DHA-Rich Foods - What You Don't Eat Can Be As Important as What You Do

DHA-rich foods, such as salmon, sardines, tuna, and herring, and DHA supplements made from single cell algae are important food for your brain, but they aren't all the food your brain needs. Here are nine simple rules for brain nutrition that make your DHA supplement maximally effective.

  1. Care about your carbohydrates. The brain comprises about 2 per cent of your body's total weight, but it consumes about 20 per cent of your body's carbohydrate supply. The brain can operate on ketones produced by burning fat, but you absolutely, positively must have about 40 grams of carbohydrate a day to make sugar for your brain. Highs and lows of blood sugar have a profound effect on how you feel and how you act.
  2. Beware of sugar. Due to individual quirks in the digestive process, different people react to different sources of sugar in different ways. A child with ADHD may be strangely immune to Twinkies (although more often not), or a perfectly normal adult may "lose it" after eating a second donut. The glucose in frosting and icing enters the bloodstream very quickly, and anything soft, ground up, and dunked in liquid (like a donut) causes a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, too. Stress levels elevate blood sugar levels and can "overfeed" your brain.
  3. The lower the glycemic index of a food, the steadier the flow of sugar to the brain. Fresh fruit juice with a lot of pulp delivers a more even flow of sugar to the brain than frozen juice diluted with water. Oat bran delivers sugar to the brain more evenly than Frosted Flakes. But equally as important as eating foods that are low on the glycemic index is eating all foods in moderation.
  4. The company a food keeps has a lot to do with how fast sugars affect the brain. Eating a sour food, for example, a pickle, or adding a vinegar-based dressing to a salad consumed at the beginning of a meal, slows down the rate at which food leaves the stomach. Eating soup at the beginning of a meal slows down any sugar surge, too, and also blunts your appetite. Adding fat to carbohydrates adds calories, but slows down release of sugars into the bloodstream.
  5. If you are feeling unfocused, woozy, dizzy, or forgetful, try eating something. A small amount of low-fat protein (soy as edamame, yogurt, or low-fat cheese) with a small amount of low glycemic index crackers (almond crackers are ideal) gives your brain the extra fuel it needs to keep you focused.
  6. Foods that are high in tyrosine perk up your brain. Good sources of tyrosine include fish, shellfish, dairy products, cheese, meat, and soy. Bad sources of tyrosine, which are so high in tyrosine that they can cause migraines in susceptible individuals, include aged cheeses, dark chocolate, smoked fish, and pate.
  7. Foods that is high in tryptophan slow down your brain. Foods that are good sources of tryptophan include nuts, seeds, beans, and peas. If you eat these foods, you may not crave the sugary foods that force tryptophan into the brain by raising blood sugar levels, because your brain will already have enough tryptophan to make serotonin.
  8. Eat low-calorie meals to perk up your brain. Hunger stimulates your brain. Eat high-calorie meals to sedate your brain. Satiation lets your brain rest.
  9. Make sure you feed your brain the right fats. Most important among these is DHA, but your brain also actually needs cholesterol-a substantial percentage of your brain is the cholesterol lining and protecting the neurons that make up the white matter in your brain.

DHA truly is brain food, but managing your diet makes DHA work well. Paying attention to the rest of your diet will give you maximum results from your DHA supplements.

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