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Your Amazing Brain

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Complex Carbohydrates

Sugar is sugar, right? From a physiological viewpoint, blood glucose is blood glucose, right? Wrong. The source of the glucose is what counts and has everything to do with your ability to use food for energy.

Complex carbohydrates - found in vegetables, fruits and whole-grains - are digested and broken-down into glucose - the body's usable form of sugar. This process of digestion takes time and the glucose produced is slowly released into the bloodstream, where it is transported to cells for use as an energy source.

When you eat simple sugars - a teaspoon of sugar in your coffee, donuts, cookies etc. - you're ingesting ready-made glucose. No digestion is necessary - the glucose is already in its simplest form and goes directly into the bloodstream. Such rapidly available glucose is probably not immediately needed for energy and therefore is stored as fat. Also, the rapid surge of blood glucose stimulates the pancreas to release insulin, setting off a whole cascade of responses.

The high-fructose corn syrup used to sweeten most sodas and other products is even worse in this regard and should be avoided at all costs.  Artificial sweeteners also have a host of negative side effects and are not a healthy substitute for sugar.

Bottom line - consuming a lot of simple sugars causes your body to store fat and ultimately impairs the functioning of the pancreas, possibly leading to diabetes. Consuming complex carbohydrates provides glucose for energy and, when combined with healthy fats and protein, is part of the natural pathway to good health.

You are the lucky owner of a magnificent piece of biological machinery - the human brain. More powerful than the most advanced computer, your brain is always on, performs lightning-fast calculations, and is a whiz at making connections between seemingly unrelated factors and observations. The only downside is that, unlike your computer, your brain didn't come with an owner's manual.

Fortunately, your brain has no moving parts to wear out.  And, your brain is always available. It will do whatever you tell it to do. All you have to do is take care of it properly - provide it with energy, take it out for a walk, get proper rest and make sure it's connected.

The energy part could be easy, but most of us fall down on the job. Our bodies require high-quality nutrition, but mostly what they get is a poor substitute. Fresh organic fruits and vegetables, whole-grains; complete protein and healthy fats from organic whole milk and yogurt, cheese, pastured eggs and butter, fish (especially salmon), grassfed beef, chicken, turkey; and plenty of water cover daily requirements for optimum functioning.

If you're a vegetarian, make sure you get complete protein from dairy products - rice and beans do not provide complete protein!  Also consider your blood type.  If your blood is type O, you will not likely thrive as a long-term vegetarian.

A balanced food plan provides your brain with all the energy it needs 1 - and it needs plenty of energy! Glucose is the primary source of energy for your brain - complex carbohydrates like vegetables and whole grains make it all happen.

Going for a walk - a metaphor for all kinds of vigorous physical activity - not only helps keep you in top shape but is also one of the best things you can do for your brain. So many recent scientific studies have shown that peak brain function and levels of exercise are strongly related.2, 3

Physical activity causes new areas of your brain to "light up" and builds connections between areas of your brain that weren't connected before. So, when you exercise, your brain is getting smarter at the same time that your body is getting healthier! That's a pretty good deal.

Finally, it's very important to make sure that all the parts of your body are talking to each other in the right way and at the right time. Your brain needs to receive the information it's supposed to receive to make good decisions, and your body needs to receive the information it needs from your brain to get all the jobs done that need to be done.

Regular chiropractic care helps make sure these things are happening. Regular chiropractic care helps balance the flow of information in your nervous system, taking care of you and your brain, and making sure all the important nerve signals get to where they are supposed to be going.

1Rosales FJ, Zelsel Sh: Perspectives from the symposium: The Role of Nutrition in Infant and Toddler Brain and Behavioral Development. Nutr Neurosci 11(3):135-143, 2008
2Christie BR, et al: Exercising our brains: how physical activity impacts synaptic plasticity in the dentate gyrus. Neuromolecular Med 10(2):47-58, 2008
3Lange-Asschenfeldt C, Kojda G: Alzheimer's disease, cerebrovascular dysfunction and the benefits of exercise: From vessels to neurons. Exp Gerontol 43(6):499-504, 2008

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