Creating a Brain-Healthy Diet
So far, we’ve reviewed some of the food items that should be avoided in the Brain Maker Diet, but by now, you’re probably wondering what you should actually be eating to promote health. Within as little as six days, you can make significant changes to your gut bacteria - and potentially undo years of damage - by sticking with the Brain Maker Diet. There are six essential elements, which we’ll discuss below.
First, you should opt for foods that are rich in probiotics. Fermented foods have long been hailed for their health benefits throughout history, even if it’s only recently that we’ve begun to understand the science behind them. Fermentation turns carbs such as sugars into alcohols and carbon dioxide or organic acids. Many foods become rich in helpful bacteria (a.k.a., “probiotic”) through the process of lactic acid fermentation. The good bacteria change sugar into lactic acid, killing off harmful bacteria in the process.
One food that’s rich in probiotics is live-cultured yogurt. Be careful when selecting your brand, however, as many yogurts add artificial sweeteners, flavors, and even excess regular sugar. If you’re lactose-intolerant, you might want to consider trying coconut yogurt; it still has lots of probiotics and healthy enzymes. Kefir, sauerkraut, and pickles are some other great sources of probiotics. In addition, you might want to give fermented meat, fish, or eggs a try. Though it may be different from what you’re used to, there are ways you can prepare fermented food so that it’s actually quite delicious.
The second-most crucial aspect of creating a brain-healthy diet is ditching the high-carb lifestyle, and embracing high-quality fats. Our ancestors ate wild fruits, vegetables, and animals to sustain themselves, but nowadays, most of our diets are built around carbs. Most of these carbs are made up of gluten, which again, is responsible for damaging the microbiome and eliminating healthy gut bacteria. Healthy fats, on the other hand, are extremely satiating and promote calorie burn. They also help to keep your blood sugar and gut bacteria balanced.
To go align your eating habits with low-carb, high-fat methods, eat vegetables such as leafy greens, broccoli, kale, onions, mushrooms, bok choy, and so forth. You can also choose low-sugar fruits, such as avocado (which is also high in healthy fat), tomato, lemons, limes, and eggplant. Good sources of healthy fats include oils such as extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and sesame oil. You may also want to consider cooking with ghee or organic, pasture-fed butter. Coconuts, olives, nuts, butters, cheese, and seeds, are also healthy fats. Don’t forget to include protein, such as whole eggs, wild fish, and grass-fed meat, poultry, and pork.
The third principle of the Brain Maker Diet is a favorite among followers: you can enjoy tea, wine, chocolate, and coffee, the types of foods and drinks that are often considered to be vices. As long as you indulge in moderation, you’ll be doing your body a favor - each of these items boosts healthy gut bacteria.
Polyphenols are super-powerful antioxidants found in plants, and researchers are testing their ability to potentially combat certain cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, cancers, diabetes, and even certain neurodegenerative conditions. Polyphenols can be found in certain produce, as well as plant-derived beverages such as coffee, tea, and red wine. They can also be found in chocolate, so chocolate lovers: rejoice!
Just remember to keep moderation in mind. Don’t go for unhealthy candy bars that are packed with additives and processed junk; instead, seek out dark chocolate high in cocoa. Also, women should stick to one glass of red wine per day at most, while men should not exceed two.
In addition to probiotics, your intestinal health also depends on the amount of prebiotics found in your diet. That’s why the fourth rule for following a brain-healthy diet is to select foods that are rich in prebiotics. Prebiotics are non-digestible; in other words, they simply pass through the stomach without enzymes or gastric acids breaking them down. They also need to be metabolized or fermented by the bacteria found within the intestines. Finally, they must promote general health benefits.
Prebiotics may also play a reducing the inflammation that takes place in inflammatory bowel diseases. Thus, research has shown that they could help to ward off colon cancer. They also promote the absorption of minerals, including iron, calcium, and magnesium. Prebiotics help develop a sense of satiety, thereby preventing obesity and aiding in weight loss efforts. Finally, they stave off inflammation by reducing glycation.
Very few Americans consume adequate levels of prebiotics. The recommended dosage is 12 grams per day, which you can achieve by taking a supplement or eating real foods. When eaten raw, chicory root, garlic, onion, asparagus, and leek are all great sources of prebiotics.
The fifth component of the Brain Maker Diet is drinking filtered water. There are dozens of chemicals found in unfiltered tap water, so it’s best to purchase a filter for your home.
In addition to home-based filtration systems, there are also lots of options available in terms of on-the-go water bottles. Just be sure to avoid purchasing any water bottles that have Bisphenol A, a harmful carbon-based compound found in certain plastics.
There are additional ways in which you can reduce your exposure to toxins and chemicals. For one, if you live in an area where you can grow your own produce, you may want to consider gardening - that way, you have control over your own produce, and you can eliminate toxic pesticides and herbicides from your vegetables. Or, you may want to get in touch with your local farmers to see what they have for sale. Shop local, starting with a nearby farmers market. You may find that there are organic farmers just around the corner from you.
Another way to avoid BPA is to minimize your intake of packaged foods. Canned items, processed foods, and anything that’s pre-packaged is more likely to contain BPA coatings, preservatives, and artificial colorings. Also, avoid microwaving foods in plastic containers - they release chemicals. Instead, microwave food in glass containers, and try to opt for glass or stainless steel water bottles, too.
The final component of the Brain Maker Diet is the seasonal fast. During times of starvation, our bodies have the ability to convert fat into fuel. It’s broken down into molecules - particularly, beta-hydroxybutyrate, which does wonders for the brain. While you don’t have to go on a week-long starvation journey, your body can benefit significantly from a 24 to 72 hour fasting period. It’s just enough time to reap some serious benefits, yet it’s also manageable enough that you can make it through.
If you’re just starting out with the Brain Maker Diet, begin by simply skipping food for a total period of 24 hours. You can drink water, but avoid caffeine. Once you’ve transitioned fully to the Brain Maker Diet, you may consider increasing your fasting period for up to 72 hours. You’ll experience the best results if you choose to repeat the fasting process four times per year, preferably once per season. It’s a good idea to time your fasts with the seasonal changes. For instance, you might want to select the last week in each of the following months: March, June, September, and December.