" When your brain is functioning well, you feel more on top of your game, you receive more opportunities, and life just gets all-around better!
But unfortunately, more and more people are dealing with subpar brain function, and millions are losing their cognitive abilities every day. The worst part is it’s not our fault. Our modern-day society exposes us to insults on a daily basis that take a serious toll on our brain health. These insults include environmental and chemical toxins, processed carbs and sugar, poor stress management, plastics, and heavy metals, not to mention a lack of sunlight, fresh air, exercise, sleep, connection, purpose, and community.
Today I’m giving you an inside look at what I do to keep my brain healthy and high functioning so I can continue to show up for my team, family, friends, colleagues, and community members and make a positive impact on the world for decades to come.
The Rules I Follow for Better Brain Health
Follow a Pegan diet. We are what we eat, as the old saying goes, so we need to make sure our brain has the highest-quality building blocks to work with to keep its structure nice and strong.
Eating a Pegan diet helps you get a variety of colorful plant foods that provide a variety of phytonutrients in your diet, which have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. Fill your plate with at least 75 percent non-starchy vegetables; these are the good carbs that contain essential nutrients, polyphenols, and fiber that feeds the bugs in our gut. For example, anthocyanin (a potent plant polyphenol) is metabolized by our gut, after which it can pass through the blood-brain barrier and lower inflammation. This is what makes blueberries such a brain-boosting superfood.
Because your brain is made up of mostly fat, it’s critical to eat foods that are rich in omega-3, such as small, fatty fish and pasture-raised eggs. Even high-quality saturated fats like MCT oil are excellent for brain health. Protein is also essential. When you undereat protein you lose muscle, and your brain takes a huge hit as well! Eat at least two four-to-six-ounce servings of high-quality animal or plant-based protein every day to maintain muscle mass and keep up with your brain’s demands.
Stop poisoning your brain. Eliminate sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, food additives, and preservatives. These poison your brain and disrupt your biochemistry. Put simply, if it’s not real food, don’t eat it. On that same note, stop poisoning your brain with toxic news, television, and social media too! The average person checks their phone 344 times a day. Being plugged in all the time throws off the chemical balance of neurotransmitters in our brain. This is why kids who are addicted to their cell phones have a higher risk of depression and lower self-esteem. Track your screen time and limit the amount to only what’s necessary.
Move your body. You don’t have to hit the gym every day. I definitely don’t, but I do make time for movement and play. Yoga, tennis, bike rides—whatever you love, do it. Exercise improves memory, learning, and concentration because it increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which helps create new neurons and makes your brain more plastic (which is a good thing). Exercise also helps to improve your mood, boost your energy, and reduce overall stress.
Relax and calm the mind. Ninety-five percent of all illness is caused or worsened by stress. Stress hormones damage the hippocampus—the memory center in the brain—causing memory loss and dementia. Learn how to ACTIVELY relax. To engage the powerful forces of the mind on the body, you must DO something—you can’t just sit there watching television or drinking beer. Try meditation or yoga, go for a walk in nature, or learn something new.
Make use of stress-lowering supplements. Sometimes supplementation may be necessary to help lower stress levels. Here are some supplements that can help lower anxiety or depression symptoms:
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This nutrient is like a brake for overstimulation in the brain. When you have low levels of GABA, it is harder for you to relax after your body has released excitatory neurotransmitters like epinephrine and norepinephrine.
Other supplements include vitamin B-complex, L-theanine (an amino acid in green tea that promotes relaxation and calmness), 5-hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP (a serotonin precursor), inositol (which helps balance neurotransmitters), and herbs like Rhodiola Rosea and ashwagandha.
Take brain-boosting supplements. Take a high-quality, high-potency, bioavailable multivitamin and an omega-3 supplement that’s high in DHA to fill any nutritional gaps you may be missing from your diet. In addition to that, take an extra 200-400mg of magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate per day, as well as a vitamin D3 supplement (low levels of vitamin D are associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s).
Connect. Perhaps the most important thing to do to keep your brain happy is to make time for your relationships. Social isolation can be deadlier than smoking, and with the Covid-19 pandemic, people have been lonelier than ever over the past two years. Consciously build your network of friends, family, and community—whether that means an in-person visit, a video call, or giving back to your community—and prioritize spending time with others.
Sleep. It wouldn’t be a complete list if I didn’t mention the importance of getting good, quality sleep. Our brain’s immune-system activity peaks at night, repairing damaged cells and DNA and cleaning up plaque buildup. When we don’t prioritize sleep, this junk starts to collect and clutter up our brain, which increases our risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
We’ve been told that cognitive decline is inevitable, but researchers are discovering that we have more power over our aging brains than we once thought. " (dr. Mark Hyman)