An important indicator of your health is a sharpened intellect, focused mind, clarity of thought and an ease of being. In Ayurveda, all the three Doshas or bio elements have a role to play in the brain functions. For example, Vata governs how fast you learn and perceive, Kapha regulates memory and Pitta makes sure you retain the knowledge while comprehending it fully, in other words, it closes the loop of understanding in your brain. Your dietary pattern, lifestyle, how much you exercise and the quality of your sleep-all these factors influence how the three doshas are balanced, which is important for overall brain health. In this one, we share some food tips for a healthier, sharper brain (Do read the surprise tip that come in the end!)
1. Why managing Kapha is important
When Kapha is out of balance, you tend to feel dull in the body and lack clarity in your mind. The sub tissue or the white matter in your brain is where your experiences are recorded, which is controlled by Kapha. When the Kapha is high, the blood gets an oily and thick due to presence of triglycerides that may decelerate the flow of blood to the brain. It also can cause hypothyroidism, that is, an underactive thyroid gland. Apart from this important brain function, kapha is also responsible for the health of your joints and muscles. Kapha governs structure and the network of joints in your body. When kapha is out of order, it could start showing up in the form of joint problems, poor lubrication in the joints or looseness in the joints. A suggested practice to regularize Kapha is oil therapy. Full body massage with natural oils which are a blend of herbal essences specifically picked for their Kapha -balancing properties, like Shankara’s Cellulite Support Oil(specially formulated to invigorate and energize), are one great source of bringing over all Kapha balance in your system, strengthening your muscles and joints, calming your mind and enhancing your brain health.
2. Have foods that are genetically pure
Ayurveda recommends consumption of foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Vegetables and fruits found in nature come with a natural nutritional intelligence and give the body its fully nutritive value. But when they are genetically altered, this natural intelligence is lost, according to Ayurveda.
3. Is your diet Sattvic enough?
Sattva is a quality of matter in its purest form and its value as a cleanser and detoxifier, while Rajas is the quality of restlessness or hyperactivity and Tamas is what induces heaviness or dullness. While all the three Gunas or qualities have their own place in the creation, a Sattvic diet comes highly recommended by Ayurvedic nutritionists, for a healthy brain, sharper mind and memory. Sattvic diet improves memory and perception too. An ideal Sattvic diet may consist of fresh fruits and fruit juices, nuts, clarified butter or any other form of healthy fat and steamed leafy vegetables. The types of fruits and veggies will differ, based on your Prakruti or Dosha constitution.
4. Ghee or clarified butter
This is one healthy fat that has immense benefits for you, when consumed in limited quantities. It is near perfect remedy for those with vitiated Vata and Pitta apart from being one of the most commonly used detoxifying agent in Ayurvedic purges.
Clarified butter is easy to digest and has a high smoking point which makes it ideal for cooking. When you have indigestion or diarrhea, Ayurveda recommends a diet of plain pulses and rice along with a dollop of clarified butter. Clarified butter aids digestion and helps in purging the body of toxins or Ama, which is responsible for slowing down of your metabolism, brings about lethargy and illness. It is an important source of good cholesterol and a soluble fatty acid.
5. Brain foods
Some other excellent brain foods are organic milk, fresh yogurt, almonds and walnuts. Consumption of milk increases the naturally occurring antioxidants in the body. Walnuts possess a higher concentration of DHA, an omega 3 fatty acid, that improves cognitive performance in adults and slows down cognitive decline in geriatric age group. Almonds and hazelnuts are rich sources of Vitamin E, which is again a protection against cognitive decline. A study showed, regular intake of almonds and hazelnuts improved memory and verbal comprehension in the target group.
6. Meditation Improves Brain’s Executive Functions
Another transformative study published by the University of Waterloo in September last year revealed that practicing even 25 minutes of Yoga and meditation can improve brain’s executive functions. Brain’s executive functions facilitate mental processes like memory, planning, focus and juggling multiple instructions at once. The focus group showed improved emotional resilience and enhanced ability to observe and change habits and thought patterns and resultant action. In other word, Yoga truly brings more poise in our decision making abilities.
7. Yoga can slow down brain aging
Though age is just a number, the body is on a clock whose pace of ticking sometimes lies in our hands. With innovation and advancement in medical sciences, our longevity has improved. The result is an increasing geriatric population with increasing number of cases with cognitive impairment and brain function related disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
As medical science turns towards MBI or mind body interventions to find ways to delay this process of cognitive decline, a study carried out by Harris Eyre, Prabha Siddharth, BiancaAcevedo, among others, published in a leading journal called International Psychogeriatric found out that practicing Yoga for 12 to 24 weeks resulted in improved memory among patients over the age of 55 years who had been diagnosed with MCI or mild cognitive impairment. MCI is reported problems with memory, language, and incoherent thinking and judgment lapses, not in keeping with the normal process of aging.