Daniel Amen, MD, Offers Advice On Brain Health In New Book
What if the fountain of youth was right in front of you ... on your dinner plate? According to Dr. Daniel Amen, author of the newly released book "Use Your Brain To Change Your Age," that may just be the case. In a recent interview with Huff/Post50, Amen discussed his theory on the importance of restricting calories to achieve longevity and a healthy brain. "The only really proven strategy associated with longevity is calorie restriction," said Amen. "The less you eat, the more you live."
Why do calories have such a big affect on the brain and longevity? According to Amen, "The fat on your body is not innocuous. It produces inflammatory chemicals that damage your brain."
Amen isn't alone in linking calorie count to brain health. A recent study has found that overeating may be linked to memory loss in older adults. As "Daily Mail" reported this week,
Researchers discovered that those who consumed more than 2,100 calories a day were far more likely to have 'mild cognitive impairment' than those who ate less.
The findings suggest that keeping to a low-calorie diet in old age could keep the mind sharp -- and may even prevent the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Decreasing risk for Alzheimer's is another topic that Amen covers in his new book and one that he has received criticism for in the past.
But Amen's advice also extends to general brain health, which he attributes largely to a healthy weight and eating the right nutrients. To lose weight, people should avoid sugar and artificial foods and should eat 500 calories less a day than needed for their body types, he recommends. "It took you a while to get there," said Amen. "Be consistent and do it in a slow, methodical way .... Make these habits part of your life."
So what kinds of foods and habits does Amen recommend for optimum brain health? Check out the slideshow below for some of Amen's surprising tips.
Photo courtesy of S. Diddy
Make Your Meals A Rainbow
That doesn't mean you should pour out a bag of Skittles at each meal. Try to eat foods of a variety of natural colors to gain antioxidants, said Dr. Amen.
Avoid These Fruits
Just because something is a fruit, doesn't mean you should chow down on it, according to Dr. Daniel Amen, author of "Use Your Brain To Change Your Age." For brain health, Dr. Amen recommends food with a low glycemic index -- which measures how quickly food increases blood sugar -- and a lot of fiber, which benefits your intestinal tract. Certain fruit like pineapple and watermelon have high glycemic indexes and should be avoided, advises Dr. Amen. Instead, incorporate fruits like blueberries, apples, oranges, cherries, kiwi, strawberries and raspberries. When it comes to fiber, consider adding coconut to your diet. <em>Correction: In a previous version of this slide, "blood pressure" was incorrectly inserted where "blood sugar" is.</em>
You Need Fat
Don't eliminate all of the fat in your diet. Instead, focus on incorporating good fats. In fact, if your cholesterol drops too low, you may be at greater risk for depression, according to Amen <a href="http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-breakthrough-depression-solution/201106/low-cholesterol-and-its-psychological-effects" target="_hplink"> and several studies on low cholesterol</a>. So what exactly are "good fats"? Dr. Amen advises people to eat foods rich in omega-3s to promote brain health, including almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, fish, lamb, avocados and green leafy vegetables. Another added benefit of eating good fats? "Your vitamins are actually absorbed better when you eat them with a little bit of fat," said Dr. Amen.
Choose Your Meat Wisely
While you generally want to avoid bad fats, if you choose to eat steak, "you want to go with grass-fed, hormone-free, free-range meats" rather than grain-fed meats, said Dr. Amen. "When you feed the animals the high-glycemic foods, they actually produce less of the good fat and more of the bad fat. So they're not as good for you." In other words, what your food eats affects your health too, according to Dr. Amen. <em>Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mdid/" target="_hplink">mdid</a></em>
Herbs And Spices Don't Just Add Flavor
Next time you're whipping up some grub, turn to your spice rack for an extra brain boost. Spices and herbs may do more for your health than you realize. According to Dr. Amen, cinnamon balances blood sugar; garlic, oregano and rosemary increase blood flow to the brain; curry acts as an anti-inflammatory; and saffron can have anti-depressant effects. <em>Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/spence_sir/" target="_hplink">S. Diddy</a></em>
Pour Out That Juice
Next time you're craving a cold glass of juice with your breakfast, think again. "Juice is sugar that is unwrapped from its fiber source, and whenever you unwrap sugar from its fiber source, it can turn toxic in your body," said Dr. Amen. <em>Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mamchenkov/" target="_hplink">Leonid Mamchenkov</a></em>
What You Eat For Breakfast Matters
You may be dreaming about that delicious breakfast muffin all night, but you should probably steer clear of the breakfast pastries. "There's way too much bad fat and sugar," said Dr. Amen. Instead, he recommends a protein-heavy breakfast like a few boiled eggs, nuts and an apple. While Dr. Amen suggests eating lean protein at each meal, he believes it is "especially important in the morning because it helps you focus," he said. <em>Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/15216811@N06/" target="_hplink">Nicola since 1972</a></em>
Find Supportive Friends
The last thing you need when you're trying to eat healthy are friends who try to coerce you to be unhealthy. "You have to deal with the food pushers in your life because they'll steal your health," said Dr. Amen. "The health of the people you spend time with will often determine your longevity." Make sure your friends understand and support your decision to eat healthier, and try to find other people who who are on the same healthy path as you.
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