The foods we consume have a massive impact on our health. The way we feel and even look, is directly linked to our diet. If you consume a diet that is low in nutrients, yet high in sugars and fat, you are not going to feel the best. Our organs are affected by what we put in our body.
Our liver for instance, generally produces problems when diets are high in fatty, non-nutritional foods and alcohol. We know which foods we should eat and avoid to take care of our heart. What about our brain? It’s one of the most vital organs you have. Just like your other organs, it does not run at an optimal level when it does not receive what it needs to function and stay healthy.
Table of Contents
Food and Our Brain
Our brain does so much for us throughout the day. The foods we eat eat impact mood, cognitive functioning, sleep, and even brain health. It’s so important to eat a balanced diet, full of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.
When it comes to various areas and functions of the brain, our neurotransmitters place a large role. These are brain chemicals that allow neurons to communicate with one another. For example, increased levels of dopamine and serotonin are linked to improved mood. Acetycholine is the neurotransmitter that’s related to cognitive functioning. When acetylcholine production is increased, concentration, memory and learning improve.
When it comes to brain health, vitamins and minerals play their part. Antioxidants are found in a wide variety of foods. High levels are found in blueberries, green tea, tomatoes, and broccoli. The antioxidants consumed through our diet, help eliminate free radicals. Free radicals are basically unstable molecules that destroy healthy brain cells.
Omega-fatty acids are also essential for brain function and health. They cannot be produced in the body, so it’s important that you consume enough through your diet. It is believed that these fatty acids help protect the brain from cognitive decline, reducing your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Which Foods Should I Consume?
A balanced and varied diet is essential for your brain. We eat far too many refined and processed foods. When you eat raw fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts, you’re eating food in it’s natural state. This is highly beneficial to your brain and overall health. Try to incorporate more of the following foods into your diet:
Carbohydrates are not the enemy. In fact, carbohydrates are essential for brain energy. Our brain uses a lot of energy, around 20% of our daily energy to be exact. That’s a lot for such a small organ. Our brain is reliant on glucose for its energy source.
When we eat complex carbohydrates, they release glucose at a steady pace. These include whole grains such as rye, millet, barley, brown rice; starchy vegetables, such as sweet potato; and legumes like lentils and peas. Whole grains help increase blood flow to the brain. When you increase blood flow, you increase nutrient and oxygen levels. When you eat white bread for example, it boosts your blood sugar and makes your energy levels crash shortly after. It is not a sustainable energy source.
As mentioned earlier, antioxidants are related to improved cognitive function and brain health. Berries, especially strawberries and blueberries, are packed with antioxidants. They decrease your risk of neural damage, and cognitive decline.
Fish is referred to as brain food, and there’s good reason. The omega-3 fatty acids, help reduce mental decline. DHA is one of the omega-3 fatty acids, which has been correlated with improved memory. Consume oily fish such as salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel.
If you’re not fond of fish, you can either supplement these fatty-acids with fish oil pills, or consume flax seeds/flax seed oil, soya beans, pumpkin seeds, or walnuts.
Eggs contain high levels of choline. Remember the neurotransmitter acetylcholine? Choline is essential in terms of this neurotransmitter’s synthesis. Without acetylcholine, your brain cells will not communicate as effectively. You can also consume high levels of choline from meat, milk, nuts, and legumes. Although meat is a high source of choline, try to restrict your red meat intake.
Just as you can eat your way to a healthy heart, you can eat your way to a healthy, highly functional brain. Get involved in the foods you’re eating. Improve your mood, focus, memory, learning ability, and overall brain health. Think twice before that next cheeseburger, as you could be eating something much more beneficial.