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Nutrition for Brain Health

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Why is nutrition for brain health always on my mind:-)? I’m a long-term cancer survivor. I struggle with a long-term side effect called chemotherapy-induced cognitive disfunction aka chemobrain.

To be honest, my chemobrain is much better than it was, say, 20 years ago. But when I come across an article like the one linked and excerpted below, I want to write a post about it for PeopleBeatingCancer.org.

The single most popular blog post on this entire website is Diet for Multiple Myeloma.

Diet, nutrition, what we eat, etc.  is central to everyone’s’ thinking about health issues- from cancer to brain health.

Eat your greens ~ spinach, broccoli, curly lettuce and asparagus. Healthy eating.

Phytonutrients, also known as phytochemicals, are natural compounds found in plants that have various health benefits for humans. They are responsible for the vibrant colors, flavors, and disease resistance of many fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods. Phytonutrients play a crucial role in supporting brain health for several reasons:

Cruciferous vegetables are a subset of the topic of vegetables. I eat lots of veggies every day though in order to get enough cruciferous vegetables daily I take a supplement called…you guessed it, “cruciferous vegetables” every morning.

Back to my post about nutrition for brain health. What so special about phytonutrients?

  1. Antioxidant Properties: Many phytonutrients, such as flavonoids, carotenoids, and polyphenols, act as antioxidants. They help protect cells, including those in the brain, from oxidative damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals. This is important for maintaining the integrity of brain cells and preventing neurodegenerative diseases.
  2. Anti-inflammatory Effects: Chronic inflammation in the brain is associated with various neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Certain phytonutrients have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation in the brain and support overall cognitive function.
  3. Enhanced Blood Flow: Some phytonutrients, like flavonoids found in foods like berries, cocoa, and tea, have been shown to improve blood flow to the brain. This can enhance cognitive function and help maintain healthy brain tissue.
  4. Neuroprotective Effects: Certain phytonutrients have been found to have neuroprotective properties. For example, compounds like curcumin in turmeric and resveratrol in grapes have shown promise in protecting brain cells from damage and promoting their survival.
  5. Improved Neurotransmitter Function: Some phytonutrients can influence the production and function of neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers that transmit signals between nerve cells. For example, flavonoids found in foods like blueberries and citrus fruits may help enhance neurotransmitter function.
  6. Enhanced Cognitive Function: Studies have suggested that diets rich in phytonutrients, particularly those found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, are associated with better cognitive function and a reduced risk of cognitive decline as people age.
  7. Promotion of Neurogenesis: Some phytonutrients, such as certain flavonoids and polyphenols, have been shown to stimulate the formation of new neurons (a process known as neurogenesis) in specific regions of the brain. This is important for learning, memory, and overall brain health.

It’s worth noting that a diverse and balanced diet that includes a wide range of colorful fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes is the best way to ensure you get a variety of phytonutrients. Additionally, individual phytonutrients may have specific effects, so consuming a wide variety of plant-based foods is important for maximizing their potential benefits for brain health.

If you are a cancer survivor grappling with chemobrain, try to include phytonutrients into your diet. If you’d like to discuss cancer, brain health, or any other side effect let me know- David.PeopleBeatingCancer@gmail.com

Hang in there,

David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

4 Important Phytonutrients for Brain Health

  • “Phytonutrients, substances found only in plant foods, can help maintain and enhance mental health.
  • Phytonutrients are found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and other plant foods, as well as beverages people consume every day.

…phytonutrients are not technically nutrients. That’s because, unlike macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), phytonutrients are not necessary for cell development and survival. But phytonutrients have been shown to support good health and fight disease by serving as antioxidants that shield cells from inflammation and other stressors that damage the body over time…

Many have been studied further, and several types of phytonutrients have been found to have potential anti-diabetes, anti-cancer, anti-heart disease, anti-obesity and other medically preventive and therapeutic effects…

Scientists have also discovered that phytonutrients play an important role in maintaining brain health throughout life, and help to manage brain diseases and disorders from depression to dementia. In human studies, several families of phytonutrients appear to have marked potential in the field of brain health and well being:..

Anthocyanins, found in purple-blue fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries and other berries, grapes, purple cabbage, black carrots and blue potatoes, are thought to have therapeutic value when it comes to sleep disorders.

Caffeine, naturally found in varying amounts in different types of coffee, and L-theanine, found in green and black teas, are known to enhance cognition, and may improve memory, attention, and learning ability.

Flavonoids, found in tea, wine, onions, apples, and other fruits, berries, and vegetables, are linked to improved cognition as a result of their antioxidantand neuroprotective properties. These protective phytonutrients may also help prevent or delay the progression of Parkinson’s Disease. Another class of flavonoids, found in soy foods and known as isoflavones, have also been found to reduce episodes of insomnia and improve sleep efficiency in menopausal women.

Phenolic compounds, widely distributed in nuts, fruits, vegetables, grains, herbs, coffee, vanilla beans and spices have been linked to prevention of both Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease…”

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