Avoiding the Tsunami of Drug Prices: Improve Your Brain Function the Natural Way
By Virgina Cunningham
Hitting a wall or feeling mentally exhausted? Stuck in a rut that you can’t break free of? In times of desperation, we might come to the conclusion that we need to see a professional for some help, but with the costs of medications in the U.S. constantly rising, many of us can’t even afford to see a doctor.
The fact of the matter is that, in many cases, we can actually help how we physically and mentally feel by making a few lifestyle changes of our own. By eating certain foods, partaking in daily exercise and playing games (yes, games!), we can improve our overall health naturally, without spending tons of money on prescription drugs.
Embracing the strategies below may boost your brainpower, help keep you mentally healthy and ultimately make you smarter:
Improve Your Nutrition
There's no magic diet that can fix everything, but watching what you eat is essential for overall good health. Avoid the soda pop and vending machine snacks, and opt for powerful brain boosters instead. The following are a few “superfoods” that can put you in a better mood, help you maintain a healthy weight, increase your odds of a healthy brain, lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.
1) Blueberries: Packed with antioxidants, phytoflavinoids, vitamin C and potassium, blueberries are the top choice of doctors and nutritionists when it comes to boosting the brain. They also act as an anti-inflammatory, reduce stress and have been shown to improve learning ability and motor skills.
Take some blueberries with you as a snack for work. They also mix well in frozen yogurt as well as morning smoothies!
2) Nuts: These provide an immediate energy boost that won’t make your mind crash later. Packed with vitamin E, protein, fiber and beneficial fats, nuts are essential for cognitive function. Walnuts, almonds, pistachios and macadamias are among the best kinds of nuts for the brain.
Grab a mix of these for an afternoon snack or try throwing some raisins, dried cranberries and granola with them to make your own personal trail mix. If you like things a bit spicy, roll them in some sriracha sauce and toss them in the oven at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes.
3) Wild Salmon: Rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids, wild salmon is a great anti-inflammatory substance that helps to improve cognition, alertness, memory and mood. It also has the ability to reduce the risk of degenerative mental disease, depression, anxiety and hyperactivity.
In many cases, wild salmon can easily be found at your local grocery store. Just make sure to ask if it is indeed wild salmon. It may be a bit pricey, but you should consider including it as a main dish maybe once a week. Personally, I love marinating my salmon in low-sodium soy sauce and glaze it with bit of maple syrup, then bake it in the oven. I also enjoy garnishing it with steamed asparagus and other yummy veggies.
On the other hand, if wild salmon isn’t at all in your budget, you might find that a supplement that contains omega 3’s will suffice.
4) Avocado: Start each day with beneficial monounsaturated fats to help blood circulate better, which is essential for optimal brain function. Avocado is high in fiber, folic acid, potassium and is cholesterol free.
When I first think about avocado, what else comes to mind besides guacamole? While fresh guacamole is one of my favorites, there are plenty of other recipes that can easily incorporate this smooth, buttery fruit.
Additional “brain foods” include beets, cranberries, flaxseed, apples, kale, whole grains, beans, pumpkins, spinach, turkey, yogurt, sweet potato and more! Let natural compounds in delicious foods act as the first line of brain-health defense. The closer that the food you eat is to its natural state, the better it will be for your body and your brain!
Physical exercise is not only good for your body, it also helps your brain stay sharp. The benefits of exercise range from the molecular to the behavioral level, and help facilitate information processing and memory functions. Exercise increases heart rate, which pumps oxygen to the brain and releases hormones that nourish the growth of brain cells. It also stimulates growth of new connections between cells in the important cortical areas of the brain.
Since not all of us are able to afford a monthly gym membership, we may have to get a bit creative with how we incorporate physical exercise into our daily lives. Fortunately, it’s easier than you think!
Youtube, for example, has a vast inventory of helpful workout videos. Yoga podcasts are also an option if you enjoy the outdoors. All you really need are some clothes you can break a sweat in and maybe a good pair of running shoes.
Keeping your brain in top shape doesn’t mean you have to enroll in graduate classes or write a thesis. In fact, regularly challenging yourself with mental exercise and new activities can help improve memory and lower your risk of dementia and Alzheimer's. When the brain is learning, thousands of new connections are being made. Memory games, reflex tests, brain reflections, and concentration games are all fantastic and effective ways to exercise the brain!
What do you usually reach for when you have a headache, upset stomach or are feeling nauseous? It’s probably a pill of some kind, right? There are many natural home remedies that can make you feel better in a pinch so that you don’t need to pop a pill for every problem. Here are a few ways to help ease an aching head and assist with memory:
1) Migraines: Peppermint essential oil is an affordable and easy remedy. Just rub a few dabs onto your temples and wait 15 minutes for it’s anti-inflammatory effects to soothe nerves. You can also grind-up a 1/2 teaspoon of ginger and stir it into a glass a water, and gulp it down to reduce nausea that often accompanies headaches.
2) Brain Freeze: As soon as you feel a brain freeze approaching, place your tongue on the tip of your mouth to calm nerves and reduce pain. It’s the simplest trick ever and it really works!
3) Memory Problems: Sip on herbal teas that contain sage, rosemary and basil. You can also add them to olive oil and massage over the neck and back to improve a weak memory.
Exercising, eating well, engaging in stimulating activities and home remedies can all help spike brain activity and prepare you for the mental stressors of the day. In addition, they increase retention of new information and help provide better reactions to complex situations. Your brain plays a critical role in everything you do: thinking, feeling, remembering, playing, working and sleeping. Making healthy choices will ensure it stays agile, alert and healthy as you age.
Virginia Cunningham is a health enthusiast and mother of three living in Southern California. She exercises her brain each day through exercise and memory enhancing activities, including yoga and online games. To read more of her work or find out more about her, visit her site at http://virginiacunningham.weebly.com/.
Virginia wants to know, what do you do to keep your mind active? Share your comments below!