5 Foods for Concentration, Memory & Mood

By Ashlyn Hlafka and Kassandra Emery

Occupational Therapy is a health care profession that focuses on the meaningful activities that each of us does every day. We can’t function on a daily basis if we don’t feel like our normal selves.

So, if you’re feeling hungry, stressed or tired, here are five suggested brain foods to get you back on track!

But, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about just what brain foods are exactly. According to Be Brain Fit, brain foods are the types of foods that contain all of the building blocks to properly and adequately nourish your brain to keep you alert, aware, and at ease. Specifically, these foods will be:

  1. High in nutrients to create, protect, and repair damaged brain cells,
  2. Provide a supply of chemical building blocks that translate messages within the brain, and
  3. Are rich in essential nutrients that affect susceptibility to mental disorders today and degenerative brain diseases down the road.

1. Sea Vegetables

This forgotten food commonly enjoyed as sushi has quite a few benefits for the body and mind, but the top two benefits for memory and mood are the content of taurine and inositol.

  • “Nature’s Valium,” also known as the neurotransmitter GABA, is released by taurine. This inhibits anxious feelings during times of stress, like midterms or major life changes.
  • Inositol acts like the Blackboard of the brain – it connects the dots between information just as Bb connects students to teachers. Neurotransmitters, the chemical Gmail of the brain, rely upon inositol to relay important messages.

2. Walnuts

Feeling nutty for trying brain foods? Well, walnuts are just the snack for you!

A specific study has found that eating walnuts improves reflex reactions as well as your ability to learn new things and remember old knowledge. This can be especially helpful when trying to remember what you learned the first week of the semester before taking a final.

Walnuts also are one of the few foods that contain a natural supply of serotonin, which can elevate your mood on a rainy day.

3. Turmeric

This spice can be added as extra flavoring to anything you decide to cook, and if you still live at home, your mom probably has some turmeric in the spice cabinet.

One of the amazing properties of turmeric is that it is often described as a natural version of Prozac, a common anti-depressant. So if you feel overwhelmed but are concerned about the side effects of most anti-depressant medications, you might try adding turmeric to a few meals a week. Turmeric is a safe spice that will not have negative effects on the body when used for long periods of time, even indefinitely.

Originating from India, we see that Indian seniors display some of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s in the world – possibly due to a regular intake of turmeric in their diets. Curcumin, an active compound within turmeric, increases the brain’s production of BDNF, which can break up brain plaques that are thought to be related or even cause Alzheimer’s.

4. Olive Oil

Olive oil, while seemingly a fatty substance, actually contains monounsaturated fats as well as vitamins E and K, all of which are known to support memory. Olive oil also increases the levels of BDNF in the brain, which inhibits depressive tendencies as well as the feelings of stress.

So by using extra virgin olive oil (instead of canola oil or vegetable oil, which contain trans fats), you can lower the risk of depression by nearly 50 percent just by how you cook a meal.

5. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil from the “tree of life” has been previously put down for its high content of saturated fats, but people who incorporate this into their eating habits are typically quite healthy. Coconut oil is also known for its ability to inhibit depressive tendencies as well as feelings of stress, and can also postpone the aging process in the brain. Specifically, coconut oil is known to reduce the abundance of plaques related to Alzheimer’s disease.

So next time you have frizzy hair, rough skin, and a frazzled mind before finals or a big day at work, use some coconut oil for your hair, skin, and brain to make you feel confident and focused!

What are some of your favorite brain foods for chaotic, stressful times in your own lives? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!

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5 Ways To Make Healthier Choices

By Korinne Christner, OTAS

The holidays are upon us! Now is the time to remember that making healthy choices can set you up for success.

OT practitioners work hard every day to help people live the life they want to live as much as possible, usually following an injury or medical setback.

However, sometimes these setbacks can be avoided altogether, and you can live your life, your way if you take care of yourself from the get-go.

Here are some tips on how to stay healthy, and develop some good patterns of healthy living.

1. Drink your daily recommended amount of water.

The amount of water you need per day depends on the size of your body. To calculate how much you need per day, read How to Calculate How Much Water You Should Drink A Day.

2. Try to do something active every day.

Find an activity that makes you happy and make an appointment with yourself every day to engage in that activity. Even something as simple as walking will boost your mood and is good for your body. Plus, getting involved in a sport of some kind can be good for socialization!

3. Make small changes in your diet at first.

If your diet is something that is keeping your from being as healthy as you would like to be, try eliminating one “bad” food at a time. Trying to overhaul your entire diet at once will set you up to fail. Instead, take small steps to make your overall diet a healthier one.

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4. Set goals for yourself.

Having a realistic goal in mind will keep you motivated to stick with the changes you are making. You can have a large goal, such as, “I want to lose 20 lbs before my vacation this summer,” and then set weekly goals for yourself within that large goal.

An example would be to have the goal of only exercising 5 days this week. This smaller goal is part of the large goal.

5. Find an accountability buddy.

Having someone who you know is going to check in with you and ask how your lifestyle changes are going will make you more likely to stick with it. Plus, they will be challenging themselves, too, and can understand the struggles that you face in trying to be successful.