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Power Foods for the Brain by Neal Barnard (2013): What to eat and foods to avoid

Power Foods for the Brain - book by Neal D Barnard MDPower Foods for the Brain (2013) is a book that suggests dietary guidelines, exercises, and lifestyle changes to strengthen your brain and reduce the risk of memory problems –

  • Vegan, plant-based – no meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, fish
  • Eat vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fruit
  • Very little fat – limited vegetable oil, limited nuts and seeds

Below is a description of the food recommendations in the book.  Brain-protecting foods | Foods that protect you from toxic metals | Foods that protect you from harmful fats and cholesterol | Foods that build your vitamin shield | Foods to help you sleep.  There’s a lot more in the book.

Get a copy of Power Foods for the Brain for the reason why power foods work, mental and physical exercises for your brain, sleep advice, medicines and health conditions that affect memory, and recipes

The reasoning behind Power Foods for the Brain

The book asks you to take three steps, the first one related to food. First, use power foods to give your brain the nutrition you need – to shield you from toxins, to provide natural fats essential for brain function, and to provide vitamins to knock out free radicals and other compounds that could damage brain cells. Second, exercise your brain. Third, address sleep disruptions and certain medications and medical conditions.

Power Foods for the Brain diet plan – food list

Brain-protecting foods | Foods that protect you from toxic metals | Foods that protect you from harmful fats and cholesterol | Foods that build your vitamin shield | Foods to help you sleep

Brain-protecting foods

Foods to eat to protect your brain

  • Eat a plant-based diet
  • Favor organic produce
    • Especially for fruits and vegetables that are often doused with pesticides – peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuce, grapes, carrots, and pears
    • Less necessary for disease-resistant crops that are less often chemically treated – onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, mangoes, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, papaya, watermelon, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes
    • If the PLU number on the sticker stars with a 9, it’s organic
  • Power plate – ¼ vegetables, ¼ whole grains, ¼ legumes, ¼ fruit
  • As you plan your dinner, start with vegetables
    • Have generous amounts
    • Have more than one
    • It’s great to have fresh greens any time of day, whether in a salad, as a side dish, or perhaps added to a smoothie
    • Cruciferous vegetables have special anti-cancer benefit (bok choy, broccoli, broccoli rabe/rapini, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, turnip greens, watercress). If you don’t like bitter vegetables, spritz them with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
    • Alfalfa sprouts, arugula, asparagus, bean sprouts, cabbage, red cabbage, carrots, celery, chiles, corn, cucumber, eggplant, garlic, green onions, fennel, jicama, lettuce (all types), Mexican gray squash, mushrooms (all types, including button, enoki, oyster, shiitake), onion, peas, peppers (all types), plantains, potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, sprouts, sweet potato, swiss chard, summer squash, tomatillos, tomato, water chestnuts, zucchini
  • Next, add a whole grain
    • Rice, pasta, corn, or, if you prefer, a starchy root vegetable like sweet potatoes
    • Barley, oats, quinoa, brown rice
    • Corn grits, polenta
    • Whole-grain bread, whole-grain pita, whole-grain pasta, whole-grain tortillas, whole-wheat gnocchi
    • Couscous, rice noodles
    • Granola
  • Then add something from the legume group
    • Beans – low-sodium – e.g. black beans, cannellini / white kidney beans, garbanzo beans/chickpeas, pinto beans, red beans, white beans, vegetarian refried beans
    • Peas
    • Lentils
    • Any food made from beans, like tofu, tempeh, or hummus
  • Finally, add some fresh fruit
    • Either as dessert or as a between-meal snack
    • Apples, bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, grapes, honeydew, kiwis, mangos, lemons, limes, orange, peaches, pineapple, pomegranate, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon
    • Dried apricots, dried cranberries, currants, dates, raisins
  • Have about 1 modest handful per day of nuts or seeds
    • Almonds, peanuts, pecans, walnuts
    • Flaxseeds, flaxseed meal, pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
  • Cholesterol-lowering foods
    • Oats, beans, barley, soy, almonds and walnuts, cholesterol-lowering margarines such as Benecol Light (make sure fatty products are used sparingly)
  • Choosing the best carbs
    • Natural and unprocessed, e.g. brown rice rather than white rice, whole grain products
    • Low glycemic index (especially if you have diabetes, weight problems, or high triglycerides). Some surprises include that pasta, even white flour pasta, has a low GI. Choose rye and pumpernickel bread over white and wheat breads, yams and sweet potatoes over white baking potatoes, bran cereal or oatmeal over most cold cereals
  • Other ingredients in the recipes
    • Baking ingredients: almond extract, unsweetened applesauce, apricot preserves, all-fruit jam, aluminum-free baking powder, baking soda, barley flour, buckwheat flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, cornstarch, sea salt, whole-wheat pastry flour, pure vanilla extract
    • Condiments and pantry: Bragg liquid aminos, chili paste, chipotles in adobo sauce, light coconut milk, low-sodium vegetable broth, hoisin sauce, hot sauce (e.g. habanero, sriracha, Tabasco), ketchup, olives, low-sodium pizza sauce, salsa, reduced-sodium soy sauce, fat-free spaghetti sauce, reduced-sodium tamari, sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), tomato paste, vinegar (apple cider, balsamic, brown rice, red wine, rice, white wine, etc.)
    • Ener-G Egg Replacer
    • Beverages: almond milk, rice milk, soy milk
    • Sweeteners: agave nectar, maple syrup, molasses
    • Spices: allspice, black pepper, cardamom, cayenne pepper, chili powder, Chinese five-sprice, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, garlic powder, ginger, mustard, nutmeg, onion powder, paprika, pumpkin pie spice, saffron, turmeric
    • Herbs: basil, bay leaf, cilantro, Italian seasoning, lemongrass, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme

Foods to avoid or limit to protect your brain

  • Limit vegetable fats – corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, and so on
  • Avoid animal products completely – including meat, poultry, fish, and dairy
  • Avoid foods that give you cravings – sugar, chocolate, cheese, meat

Foods that shield you from toxic metals

Copper, iron, and zinc are clearly present in the beta-amyloid plaques of Alzheimer’s disease. Copper and iron appear to spark the production of free radicals that damage brain cells. Zinc aggressively forms plaques.

Foods to eat to avoid toxic metals

  • Eat plants, as they provide nutrition and are unlikely to contain metals in excessive amounts
  • Eat simple foods, such as produce, that are unlikely to have added ingredients which may be harmful
  • Choose cookware that is free of copper and iron on cooking surfaces.
  • Check your tap water for safety. If you are unsure about your tap water, bottled springwater may be a better choice. Some home water-filter units (such as reverse osmosis systems) effectively remove aluminum. If you have copper plumbing, use tap water for household use but not for cooking or drinking
  • Copper
    • Daily allowance is 0.9 milligram
    • Healthful sources include beans, green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and mushrooms
  • Iron
    • Daily allowance is 8 milligrams for adult men and women over 50; 18 milligrams for women between 19-50
    • Healthful sources include green leafy vegetables, beans, whole grains, and dried fruits
  • Zinc
    • Daily allowance is 1 milligrams for men, 8 milligrams for women
    • Healthful sources include oatmeal, whole-grain bread, brown rice, peanuts, beans, nuts, peas, and sesame seeds
  • Aluminum
    • Use aluminum-free baking powder
    • Minimize your use of tea, as the tea plant draws minerals from the soil, and aluminum tends to concentrate in the leaves
    • When using aluminum foil, keep it from touching any acidic foods
    • Avoid aluminum cans – the longer soda sits in the can, the more aluminum passes into it. Bottles may be safer, and quitting soda altogether is the best idea

Foods to avoid or limit for toxic metals

  • Avoid meat, as it contains concentrated iron that animals have stored
  • Especially avoid organ meats (e.g. liver) and shellfish), as they are loaded with metals
  • Aluminum
    • Err on the side of caution – avoid it to the extent that you can
    • Don’t use regular baking powder – choose aluminum-free baking powder
    • Skip processed foods such as pizza because of the fat and cholesterol in the meat and cheese toppings; many brands also have aluminum in the cheese and/or crust
    • Skip single-serve creamers and salt packets, as they often contain sodium aluminosilicate, an anti-caking agent that keeps them pourable
    • Check the labels on pickle relish, as some contain aluminum

Foods that protect you from harmful fats and cholesterol

Foods to eat to protect you from harmful fats and cholesterol

  • Eat low-fat plant-based foods
    • The healthiest diets exclude animal products completely
  • Eat foods rich in omega-3 ALA-rich plant-based foods
    • Vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds

Foods to avoid or limit to protect you from harmful fats and cholesterol

  • Limit or avoid cooking oils as they are high in omega-6 fats
    • Safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil, grapeseed oil
  • Avoid saturated fat
    • Dairy products – e.g. cheese, ice cream, butter, milk
    • Meats – e.g. chicken, sausage, burgers, roast beef
    • (No discussion of plant-based saturated fats such as coconut oil, palm oil)
  • Avoid partially hydrogenated oil / trans fat
    • Found in pastries, snack foods, and french fries
  • Avoid fish
    • Shellfish have more cholesterol than red meat
    • Methylmercury and other pollutants are found in many species of fish

Foods that build your vitamin shield

Foods to eat to build your vitamin shield

  • Vitamin E
    • This is an antioxidant
    • Traces are found in broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes, mangoes, avocados
    • Much more is found in nuts and seeds, especially almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and flaxseed
    • Use seeds lightly – as an ingredient, rather than as a snack food that you might eat all by itself
  • Folate
    • Recommended dietary allowance for adults is 400 micrograms
    • Find it in foods with foliage – broccoli, spinach, asparagus, and other green leafy vegetables (I’m not sure why broccoli and asparagus are listed as leafy vegetables)
    • Also find it in beans, peas, citrus fruits, cantaloupes
    • Many grain products are also fortified with it: bread, breakfast cereals, flour, pasta, and rice
  • Vitamin B6
    • Recommended dietary allowance is 1.3 milligrams for adults up to age 50, 1.5 milligrams for women over 50, and 1.7 milligrams for men over age 50
    • Find it in whole grains, green vegetables, beans, sweet potatoes, bananas, and nuts
  • Vitamin B12
    • Recommended dietary allowance for adults is 2.4 micrograms
    • Find it in fortified products, such as breakfast cereals or fortified soy milk
    • It is also found in animal-derived products, but the absorption from supplements and fortified foods is much better
  • Fruits and vegetables
    • Orange fruits and vegetables have the most heart-protecting power – e.g. carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, butternut squash, and their botanical cousins
    • Apples and pears are standouts at preventing stroke
    • Berries, including cranberry juice and blueberries, contain antioxidants and other compounds that counter inflammation
    • Concord grape juice may improve learning ability and moderately boost short-term memory

Foods to avoid or limit to build your vitamin shield

  • If you drink alcohol, the best advice is to have it modestly and intermittently as opposed to every day
  • Caffeine’s effects vary from person to person. There are conflicting studies about coffee and Alzheimer’s disease

Build memory power as you sleep

Foods to eat to help you sleep

  • Eat protein in the morning to stay alert – e.g. beans and soy products, such as veggie sausage, veggie bacon, or scrambled tofu. Have high-protein foods first, and starchier foods second
  • For dinner, eat more starches, such as rice, pasta, and bread
  • Switch to still water in the evening to make it less likely you’ll overdo it

Foods to avoid or limit to help you sleep

  • Caffeine is a sleep destroyer – breaking the caffeine habit may also make your thinking clearer. If you must drink it, do so in the morning as the half-life of caffeine is about 6 hours
  • Avoid protein in the evening
  • Drink a bit less water in the evening
  • Cut back on salty foods

Health benefits claimed in Power Foods for the Brain

The diet in this book claims to reduce the risks for: Alzheimer’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia, memory lapses, mild cognitive impairment, multiple sclerosis, stroke, vascular dementia As always, this is not intended to be a replacement for professional medical diagnosis or treatment for a medical condition. Consult your doctor before starting a new diet. This page describes what the authors of the diet recommend – Chewfo is describing the diet only, not endorsing it.

Get a copy of Power Foods for the Brain for the reason why power foods work, mental and physical exercises for your brain, sleep advice, medicines and health conditions that affect memory, and recipes
Buy now from Amazon
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