How a Wooden Spoon Helped Me Reocver From a Traumatic Brain Injury
Brain Health & Nutrition
"I write about the brain."
It never fails. Whether I'm at the local market buying a fresh jar of honey or talking food tips with a TBI survivor, I get asked: "can you tell me what foods work best to heal my brain." I cringe every time I'm asked that question. Here's why.
While 'what' we eat does play a big part in brain health and recovery, 'how' we eat can affect our brain recovery just as much or more. Unfortunately, individuals impacted by neurological impairments tend to overlook the importance of 'how' to eat focusing solely on 'what' they eat. This is not a healthy balance. Allow me to explain.
For me, knowing both the 'hows' and 'whats' of food and brain health drove my recovery following a traumatic brain injury. A commonly overlooked balance of diet and information that can have a positive or negative impact on the brain. Below I've listed one example of 'how' and 'what' you might be eating just to give you a basic idea of what I'm referring to;
1. How: Using a metal spoon when cooking in a metal, iron or aluminum pot can cause aluminum, iron and other toxic metals to unknowingly spill into your food. These toxins can cause neuroinflammation which can further damage the traumatized brain. Knowing when to use a wooden can go a long way.
2. What: Consuming high amounts of trans-fats is not good for the brain. Trans-fats are typically found in snacks, sweets and lots of shelved processed foods. Some studies have shown a significant reduction of strokes and heart-attacks when trans-fats are reduced or eliminated from the diet. The Food and Drug Administration has already issued a ban on trans-fats in the United States. A ban that will phase out trans-fats altogether over a three-year period.
The 'how' deals with food preparation and lifestyle choices that either prevent or allow our bodies to benefit from the healthy food selections we eat. The 'what' deals with what we put into our bodies i.e., medicines, vitamins, steak, pork chop, spinach, milk, cake, ice cream, coffee, sugar, mangoes, honey, turmeric, double cheeseburgers, soda, water, cereal and just about anything else you may eat for whatever reason.
A person can eat lots of healthy foods yet still struggle with brain fog, depression or sleepless nights not knowing that even the simplest 'how' can offset the nutritional potency of healthy foods. An example of this may be a person who consumes foods with the chemical tryptophan (a food chemical that can improve a person's sleep cycle) while watching television or using their cell phone just before bedtime.
The blue light effect is not as much the problem as the images stored in the hippocampus that continue to play out even after the television or the device has been shut off. Thus, preventing the chemical tryptophan from having an optimum impact on the human sleep cycle. In this case, one healthy food strategy becomes practically worthless when coupled with another poor lifestyle choice. Now, imagine all the 'how' and 'what' behaviors the average person learns over the course of a lifetime. Toss in a brain injury or neurodegenerative disease and you have nothing but trouble.
It's impossible to memorize all the 'hows' and 'whats' of healthy brain eating in a single day. However, as we regularly consume bite-sized amounts of information about the 'how' and 'what' of our diet, application of that knowledge can become habitual over a surprisingly short period of time. Knowing 'how' to eat not only aligns our brain health, such knowledge doesn't cost a single penny and can be applied right now!
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Brain Health & Nutrition Writer