[Audio] Healthy Diet Tips to "Feed Your Brain"

Sep 21, 2015

Credit Sergey Bogachuk, 123rf Stock Photo

As we head into the autumn months our minds may go to all of the delicious food associated with the holidays. While many focus on heart health, it's also important to give your brain the things you need to be as healthy as possible. On Sounds Good, Tracy Ross speaks with Lisa Raum, registered dietician and Nutrition Affairs Program Manager of the Southeast Dairy Association, about ways to defend yourself over the cold months with healthy tips to "feed your brain." 

In surveys asking Americans about health concerns, secondary only to heart health is brain health, Raum says. There are things to do in terms of lifestyle to slow mental decline and to ward off degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia. Like your heart, your brain also requires essential vitamins and minerals. Many of us think of these minerals as magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, vitamin d, etc.

In recent years, vitamin d has been discovered to be a common deficiency because bodies make it from sunlight and yet people spend less time outside. So how do we get it? Raum says milk is a leading source of vitamin d in the American diet - where eight ounces provide 25% of the daily recommended intake and cheese and yogurt are also becoming more commonly fortified with vitamin d. For those who are lactose intolerant, she says lactose free milks are increasingly available and many cheeses and yogurts have almost no lactose.

The Mediterranean diet includes dark leafy greens, bright vibrant colors, berries, olive oil, fatty fish like salmon and tuna, nuts like almonds and pistachios, and yogurt are great sources of nutrients for different reasons, she says, but largely because many of them contain Omega 3 fatty acids.

To remedy fatigue, Raum says she believes breakfast is important because it sets the stage for the rest of the day. Research looking at which foods are most effective at warding off fatigue include high fiber, whole grain, dairy, nuts and fruits - all elements that can be associated with breakfast foods. She recommends making a breakfast that combines all of these things. For mid-afternoon snacks, or "mini meals," think whole grain carbohydrates, protein and fat.

Sugar is often associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but people tend to lack sugar savvy, she says. There are two types of sugar - naturally occurring and added sugar. Naturally occurring sugar is just that, sugar that naturally exists within foods like fruits and vegetables, which also contain a wealth of vitamins and minerals. Lactose is a naturally occurring sugar in dairy products. Added sugar is either when we add sugar to food (like syrup and honey) or when sugar is added in a factory. Ways to curb sugar intake: patience, eating well balanced meals, and putting quality over quantity. Make it worth it, she says.

Other methods of increasing brain health include being physically active. An easy way to stay active is to count your steps. 10,000 steps are recommended each day and at least 2,000 are beneficial for brain health. Increase the amount of steps you take by parking further away, getting more sleep and keeping stress levels down.

See recipes and more at the Southeast Dairy website