Do you ever stop to wonder about your brain and how it functions? Or the ways you can improve your brain power. Higher levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) are associated with increased intelligence, mood, productivity, and memory along with decreased risks of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s & Parkinson’s. All it takes are just a few simple steps to increase your brain capacity.
3 steps that help to increase brainpower:
Numerous studies support the link between movement, especially high intensity exercise and increased BDNF and cognition.
Take action: Start with walking more and progress to intense exercise. Getting outside and exercising in the sun is a bonus. Pick a compound lift in a rep range of 8-10 that you can increase the weight and volume on or pick a distance to run, sprint or bike in the 30 second-2 minute range that you can beat.
Foods and natural supplementation
Eat more nutrient-dense colored foods and fat. Greens are great because of the b-vitamins and magnesium, curcumin, blueberries, cacao, and grapes which all support brain power.
Make sure to incorporate quality fats, especially Omega 3’s in your diet. The best studied way to get more omega 3s is to include oily fish in your regime. Other plant based options of omega 3s, can also be found in walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds.
Take action: Diversify your foods and make sure you are getting an adequate amount of omega 3’s. Speaking of greens, green tea has been shown to improve brain function because of the catechins. Sip up, or consider using tea as a base for smoothies.
Use your brain and connect
Studies show that richer social environments lead to increased neurotrophic activity. Women who are friendlier to strangers also have higher BDNF levels. Collect friends, be social and friendly, as people with healthier social lives live longer.
Take action: If you suffer from anxiety, push yourself outside your comfort zone and try starting a conversation with a stranger – even if it’s just the cashier at the supermarket. Join a meet up group or drop in a new class.
3 things that limit and block brain power:
Stress is one of the biggest BDNF inhibitors. You’re constantly bombarded with work, advertisements, information, pollution, artificial lighting, and all kinds of other stimuli that tax your biology.
Take action: Make it a part of your day to manage your stress. A few options are quality sleep, are you getting at least 7 hours of sleep. Try to meditate, be grateful and get outside.
Eating sugar, fructose in particular, directly curbs BDNF production and links to cognitive decline. Avoid processed foods, refined sugars, and stick to natural/real foods as often as possible for optimal brain functioning.
Take action: Swap sugar for a better alternative like real whole fruit or a sweetener like stevia or monk fruit.
Lack of meaningful mental stimulation leads to lower BDNF levels. Social isolation also contributes to depression, which decreases BDNF.
Take action: Make it a point to spend time with friends regularly; the complex richness of social interaction challenges your brain and keeps it adaptable.
Early social enrichment shapes social behavior and nerve growth factor and brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels in the adult mouse brain. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16533499
Jason Sani is the author of Making Healthy Taste Good. He is a trained and licensed Culinary Nutritionist that has worked in the athletics and sports medicine industry for over 10 years. Jason practices what he preaches and leads an energetic lifestyle by example. His focus is Nutrition and training towards the active population. Jason is a resource of inspiration while spreading energy in and out of the mind and body. Follow him on Instagram: @jasonsani