For a long time, it was believed that the adult brain couldn’t generate new brain cells. You were born with a certain amount of brain cells, and that was it. As you age, you naturally start to lose brain cells. So, basically, that means that after you hit twenty-five, it all goes downhill in terms of brain function.
The good news is that scientists have now shown that growing new brain cells, or neurogenesis, is possible for adults. In this process, new brain cells or neurons are created in the hippocampus. This region of the brain is responsible for storing long-term information, learning, and regulating emotions.
Here are six things you can do to encourage neurogenesis and help grow new adult brain cells:
Can You Grow New Adult Brain Cells?
While the vast majority of brain cells are formed in the womb, research done over the last couple of decades suggests at least one part of the brain continues to create new cells through a person’s lifespan. Studies found that cells in the hippocampus while continually dying were quickly being replaced by new ones.
Further research suggests that there are factors that can stimulate as well as inhibit the process of neurogenesis. Several elements can impact this process from natural progressions such as aging and oxidative stress to lifestyle choices such as eating a diet high in sugar and saturated fats. The right environment is essential in encouraging neurogenesis and the formation of new brain cells.
How to Grow New Brain Cells
Get Plenty of Sleep
Taking steps to take care of the brain cells you already have is important in the growth of new cells. Unsurprisingly, not getting enough sleep is one of the things which can be damaging to your brain cells. Scientists have discovered that sleep detoxes the brain, flushing out waste products linked to Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
Another study found that burning the midnight oil may be burning your brain cells as well. Research shows that staying awake too long could destroy brain cells. The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting between 7–9 hours of sleep every night.
Try Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting consists of planning out your meal times so that you eat all your calories in a specific time window. This way you control the amount of time your body is in a “fasted” state, maximizing your body’s potential to burn calories. Intermittent fasting isn’t just for burning fat but has a number of benefits including reducing the risk of chronic disease and improving brain function.
One study found that intermittent fasting using the 16:8 schedule (fast for 16 hours each day) stimulated the production of new brain cells. There are different ways to start intermittent fasting including the 5:2 method where you restrict calories for two days a week and the alternate-day fasting method, where you fast every other day.
Follow a Healthy Diet
Diet plays an important role in neurogenesis and brain health. Eating a diet that’s loaded with processed foods, saturated fats, and refined sugars is not only bad for your brain but for your overall health as well. In one study, researchers found that humans that have a healthy diet pattern are associated with having a bigger hippocampus. Eating well literally makes your brain bigger.
Another study found that high-fat diets were associated with reduced neural growth. Seven weeks of a high-fat diet was enough to lead to decreases in the amount of newly generated cells. Following a healthy diet full of dark leafy greens, berries, and foods full of vitamin B2 and B9 such as legumes and almonds is a great way to harness your brain health.
Indulge in Dark Chocolate
This is something that doesn’t take a lot of persuading. Those delicious chocolatey morsels of goodness are not only the perfect sweet snack but will also help you to grow neurons. Dark chocolate contains flavanols that, when you eat chocolate, get absorbed and accumulate in the parts of the brain involved in learning and memory.
Flavanols increase the blood flow to the brain, promoting new cell formation and enhancing connections between neurons. Now comes the fun part: choosing the best chocolate. To benefit from the brain and mood-boosting effects of chocolate, look for good-quality dark chocolate.
Most dark chocolate is vegan, but some products do contain milk products so always double check the ingredients. Dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa (at least 70%) has a lot of these beneficial qualities.
Get Moving and Get In Some Exercise
Exercise is among one of the factors that potentially has the power to amp up the neurogenesis process. Research by the University of Pittsburgh found that exercise training increased the size of the hippocampus and led to improvements in memory. In 120 older adults, the size of the hippocampus increased by 2%, reversing the age-related cell loss by a couple of years.
Regular aerobic exercise, the kind that makes your heart race and body sweat appears to boost the size of the hippocampus. If you needed another reason to get moving, there it is! The Department of Health and Human Services suggests 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise.
Exercise Your Brain
As well as exercising your body, remember to exercise your brain. Being engaged and challenging your brain is crucial. Scientists have found that enriched learning environments and cognitive stimulation increase hippocampal neurogenesis. Basically, it’s suggested that the more you exercise your brain, the more you will be able to maintain optimum brain function.
Keep your brain engaged, sharp, and healthy by learning new skills, traveling, interacting with new people and stepping outside of your comfort zone.
In recent years, it’s been discovered that neurogenesis not only happens throughout your life but can be enhanced by several lifestyle choices. Put simply, following a healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep, and enough exercise creates the best environment to really supercharge your brain power and maintain optimum health, in both your brain and your body.
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