When we talk about the concept of “health,” we sometimes forget that our brains are part of the holistic wellness equation. Ancient modalities like yoga and meditation call upon the power of the organ between our ears to change our perspectives, and by extension, our lives. And functional medicine doctor Mark Hyman, MD, has a few other ideas for keeping the lights on upstairs.
“In order to keep up with my busy life, maintaining optimal health and an optimal brain becomes a top priority,” wrote the doctor in an Instagram caption. “When your brain is functioning well, you have more energy and life just gets better.” Can I get a praise hands emoji for that? Dr. Hyman shared the six daily well-being practices he uses to foster a healthy brain.
Keep scrolling for a healthy brain checklist straight from a functional medicine doctor
1. Make sure your plate includes healthy fats
“My brain worked pretty well before, but embracing fat (even good saturated fats like coconut oil and MCT oil) pushed my mental clarity through the roof,” writes Dr. Hyman. Indeed, the omega-3 fatty acids found in healthy fats, like salmon, avocados, olives, and nuts nourish you brain. Why? “The brain is 60-70 percent fat,” William Sears, MD, author of The Omega-3 Effect previously told Well+Good. Multiplestudies have linked the consumption of fats to improved mental health. So go ahead, treat your brain to Dr. Hyman’s signature fat salad.
2. Incorporate protein into every meal
Now that your plate is equipped with healthy fats (yum!), let’s talk protein. “We need about 30 grams of protein per meal to build muscle,” says Dr. Hyman. “When you lose muscle, you age faster and your brain takes a huge hit! Eat protein at every meal, including omega-3 eggs, protein shakes, nut butters, or even fatty fish for breakfast.”
Here’s some food advice without an expiration date: Make sure your plate is rocking ROYGBIV before you grab your fork and dig in. “At least 75 pecent of your plate, by volume, should be filled with colorful plant foods,” says Dr. Hyman. “These colorful super-foods come loaded with brain-boosting stuff like phytonutrients. Enjoy an array of colorful plant foods like blueberries and dark leafy greens like kale, Swiss chard, spinach, watercress, and arugula.”
Healthy fats + proteins + vegetables at each meal = a day of brain-boosting eats.
4. Consume sugar mindfully
Dr. Hyman recommends avoiding sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, food additives, and preservatives, all of which can disrupt your biochemistry and negatively impact overall health. Whenever possible, look for healthier swaps of some of your favorites. For instance, you can choose paleo cookies, banana bread brownies, or protein pancakes over the original versions.
5. Move, move, move
Whether you hop on your bike, go for a run, or head off to spin class, make sure a sheen of sweat is part of your daily brain health regimen. “Exercise improves memory, learning, and concentration,” says Dr. Hyman. “It also helps to improve your mood, boost your energy, and reduce overall stress in your body and mind.”
6. Give your mind a break
“Learn how to actively relax,” says Dr. Hyman. “To engage the powerful forces of the mind on the body, you must do something. Try meditation or learning something new.”