Sometimes we are so obsessed with creating the perfect body that we forget all about keeping our brains healthy. However, the brain is an organ like any other human organ – but a somewhat extraordinary one, which needs as much care as our hearts and other vital organs.
Not eating healthily, drinking too much alcohol and lack of exercise can take as much of a toll on our brains as it does our body. The brain is composed of grey matter and white matter – grey matter contains the brain cells which retain information and memories, white matter lies in between the grey matter and transmits the messages to other parts of the brain and body to enable us to walk, talk, think, remember and function the way we do.
The brain also controls sleep, memory and mood – our moods are controlled by serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is sometimes called the happiness compound and that dizzy, “walking on air” feeling we get when we fall in love is due to large amounts of serotonin being released. To make sure we keep our brains healthy and our mood, memory and sleep patterns consistent, we have to make sure the brain receives all the nutrients and exercise it needs. Exercise boosts blood flow to the brain and red blood cells carry oxygen to boost brain health.
But pollutants in the atmosphere and certain processed or grilled or fried foods can release what are known as free radicals, which can alter the DNA of cells – including brain cells – and cause changes which result in cancers. Fruit contains antioxidants which have a known beneficial effect on tackling free radicals and helping our brains and bodies resist any changes in cells which could cause cancer.
Here is your Top 10 A-Z of fruity treats to boost brain power and health – and kick those free radicals where it hurts.
1. Avocados contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which can help regulate blood pressure – and prevent strokes which flood the brain with blood, or heart attacks which starve the brain of oxygen. Avocados also lower bad cholesterol, as they contain a monounsaturated fat, oleic acid – and potassium to help regulate blood pressure. Avocados are also a source of Vitamin E to help skin and hair and regulate hormones – and Vitamin C to boost immune system and fight against free radicals.
2. Bananas contain potassium which can help regulate blood pressure and protect bones. Bananas are also a source of the amino acid tryptophan, which is converted into the happiness compound serotonin in the brain to help lift depression. B Vitamins in bananas can also protect nerve function – and bananas are also a rich source of fibre and contain the natural sugars glucose, fructose and sucrose for a quick energy boost.
3. Blueberries are known as one of the top 10 superfoods and have high levels of Vitamin C to protect the immune system and cell renewal. Blueberries are also thought to be able to help reverse memory loss and even help fight cancer by knocking out the action of free radicals. Blueberries can also protect bone health, lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of developing Type II diabetes – and that really is a superfood.
4. Red or black grapes have both antibacterial and antiviral properties and are full of antioxidants to help brain cells and cells in the body stay healthy. Red grapes also protect arteries to help improve blood flow to the brain – and the good news is a glass of red wine of daily has the same effect because of the high concentration of red grapes used.
Red grape skins contain the flavonoid resveratrol and may hold the key to everlasting youth – when exposed to UV light, red grapes produce compounds which fight the ageing effects of sunlight to protect their skins. Red grapes are also thought to protect against heart disease as the flavonoid quercetin lowers bad cholesterol and also has antihistamine properties to control allergies.
5. Guava is known to lower blood pressure and protect the health of brain cells– and can also help with weight loss as it contains fibre to make you feel full. Guava has five times the amount of Vitamin C to tackle free radicals and prevent cell damage. Guava can also help treat constipation or diarrhoea – chronic or severe diarrhoea can cause dehydration, which leads to mental confusion if untreated.
6. Kiwi fruits contain high amounts of Vitamin C to boost cell regeneration and the immune system, as well as potassium to help regulate blood pressure and prevent heart attacks and strokes, which can cause brain injury. Kiwi fruits can also protect the respiratory tract and help reduce wheezing coughs.
7. Mangoes contain glutamine acid, which keeps brain cells firing and boosts concentration. Mangoes are also high in iron, which helps keep red blood cells healthy as they deliver oxygen to the brain. Mangoes contain Vitamin E to improve skin and hair and control hormones which boost sex drive. Mangoes also lower levels of bad cholesterol with Vitamin C and pectin – and enzymes in mangoes improve digestion. Vitamin C also counteracts the effects of free radicals in cells.
8. Peppers are a fruit and contain high doses of Vitamin C and antioxidants to protect cells against free radicals. Eating different brightly coloured fruits like peppers can make sure you get your daily dose of Vitamin C to protect the immune system and boost cell regeneration.
9. Cherries are a source of tryptophan, which converts the happiness compound serotonin in the brain, warding off depression and boosting brain function. Cherries also have antioxidant properties and contain Vitamin C.
10. Tamarinds contain fibre, magnesium and potassium to help control appetite, ease muscle cramps and regulate blood pressure, protecting against heart attack and stroke and ensuring a healthy blood supply to the brain rich in oxygen. Tamarinds also contain Vitamin C, B vitamins and antioxidant flavonoids and can ease colds and sore throats and reduce bad cholesterol.
Leo Wyatt is a freelance writer & journalist who graduated from Birmingham University. Leo has worked for several newspapers in the midlands but now spends most of his time writing articles for companies, websites and businesses on a freelance basis, primarily the brain injury experts. Leo also has particular interests in politics, law and health.