natural nutrients.

Mosconi’s personal recommendation is to stick with hard water. This essentially means plain water which is high in minerals and calcium. Furthermore, she states that her preference is natural spring water.

Purified or Filtered?

Purified isn’t bad but it is devoid of minerals. It seems that filtering your own water with a high-quality filter is the best option. The point of filtration is to preserve the minerals while filtering out the harmful things. The things found in tap water which we should strive to filter out are:

  • Asbestos
  • Chlorine
  • Lead
  • Benzene
  • Trichloroethylene

I haven’t looked into the cost of a high-quality filter yet since I am renting. However, if/when I do, I’ll write about it here. I suspect that there is a decent upfront cost but the benefits pay out dividends.

The last point about water is that room temperature is best since it is digested more easily.

Food as Water

Mosconi put this great table in her book of foods that contain high contents of water so here you go:

  • Cucumber
  • Lettuce
  • Celery
  • Radishes
  • Zucchini
  • Watermelon
  • Strawberries
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Peaches

Closing Thoughts

I am just starting to skim the surface of how to nourish my brain by my food and beverage consumption but I’m encouraged. There is a plethora of information to take in but I plan to take it in in bite-sized portions. For now, my main focus is on hydration. I’ll branch out from here.

I owe a big thanks to my friend, Jessica, who sent me this book as a gift!

Okay, I’d love to hear from you on this topic. Did you learn anything new from this post? Do you have information to add?

Theme pic by Dan Gold on Unsplash

4 thoughts on “The Connection Between Food and Our Brains – Brain Health Part 6”

  1. Glad that you’re learning a lot from the book and thankful that you are sharing it with us! I love that your blog focuses on being healthy in ALL areas of life whether it be financial, physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, or relational because it’s all connected. That’s what drew me to your story and to your writing. You speak to the heart of the WHOLE person like Jesus did. What a gift you are and what a gift you have!

    Ok so I used to be a water snob. Yep, true story. I would only drink FIJI bottled water for the longest time but that habit got very expensive so now I just refill a glass water bottle with filtered water from my fridge. One day when I hit FI, I will travel to FIJI with rewards points and bottle my own water. LOL

  2. The brain is a fascinating organ. I knew about the importance of drinking water generally, but never thought how that could benefit our brains! Might need to look into a filter system …

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