By Annie Daly Womens Health Magazine December 2014
There are countless ways that eating healthy food can improve your lifestyle: It can help you slim down, sleep better, and improve your skin, to name a few. Well, new research from Dave Asprey, a tech entrepreneur and author of the New York Times Best Seller The Bulletproof Diet (published by Women’s Health’s parent company, Rodale), found that healthy food can also boost your brainpower.
Asprey spent 15 years studying his own biology (he even traveled to faraway places like Tibet in search of ancient health wisdom), and managed to lose 100 pounds—and raise his IQ by 20 points in the process. Because of his success, he developed an entire diet centered around his findings, as outlined in his new book. The basic premise of the diet is that if you eat foods to fuel your brain, you will become sharper over time. What’s more, you’ll strengthen your willpower, which, in turn, curbs cravings and may make you better able to resist unhealthy foods.
Asprey says there are three things you need to do to eat for your IQ. Read them below—and, if you’re feeling super inspired, try the Bulletproof Diet out for yourself. New Year’s resolution, anyone?
1. Fill Up on Fat
No, this is not an invitation to stuff yourself silly with gooey peanut butter brownies. (Sorry.) But Asprey does suggest upping your (healthy) fat intake quit a bit. In fact, his diet is often compared to the grain and dairy-free Paleo diet, but his actually encourages you to eat even more fat than Paleo does. Why? Your brain thrives on fat. “Here’s the thing: Different cells in your brain like different things,” says Asprey. Neurons prefer energy from fat, whereas glial cells (another type of brain cell) prefer energy from carbohydrates, he explains. “Your body usually has enough carbohydrates, so what you need to do is give your body more fat energy for your brain.”
Asprey suggests ingesting your extra fat from his very own Bulletproof coffee, which is made from low-mold coffee beans (more on that below in #3), a tablespoon of medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, which is an easily digestible fat, and two tablespoons of unsalted butter. Otherwise, if you want to DIY it, add coconut oil to your coffee, and increase your helping of other healthy fats like salmon and avocado.
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2. Pack in More Protein
Another way to eat for your brain is to add more healthy protein into your diet. The reason? Proteins contain amino acids, and your body needs amino acids to build neurotransmitters (like serotonin and dopamine) in your brain, says Asprey. “Generally speaking, the more neurotransmitters you have, the smarter you’ll be, so you need to be sure your body has enough of them at all times,” he says. To get that healthy protein, Asprey suggests eating a moderate amount of high-quality animal protein, as well as more egg yolks. “Your brain goes nuts for the choline [the yellow stuff] in pastured egg yolks,” says Asprey. So think twice before ordering an egg white omelet; keeping the yolks in may be better for you overall.
3. Cut Down on Grains, Legumes, Beans, and Coffee
Get ready to have your mind blown: The reason Asprey says you should cut down on these foods is that they all contain high levels of—wait for it—mold. Yes, mold. “Mold contains neurotoxins, which slow your brain down,” says Asprey. So if you cut down on these toxins, you’ll be sharper.
Asprey conducted a study to prove it. He had half a group of people drink coffee with mold, and half drink it without mold—and those who drank the non-mold coffee performed better on cognitive tests. That’s partly why he developed his specialized Bulletproof coffee, which is made from low-molded beans. And he also recommends swapping vodka for beer and wine, which both have loads of high-mold grains. “When you eat a diet with less toxins, your brain will function better,” he says. “It’s that simple.”