Olive oil may help preserve memory
Elena Veselova/ShutterstockOIive oil is also an important part of the Mediterranean diet, and more new research has shown how that specific ingredient may boost the brain's memory powers. (Here's how olive oil staves off Alzheimer's.) "A recent study found that compounds in extra-virgin olive oil may reduce brain inflammation as well as activate a process in which cells break down and remove debris and toxins," Palinski-Wade says. "This process fights against the buildup of plaque and neurofibrillary tangles, which are suspected to contribute to the symptoms of Alzheimer's." She recommends replacing animal-based fats with monounsaturated fat, like olive oil, to provide another layer of protection for brain health.
More food for thought
mubus7/ShutterstockWhat other foods can benefit brain health? Among the best brain foods is salmon, rich in omega-3s. "DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids from marine sources have been found to be protective to the brain and contribute to improved memory function in older adults," Palinski-Wade says. In addition, she says foods rich in vitamin C have been shown to reduce the impact of stress hormones, which can have negative effects on the brain. The overall message is to eat whole, healthy foods. "A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low in sodium, such as the DASH diet protocol, appears to be beneficial to the brain as it can help to reduce blood pressure, improve vascular health, and provide a diet rich in antioxidants that can be protective to neurons in the brain," Palinski-Wade says. Don't miss the other best foods for boosting brain health.
Certain foods are bad for brain health
Mihajlo Ckovric/ShutterstockOne ingredient that can be bad for the brain is sugar. Although your noggin needs glucose to function, too much has been shown to have detrimental effects. "Avoiding large amounts of added sugar is also key to brain health," Palinski-Wade says. "Even in teens, just one soda per day was associated with a decline in test scores." In addition, too much sugar may accelerate aging of cells, according to Harvard Medical School. Diabetes, a high-glucose disorder, is also associated with negative consequences for brain function and can lead to cognitive difficulties. Here are more of the worst foods for your brain.
Food cravings come from the brain
Nataliya Arzamasova/ShutterstockFor anyone who's ever indulged in comfort food or "emotional eating," it's clear that the brain has something to do with the foods we crave. But, it may be more chemical in nature than we realize. "Certain amino acids are responsible for the creation of neurotransmitters in the brain, which impact mood," Palinski-Wade says. "A depressed mood or high stress levels may trigger your brain to 'crave' foods that can produce feel-good chemicals such as serotonin to elevate mood, such as chocolate." But, cravings may also have psychological ties—other research has found that the pleasant memories and feel-good hormones produced by "comfort foods" leads to a conditioned response of craving them.
Helmets don't prevent concussions
Foryoui3/ShutterstockAccording to the Weill Cornell Concussion and Brain Injury Clinic, helmets don't actually stop the brain from banging around inside your skull, which is the cause of a concussion. But many people don't realize this—one survey found that only a quarter of Americans understand that helmets can't prevent concussions. Although studies show that football helmets aren't very effective at reducing concussion rates, some companies are designing new ones they say work better. As for right now, what is the point of wearing one? Helmets prevent skull fractures, which injure your brain as well.Here are more concussion myths every parent must know.
Brain health may start in the gut
Purino/ShutterstockScience is uncovering more and more info about how the bacteria in our gut, known as the microbiome, affects the brain. "Although we still have much to learn about the microbiome, animal studies indicate that gut bacteria may impact everything from mood to anxiety levels and even impact our response to stress," Palinski-Wade says. "Since diet has a direct impact on gut bacteria, a diet rich in prebiotics and probiotics may help to alter gut health to favorably impact mood and fight against depression and anxiety." Chemicals in gut bacteria may even have an influence on autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, according to research. Learn the signs you have an unhealthy gut.
High blood pressure affects brain function
Voraorn Ratanakorn/ShutterstockSince healthy brain function is linked with blood flow to the brain, it might not be surprising that studies show high blood pressure has a negative effect on cognition—as well as an increased risk for dementia and stroke. This is another reason to adopt a healthy diet and exercise regimen. "Regular exercise improves cardiovascular function and reduces blood pressure, which may help to protect the brain against damage that may increase dementia risk," Palinski-Wade says.
Your brain can register subliminal messages
aithie/ShutterstockSubliminal messages—brief words or pictures flashed on a screen quicker than the conscious mind can perceive—were first used in advertising in the 1950s, but were later banned. Although the validity of subliminal messages has been up for debate, some recent studies suggest they may be effective. In a Yale study, older participants' self-perceptions and physical function improved after viewing a series of positive messages about aging. In another study, athletes were able to exercise longer when given subliminal motivating messages. Don't miss these other 30 mind-blowing facts about the brain.
Intuition is a real thing
Jacob Lund/ShutterstockWhen you think you have a "gut feeling," are you just imagining it? Turns out, there's something to it. According to research, these hunches are the result of our brain storing, processing, and receiving information without our conscious mind realizing it. This intuition may rely on past experiences and external cues to form a quick reaction. The Office of Naval Research is even in the middle of a scientific project to understand the mechanisms behind instinct in order to improve Marines' and Sailors' ability to make split-second decisions. Find out how to tap into your own intuition.
But ESP is not a real thing
Max4e Photo/ShutterstockSo if our hunches are real, does that mean ESP (extra-sensory perception) is? Not quite. According to a Gallup poll, 41 percent of Americans believe in ESP, which includes mind-reading, knowing things that are happening far away, and the ability to foresee the future. But no real scientific evidence for ESP has been found. Harvard researchers recently put ESP to a modern test—brain imaging—to see if participant's brains reacted differently to ESP "stimuli" (such as a loved one in another room looking at the same photograph participants were). Their MRIs shows no difference. But you can get a healthy brain with these herbs.