How to Make Choices that Boost Your Brain Power - Common Sense Living Newsletter
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How to Make Choices that Boost Your Brain Power

Mar 04, 2017

How to Make Choices that Boost Your Brain Power 

Dear Reader,

In her inspiring TED talk, You Can Grow New Brain Cells. Here's How, neural stem cell researcher Sandrine Thuret discusses her fascinating research.

For years, we've all learned that you can't grow new brain cells. That claim is 100% false, she explains.

In fact, our brains produce 700 new neurons per day. That means, by the time we are 50, we will have exchanged all the neurons in our brains with a completely new set.

In other words, the brain you have today is not the brain you had as a child. These neurons affect everything from our mood to our cognitive ability. And it turns out our brains don't just reproduce these neurons at a flat, consistent rate.

Instead, their rate of production ("neurogenesis") is closely tied to our life activities. Learning, for example, increases neurogenesis. So, too, does a healthy diet and activity.

Stress, sleep deprivation, and alcohol all decrease neurogenesis. All of this is to say your mind doesn't control your life. Instead, your life controls your mind.

Like getting your body in shape, the brain also requires two things: food and exercise. We had once created a great list on how to improve your memory. Read it below...

Brain Food: What to Eat and What Not to Eat

  1. Get Omega 3: What goes into your mouth can really affect what goes on in your brain. I've often heard people refer to fish as 'brain food.' I was never sure whether that was an old wives' thing, like drinking chai makes you darker, and sneezing before leaving the house is bad luck. But I found that oily fish like salmon, tuna, herring, etc. are brain food because of the omega 3 fatty acids they contain. If you eat fish just once each week there is a 60% reduction in the possibility of getting Alzheimers. Maybe Bengalis are brainy for a reason, bring on the hilsa fish...

    If fish is not for you, Omega 3's can be found in other sources such as: flax seeds (just munch on a spoonful of whole seeds; or sprinkle powdered flax in your daals and soups); walnuts; soybeans; eggs; and cauliflowers.
  2. Haldi: Yes, good old turmeric. If you are not already using it in your curries and vegetables, you should do so now. Research shows that a chemical called curcumin in turmeric can boost memory and stimulate the creation of new brain cells. And cooking it with black pepper makes it a thousand times more effective. We are fortunate because it's a part of our food culture already, so let's use that to our advantage.
  3. Lycopene: A powerful antioxidant that protects against memory loss. Research shows that lycopene can protect against free radical damage in cells which can speed up dementia. Tomatoes are the go-to lycopene source, but you can also find it in other pink/peach fruits such as papaya, watermelon, grapefruit, etc.
  4. Flavanols: Don't guilt yourself for your chai breaks - they're helping your brain. I know sometimes my brain doesn't function very well until I've had my morning cup of chai. I say this as a joke, but compounds found in both green and black tea are good for your brain. All tea blocks the destruction of neurotransmitters, green tea especially.

    And so does dark chocolate (and I'm not just saying this to give myself an excuse to eat it - one study showed that 60-year olds who drank flavanol-rich chocolate for three months were functioning at the brain capacity of 30-40 year olds!)
  5. Here's What Not to Eat: Memory killing foods. Anything deep fried. Surprised? Of course you're not, we already know samosas are generally unhealthy (yes, yes, I know, they are still yummy... once in a while though, ok?). Also most processed foods - things from packets that may have preservatives can send toxins to your brain; foods high in saturated fats such as cheese; and also avoid anything with nitrates such as beer. So beer belly is not your main reason to cut down anymore.

Brain Training: Exercise Your Brain

  1. Learning something new keeps your brain size intact. Your brain actually starts shrinking sometime after you hit your thirties, and just keeps getting smaller after that. But you can keep your brain size, by learning! So take a class, pick up a new language, start playing chess, play a musical instrument, your brain will thank you.
  2. Keep your brain busy: Challenge your brain to keep it sharp. Mental activity of all kinds powers up your brain. They say that having conversations with children help their brain to develop faster, and that is true for adults as well. Engage in stimulating conversations and talk to new people to boost your brain. Other activities such as riddles, Sudoku and other brain teasers keep your brain in shape. Lumosity is an amazing free brain training app that you can use everyday to challenge and grow your brain - and people of all generations can play Lumosity games.
  3. Yoga: A double whammy in the brain game. Yoga, as we Indians have always known and the world has recently discovered, is brilliant. It doesn't just stretch our bodies, it stretches our brains as well, helping in two ways - the physical exercise can help to generate new brain cells; and its stress-relieving effects can prevent loss of brain cells. Pranayama, or yogic breathing, is particularly effective for the latter.
  4. Sleep enough: That's when your brain works best. Our brains don't sleep when we sleep - they work to assimilate everything that's happening in our lives, without the distractions of our lives. Adults need at least seven hours of sleep each night to perform at their cognitive best.
  5. Don't multitask! Unless you want a smaller brain. Research now shows that multitasking makes you stupider, specifically media multitasking where you are looking at multiple screens/devices at the same time. One University of London study shows that this can actually reduce your IQ (intelligence quotient) by ten points. I am all about the 'watch TV AND send emails AND write newsletters' type of multitasking. But I love my brain too much and this research is hopefully going to change my ANDs to ORs - focus on one thing at a time!

With the advances in medicine, we are now living longer than ever before. To enjoy that longer life you need a brain that lets you live fully - lets you stay independent, keep learning, keep working ... and most importantly, play with your grandchildren.

You can stay young your whole life if your brain is in shape. So don't just nod at these ideas in agreement, and then move on. These are all easy doable steps that will make a marked difference in your brain functioning.

If you don't believe me, try this now:

Sit up straight, close your eyes, and take one deep breath counting up to five. Then release that breath slowly counting to ten, and open your eyes.

Big improvements don't take as much time or effort as we think. Did this one deep breath clear your head, untie your knots, and calm your stress? Then that's all it takes.

Note: This list was first published by Common Sense Living here.

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7 Responses to "How to Make Choices that Boost Your Brain Power"


26 Jul, 2017

This is great information will follow this

Like (1)

Ed Viswanathan

20 Jul, 2017

Very thought provoking as well as impressive ideas Anisa. Thank you very much. In my case, as an engineer and as well as the author of best sellers, I am finding doing things during "Brahma Muhutra " ( 3 am to 6 am) , as well as practicing HAMSA breathing exercise ( watching inhalation and exhalation without controlling breathing or chest movements) helps to boost brain power. Thanks again.

Sachin Kumar dedha

07 Mar, 2017

Very well written Anisa. I love these kind of self help articles but this was different in the sense that it was too simple not to follow. Keep writing these for all of  us WBC members.


05 Mar, 2017

Anisa, written with your usual flair, but even more so in this article. Inspiring, in addition to being informative. Many thanks. Just one point: re lycopene, the richest source is tomatoes, but do note that the lycopene in tomatoes is not as bioavailable for assimilation from raw tomatoes as from cooked ones. Cooking breaks its bonds to some other compounds and makes it free to be absorbed easily by the body. Best wishes.......

Like (1)

R K Agarwal

04 Mar, 2017

very good and helpful

Nem Chandra Singhal

04 Mar, 2017

It is a very informative article useful for everyone, particularly the older generation, who shy away to do anything related to memory/ brain/ mind exercise. I know many who are too lazy to learn something new but continue to repeat the older experiences. Thanks.

Like (1)

Chittranjan Bhati

04 Mar, 2017

Very informative. Appreciate giving local names of the fishes. Sea fishes or fresh water? Which is better?


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