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Sun and veggies for happy mind

health-and-fitness Updated: Mar 06, 2010 23:22 IST
Sanchita Sharma
Sanchita Sharma
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The fact that memory-enhancing pills don’t work is so well-established that even companies which sell them have stopped to advertise them to students desperate enough to try anything during board examinations.

You don’t have to look too far to find things that help your brain navigate the syllabi quagmire.

I recommend a daily dose of sunshine, along with a diet that comprises oily fish: mackerel, sardines, trout, herring and salmon — all rich sources of omega three fatty acids, which boost brain power.

Vegetarians can have their pick of a fistful of seeds such as sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, a small bowl of wheat germ or eight to ten walnuts.

Fish boosts gray matter, so does a healthy dose of sunshine. Higher levels of vitamin D improves attention and the speed of processing information, report European scientists in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

Supplements are another reliable source of vitamin D. Most multi-vitamins contain the recommended daily amount of 400 IU (international units).

As haemoglobin in the blood helps carry oxygen to cells, including those in the brain, mild iron deficiency, caused by low haemoglobin, too slows thinking and remembering processes.

Iron supplements of as little as 60 mg a day can improve attention, stamina and short-term as well as long-term memory.

Anaemia or low haemoglobin is three times more common in vegetarians than meat-eaters.

Vegetarians must ensure their meals include some amount of almonds, dried apricots, broccoli (raw, one stalk), dates, kidney beans, peas or spinach.

Chicken breast contains 0.7 mg of iron, but it is more easily absorbed than iron from plants sources. Taking vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements can help increase iron absorption.

Iron pills, however, should not be treated like memory enhancers because they work only for people with iron-deficiency.A simple blood test (haemogram) can give you a measure of blood haemoglobin level, which should be above 12 gm/dl for women and 13 gm/dl for men.

Other dietary dos and don’ts include: avoid fried and processed foods that are high in calories but low in nutrients.

Instead, go for home-cooked meals with more emphasis on milk, yogurt, green leafy vegetables and fresh fruits. It’s also vital to keep the heart pumping hard as about 20 per cent of the blood from the heart goes to the brain.

Anything that impedes blood flow can effect clear thinking and cause forgetfulness.

Some form of brisk physical activity for 30 minutes, at least three to five times a week, is also a must. Yoga and breathing exercises won’t be enough.

While they do help you relax, they don’t pump up oxygen levels in the blood the way cardiovascular exercises do.