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Brain Foods Week 2

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” - Jim John

Whether we realize or not, many aspects of an everyday life expose our brains to many dangerous chemicals. If you have ever walked by someone smoking on the streets, been exposed to radiation, lived in an environment with high levels of pollen, eaten a diet filled with sugar and processed food, consumed alcohol, or been around pollution, then your brain has been put under something called oxidative stress. I am going to take a wild guess and say that all of you fall under at least one, if not many, of these categories. In simple terms, oxidative stress is when free radicals get in our brains and try to counteract antioxidants, essentially damaging our cells. Thankfully, there are foods out there with natural nutrients built to combat this stress. This week’s focus is on an important vitamin that does just that: Vitamin E.

As an antioxidant, Vitamin E’s purpose is to assist with damage control within the brain and boost our immune system. Our neurons are made up of fats, which allow us to transmit messages over long distances. We need these fats to be present and functional at all times; the better condition they are in, the better our brain can communicate. But when we expose ourselves to any of the inevitable environments I described above, our neurons are put under a lot of stress and risk getting damaged. So what do we do about this?? No one wants to hole up in their room for the rest of their lives, so thankfully, there are natural stress relievers: foods with Vitamin E.

Some of the best sources of Vitamin E include almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, avocados, or any dark leafy green vegetable. Since Vitamin E works to prevent damage of the fatty parts of our cells, it is no surprise that this nutrient is commonly found in foods with healthy fats. These may not be the most common foods in everyone’s daily diet, so lots of companies have started fortifying common products with Vitamin E – it is just that important. When we eat foods with natural sources of Vitamin E, we give our brains a chance to repair the fatty parts of our neurons (in charge of insulating and faster transmission between cells).

Not only does this important vitamin boost our brain’s everyday health, but it can also help with our overall immune system. Without adequate levels of this Vitamin E, we are only giving our bodies an uphill battle when it comes to fighting off various infections or preventing more serious inflammations such as blood clots. Additionally, as our brain ages, it naturally experiences damages and oxidative stress. We cannot avoid this, so the best thing we can do to attempt and counteract this stress is to ensure we are the proper dosage of Vitamin E to assist with damage control. While there are no definitive conclusions, there are correlations between vitamin E levels and prevention or later onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

We have all experienced the frustrating brain fog or felt like we aren’t able to work as efficiently as we would like. There is nothing worse than sitting at your desk and watching the clock tick, yet getting nothing done. Besides outside variables, this inefficiency is probably because you either just ate a meal filled with processed and refined chemicals, or that you didn’t eat a meal in the first place. If your brain is filled with lots of unnatural chemicals, or worse, if you brain doesn’t have the energy it needs, you are only putting yourself at risk for higher levels of stress. This doesn’t mean you should never eat junk food ever again – for other reasons, I will later argue that normal levels of dessert and processed food are not harmful. However, if you do, make sure to do your brain a favor and give it a little extra boost by grabbing a handful of nuts to get your Vitamin E. And if you fall in the second category where you don’t have enough food in your system to begin with, then healthy fats such as omega-3 fats from last week or nuts with Vitamin E are a great place to start.

Essentially, if we wanted to prevent ever getting sick in today’s fast-paced world, that would pretty much look like never leaving your house and living a life alone. No one wants this. However, what comes with our hectic lives is an increased risk to oxidative stress in our brains. To combat this, as well as give our immune system a boost, make sure to get your daily dose of Vitamin E. So grab a handful of nuts for a snack or incorporate spinach into dinner – your body (especially your brain) will thank you. See you next week.

Betsy Blitch, 3/2/2020

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