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It’s the thought that counts

As a truck driver, you know how important it is for you to stay alert while driving, unloading and even filling out your paperwork at the end of the day. Yet, it can be a challenge to remain attentive mile after mile, day in and day out. How...

As a truck driver, you know how important it is for you to stay alert while driving, unloading and even filling out your paperwork at the end of the day. Yet, it can be a challenge to remain attentive mile after mile, day in and day out. How can you keep your mind in tip-top shape? You can feed it, exercise it, and perhaps give it an occasional healthy boost. This month, let’s look at how to feed it.

Even though a typical brain only weighs about three pounds, it needs a lot of support in order to manage the functions of a human being. About 20% of the oxygen you breathe is consumed by your brain and around 25% of the arterial blood pumped from your heart goes directly to feed your brain. With these requirements, your brain is certainly not low-maintenance. On top of a lot of oxygen and blood, certain vitamins are vital to sustain your mental alertness, problem-solving skills and good memory.

Vitamin A is essential for keeping you thinking straight. It is foundational to normal nervous system development and has also been found to promote the ability to learn and retain facts. Vitamin A stimulates the neurons of the portion of the brain that is responsible for learning and memory (hippocampus).

You can find Vitamin A in these foods: fortified milk and margarine, cheese, cream, butter, eggs, liver, dark leafy vegetables (especially spinach), broccoli, as well as deep orange fruits (apricots, cantaloupe) and vegetables (squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin).  Folic acid (also known as Folate and Vitamin B9) is another nutrient that keeps your brain ticking. Folic acid helps decrease the homocysteine in your body. Homocysteine is an amino acid found naturally in the blood. However, when this amino acid level gets too high, it will damage your brain cells.

You can make sure you get enough folic acid by eating: green leafy vegetables, legumes, seeds and liver. Note: This nutrient is easily destroyed with heat and oxygen, so it’s best to keep these foods in a sealed container.

The B Vitamins, B3, B6, B12, are also essential for preserving central nervous system function, especially for understanding and alertness. The B Vitamins help form myelin, which is the protective sheath surrounding the neurons that carry and manage the rapid transmission of electrical impulses from your brain. Healthy myelin ensures that these nerve impulses reach the appropriate receptors throughout your body. Since B Vitamins also help prevent your brain from physically breaking down, a lack of B Vitamins can lead to brain shrinkage, reduced cognition, mood swings and inner stress.

To ensure you get enough Vitamin B3, eat: milk, eggs, poultry, fish, whole grain products, enriched breads and cereals, nuts and all foods with proteins. For Vitamin B6, add: green leafy vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, shellfish, legumes, fruits and whole grains. For Vitamin B12, include: all animal products. Note: the B Vitamins are easily destroyed through microwaving.

Vitamin C is another critical nutrient. Your brain actually has a higher proportion of Vitamin C than any other organ. Vitamin C and Vitamin E, working together, produce the following two chemicals: norepinephrine and dopamine. These brain chemicals support normal cognition, alertness and mood. You’ll get a significant amount of Vitamin C from: citrus fruits, cabbage-type vegetables, dark green vegetables, cantaloupe, strawberries, peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, papayas and mangoes.

Vitamin E, on its own, has strong antioxidant properties that reduce oxidation in the brain and preserve neurons. Vitamin E also helps to destroy free radicals that can attack brain cells.  A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 2,000 IU daily of Vitamin E was enough to even slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia-like symptoms.  As you know, a major symptom of all dementias is reduced mental alertness.

To get enough Vitamin E include the following in your diet: polyunsaturated plant oils (margarine, salad dressing, shortening), leafy green vegetables, wheat germ, whole-grain products, liver, egg yolks, nuts, and seeds.

Vitamin D has also recently been found to play an important roll in maintaining mental abilities. It’s been noted that an adequate intake of Vitamin D can also reduce your risk of developing dementias, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Although Vitamin D can by synthesized by your body with the help of sunlight (as noted in a recent article), Vitamin D can also be found in: fortified milk, margarine, butter, cereals, chocolate drink mixes, veal, beef, egg yolks, liver, fatty fish (herring, salmon, sardines) and their oils.

No matter which of these foods you decide to add to your diet, moderation is the key. Eating too much of a good thing can make your thinking become sluggish because more blood gets redirected to your digestive system, leaving your brain high and dry.

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