In honor of National Nutrition Month this March, we want to encourage people to not only eat more healthy for overall health and well-being, but to make an extra effort to pay attention to and include foods in your diet that are important for hearing health.
Here are some important vitamins and minerals to include in your diet for hearing and overall health:
Research has shown that magnesium may have protective effects on hearing health, and might even reduce the effects of noise-induced hearing loss. According to a 1994 study published in the American Journal of Otolaryngology, of 300 young, healthy people, those who took 167 milligrams of magnesium daily for two months were less affected by noise-induced hearing loss than others during exposure to loud impulse noises during basic military training.
A more recent study, published in 2013 in The American Journal o f Clinical Nutrition, found that antioxidant intake in combination with magnesium supplements had a protective effect on hearing thresholds.
Magnesium is important for transporting calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, which contributes to proper muscle contraction, normal hearing rhythm and nerve impulse function. Some excellent sources of magnesium include boiled spinach, dry roasted almonds, cashews, peanuts, soy milk, black beans, edamame, shredded wheat cereal and avocado.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Both omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D are found in abundance in many types of fish, including tuna, trout, sardines, salmon and anchovies. Research has shown that people who ate fish twice per week significantly reduced their risk of developing age-related hearing loss. For example, a 2010 study published in the American Society for Nutrition found that there was an inverse relationship between fish intake and prevalence of hearing loss. Experts aren't exactly sure how omega-3s work on hearing health, but they believe it is related to strengthening and protecting the delicate blood vessels in the ears.
Researchers and nutritionists have long-known that omega-3s are important for many of the body's functions. For example, they can reduce one's risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering blood triglyceride levels. This vital fatty acid has also been known to improve cognition and memory and reduce joint pain in people with arthritis.
Aside from fish, you can get omega-3s from beans, walnuts, avocados, flax seed and other nuts and seeds.
Vitamins C, E and others
Vitamins C, E and others are important for the body as a whole because they keep free radicals in check, stopping them from damaging the body and strengthening the overall immune system. One protective effect they have on hearing is by reducing one's risk of ear infections, which can cause permanent hearing loss.
According to a 2007 study on guinea pigs by researchers at the University of Michigan, high doses of vitamins A, E and C combined with magnesium and given to people one hour before excessive noise exposure were effective in preventing noise-induced hearing loss of a permanent nature. The researchers in this case believe that in response to - and even after - loud noise exposure, cell mitochondria in the ear send out damaging free radicals. The researchers say that pre-treatment with vitamins and minerals reduced the free radicals' ability to react, which decreased the constriction of blood flow to the inner ear that usually happens after such an exposure.
Good sources of vitamins C and E include bell peppers, oranges and other fruits and vegetables. You can also find vitamin E in dark leafy greens, nuts, broccoli, wheat, oils and tropical fruits. Good sources of vitamin A include sweet potatoes (baked in the skin), spinach, beef liver, carrots, pumpkin, cantaloupe and bell peppers.
Most people know different vitamins and minerals are essential for healthy living. But did you know many individuals in the United States are deficient in zinc? In addition to being an important mineral for the immunite and central nervous systems, studies have shown zinc deficiency can greatly increase your risk of suffering from sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL). Research indicates zinc has immune-boosting properties, which can help reduce stress on the cochlea in SSNHL.
Zinc isn't a hard mineral to find. Seafood, beef, chocolate or cocoa powder, spinach and wheat germ all contain zinc.
Recipe for healthy hearing
Getting the right nutrients, vitamins and minerals to ensure your hearing remains healthy doesn't have to be difficult - or boring! Consider having a bowl of shredded wheat with some oranges for breakfast. And when you find yourself hungry for lunch, a light bean salad, full of black beans, chick peas, avocado, tomatoes and onions can help meet your magnesium and omega-3 needs. When you're contemplating dinner, a simple dish of lemon butter salmon with carrots or sweet potatoes can tackle zinc, vitamins C and E.
And for an extra boost of zinc, we've included a tasty and easy recipe for blackberry brownie bites. With cocoa powder, black beans and blackberries, this dessert includes vitamins and minerals from each of the healthy hearing categories!
Remember, getting the right vitamins and minerals is important for your health and your hearing, but it doesn't have to be boring!
Blackberry Brownie Bites
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup blackberries
- 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/4 cup vanilla coconut yogurt
- 1/4 cup black beans
- 1/3 cup vanilla almond milk
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, blend together black beans, coconut yogurt, maple syrup and blackberries until pureed. In a mixing bowl, combine whole wheat and all purpose flour. Stir in sugar, cocoa powder and baking powder. Next, stir in black bean, coconut yogurt, maple syrup and blackberry mixture from your food processor. Add almond milk and stir the batter until all the ingredients are combined. The mixture should be thick and slightly lumpy. Stir in your chocolate chips; Use cooking spray to grease a regular-sized muffin tin. Spoon the brownie mixture into each cup, approximately 2/3 full. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges have pulled slightly from the muffin cups.