“Eat for the Brain,” a continuation of the series

During This Time of COVID-19 Mental Fitness is Imperative, 

And So is Your Dietary Health

“Own the tempest!  Life is a series of storms and calms.  Both can be enough to change a person’s course, but neither can exist indefinitely.”

This is the last in my series on mental fitness for Boomers, during this extraordinary time of enduring the coronavirus.  There is so much we can do to prevent contracting this disease.  The standard answer continues to be sheltering.  But when we do venture out we need to be social distancing, wearing our masks, donning disposable gloves, frequently washing and washing our hands, wiping down hard surfaces with disinfectants, etc.  That’s the “stand-back” and don’t get exposed part of the equation.  But honestly there is more to it than that.  It’s called getting through each day and week because our normal activities are no longer the normal of the past, they are the new normal, and we need to make the best of it and adapt accordingly.  And to get through it we need mental toughness and mental fitness.

It’s never too late to start a new beginning.

“When the hardest storms hit, it can be all too easy to get caught up in it and forget that the calm will eventually return.  Remember that you too are a force of nature—also ever-changing with the inner strength to navigate each squall.  Embrace the next storm, and then be the coming calm.”

My series on mental fitness has been designed to strengthen your brain power with helpful hints on supporting brain health, cognitive health, brain circulation, memory and retention, the reduction in age-related memory decline, stress reduction, and sharpened focus through various forms of exercise and most recently what you should be eating to improve your brain power and peak mental performance.

I can assure you we need all the above to navigate this new world of ours.  So let’s examine a few of the dietary recommendations by experts in addition to my own experiences, starting with where I left off with my last blog.

SEAFOOD.  Last week I began with a discussion on the benefits of eating seafood.  Ah, the magic of what seafood brings to the table and your overall health.  According to the FDA, we should all be eating more fish, somewhere in the range of 8-12 ounces per week because it is a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.  But one question surrounds the issue of fish and that is, which ones and what kind should we be eating.  It’s important to choose wisely.  The health benefits are widely known, but the consequences of eating the wrong seafood can be devastating, namely the pros and cons of eating certain fish.

Since the benefits of eating fish are fairly well-known, I am not planning to delve into all that medical science, rather I simply want to use this forum to point out that certain seafoods can be better for your health, than others.  Because of the increasing and undisputable dangerous levels of mercury in the oceans, particularly the Pacific, you might wish to consider the following as suitable and safe seafood choices:

  • Anchovies, Atlantic Mackerel, Atlantic Salmon, Catfish, Clams, Cod, Crab, Flounder, Haddock, Halibut, Herring, Lobster, Mahi-Mahi, Oysters, Sardines, Scallops, Shrimp, Snapper, and Sole.

A number of fish varieties that you might wish to avoid due to the potential for higher levels of mercury contamination might include:

  • King Mackerel, Marlin, Orange Roughy, Shark, Swordfish, and Blue Fin and Big Eye Tuna (Ahi).  

Fish is an excellent addition to most diets, and if we stay informed about our choices they will pose little risk to our health.  All of us sushi eaters might want to consider substituting salmon for the ahi tuna.

One other word of caution, you will note I did not mention one of our all-time contemporary favorites—tilapia.  It is a tremendous source of protein and they are extremely low in fat, however, they have an unusually low contribution of omega-3’s.  Some of the tilapia that we purchase might have been bioengineered or genetically engineered and farm raised, designed specifically to make them bigger, stronger and more appealing.  To protect your own health, be sure to look for “non-GMO” claims on the label along with “sustainably sourced” often accompanied with the words Ocean Wise attached to the packaging.

And last but not least is the issue of wild-caught salmon.  It turns out about 40% of the salmon advertised as ‘wild-caught’ is fraudulently labeled, because it is actually factory farm-raised fish.  I think most of us are happy to pay more for a better product, and when we buy fish advertised as ‘wild-caught’ it better be what we pay for. The demand for wild-caught is increasing, and unfortunately so is the prevalence of labeling fraud.  A few things to keep in mind when buying this product:  1) wild-caught is in season during the “r-less” months of May, June, July, and August—if you’re buying in a month where there is an “r” such as September through April, it is likely farmed; 2) the price of true wild-caught salmon should be over $20 per pound, it’s not a bargain if the price is lower because it’s probably farmed fish; and 3) wild-caught salmon is usually many different colors from deeper oranges and reds, rather than the consistent pink which is a dye used in factory farmed filets.  

Bottom line:  add seafood to your diet, be selective about which you choose, and you will undoubtedly improve your brain health and fitness.  

AVOCADOS.  A terrific source of heartful, unsaturated fat that supports the brain.  Eating mono-unsaturated fats can reduce blood pressure which if on the high side can be linked with cognitive decline.  Other sources of unsaturated fats include almonds, cashews, flaxseed, chia seeds, soybeans, sunflower seeds, walnuts and brazil nuts.

PEANUTS.  A legume with an excellent nutritional profile.  They contain unsaturated fats and protein to keep your energy level at peak performance throughout the day.  They also provide key vitamins and minerals to keep the brain healthy and functioning, namely Vitamin E and resveratrol, a non-flavonoid antioxidant which may help to prevent inflammations and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  

EGGS.   Just think about starting your day with a truly effective brain food.  Eggs are a great source of Vitamin B-6, B-12 and Folic Acid.  Recent research suggests that these vitamins may prevent brain shrinkage and delay cognitive decline.  Bring on the eggs, and more eggs.  So sad that at one time they got such a bad rap.

BROCCOLI.  As well as being a low-calorie source of dietary fiber, broccoli may be good for the brain because it is rich in compounds called glucosinolates.  When the body breaks down these compounds, they produce isothiocyanates which have been shown to help reduce stress and lower the risk of degenerative neurological diseases.  Broccoli also contains Vitamin C and flavonoids which can further boost a person’s brain health.  Other cruciferous vegetables that contain glucosinolates include Brussel sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips and kale, sometimes considered a contemporary super-food.

SOY PRODUCTS.  Soy ingredients continue to grow in popularity due to their high protein-rich content.  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (“DGA”) also recognized soy for its valuable content of fiber, magnesium and zinc, and the DGA went on to say they recommended consuming 8 oz per week of soy beverages and products as part of a healthy eating pattern.  Several examples include edamame, soymilk and yogurt, soy nuts and soy protein bars.  According to research has linked soy to reducing dementia and improved cognitive abilities when part of a regular soy-based diet.

You can cook with turmeric, you can add the dry powder to your smoothies, or you can take it in tablet form. I think turmeric might be available in gummies, but I have yet to find them.

TUMERIC.  This is the last in my current list of products good for brain health.  Tumeric is a spice which is rich in curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory substance.  In a recent study, people without dementia who took 90 mg twice a day showed better memory and attention focused behavior compared with those who took a placebo.  Curcumin might be the reason why people who eat a great deal of Indian food with spicy curry tend to perform better on cognitive tests, and why rates of Alzheimer’s are lower in India than in the U.S., says Gary W. Small, M.D., Director of the UCLA Longevity Center who led the study.  

As for me, I found a “two-fer.”  I take turmeric not only because of the purported effects it has on brain health, but I can tell you with great certainty it has helped me with my rheumatoid arthritis.  Several nurses told me about its therapeutic effects and it has worked wonders for my pain, dexterity and mobility.  For me, it’s a wonder-supplement that is now part of my daily regimen.

Supplements may be needed to help offset various dietary deficiencies.  As a point of reference, before you take any supplement, first check with your doctor!

Be sure to check with your doctor first before taking supplements or vitamins.

My BoomerGuy and I take additional supplements for our mental fitness and heart, both of which are required to write these blogs (just kidding!).  Here is the reason behind our endeavor–because it’s important for us to share with you what we have found through our research in addition to what we have used successfully throughout these years. 

Moreover, the purpose of this writing is to inform you of various recommendations that we hope can provide you with more mental fitness to brave this new world of COVID-19 and the uncertainties that accompany it.  Not all of these suggestions are necessary and perhaps some are not appropriate for your life-style, but my goal is to inspire you to be better every day, even if it means taking baby steps to get you there.  Our new normal might just include some of the recommendations made above, and quite possibly, they could or will make a difference in your life and mental well-being.  

I wish I would have known about all of these studies and contributions years ago…maybe they could have helped me more, and perhaps they could have helped my father, who has been suffering from dementia and early Alzheimer’s for a number of years.  As a result, we finally had to admit him to a skilled nursing facility where he has been a resident for the past 2 1/2 years.  So sad.

Phew!  I know this has been a bit heavy, but that’s exactly what we’re experiencing with this pandemic, and everyone with whom I communicate feels like they are in a ‘brain fog’ as a result.  Our immediate future is so uncertain because the ground rules are constantly changing, and they most definitely continue to alter our new normal requiring us to be diligent and mentally fit to weather these storms.  That is why it was important for me to reach out and share this information.  My website is completely focused on inspiration and health and wellness for Boomers and seniors of all ages.  

The recommendations in the SEAFOOD section of this blog come from a reliable source by the name of Wellness Pursuits and are not the invention nor creation of the author.  They have been passed along to the reader for the purpose of helping you make informed decisions and choices about your health.

Editorial contribution by

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