Brain food is food that is beneficial to the brain. Like our skin and our stomachs, certain foods contribute to the nourishment and treating of these areas of the body. The brain also needs certain foods to help boost its power so that we are functioning at our best daily. We should be stocking up on brain food!
The brain, the complex machine that controls our entire being, is actually easy to feed and nourish. Certain foods feed us nutrients and provide benefits that many of us are unaware of. For instance, Barbara Shukitt- Hale, USDA Nutrition Research Facility at Tufts University states the following about the nutrients we consume:
“Plants have developed mechanisms to deal with stresses in the environment. Because of sunlight, smog, and temperature they have developed antioxidant or anti- inflammatory capabilities. When we ingest them they are protective in our bodies as well.”
In this article, we’ll talk about the importance of healthy brain foods and will recommend to you the best 9 healthy snack foods to boost your brainpower!
Table of Contents
The Importance of Brain Food and How it Helps The Brain
Our brains control everything that we do. Certain chemicals impact the way it works in good and bad ways. Brian food helps increase your intellectual power! According to an article published by Fernando Gomez- Pinilla, Departments of Neurosurgery and Physiological Science at UCLA:
“Research over the past 5 years has provided exciting evidence for the influence of dietary factors on specific molecular systems and mechanisms that maintain mental function. For instance, a diet that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids is garnering appreciation for supporting cognitive processes in humans and upregulating genes that are important for maintaining synaptic function and plasticity in rodents.”
The classical saying “you are what you eat” holds a lot of value and truth as proven by research. Here’s some insight:
- Amino Acids are derived from protein and help support and connect your neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters help keep the brain sharp — dopamine for nervous system function, serotonin for mood, memory, and learning, norepinephrine for alertness and concentration, and acetylcholine for storage and recollection of memory.
- Glucose is what gives the brain energy. Brains get almost all of their energy from glucose.
- Fatty Acids such as polyunsaturated, omega-3, and omega 6 help strengthen nerve cells which help strengthen memory.
- Antioxidants inhibit oxidization. Antioxidants remove damaging oxidizing agents in living organism.
Lack of Brain Food and Its Effect on The Brain
I discussed the great impacts of brain food consumption for the brain. Lack of brain food will have a reverse impact. Lack of brain food can cause memory, cognitive, blood sugar imbalance, brain fog, nutrient deficiencies, and mood difficulty.
Serotonin, the neurotransmitter that regulates sleep, appetite, and mood is produced in the gastrointestinal tract (the digestive track that takes food, digests, extracts, and absorbs the energy and nutrients from food consumption).
Simply put, proper brain food is essential to your everyday health. Brain food is essential for a healthy digestive tract which is needed for healthy serotonin levels. Healthy serotonin levels are essential for healthy sleep, appetite, and mood.
Other physical difficulties can result from lack of brain foods: blood pressure, increased acuteness, and irritability to name a few.
Brain food is essential to our lives because they feed the machine that keep us going. Lack of brain food means lack of proper care for ourselves.
What Foods Harm The Brain?
It’s no secret that certain types of foods are bad for us in multiple ways. Healthy brain food consumption can be looked at and handled just like consuming food for weight loss. There are some foods that feed your entire being for overall health and many that you should stay away from in high quantities because they negatively impact your entire being, here are a few:
- Sugary foods and beverages– higher sugar levels in the blood can increase the risk of dementia.
- Trans and saturated fat– this one has been a known fact for weight; however, linked to the brain, observational studies have found an association between saturated fat intake and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Refined Carbohydrates– this also includes sugar. Please note that refined carbs turn into sugar. This means that they turn into high glycemic food. Foods high in GL (glycemic load) have been found to impair brain function.
- Aspartame– “but I’ve been told it’s a sweetener, a sugar substitute, and better than consuming sugar”. Aspartame is used as a sugar substitute more so for weight loss because it has 0 calories. It may be effective for weight loss; however, it is a food that can be harmful to the brain. Aspartame is a product made up of phenylalanine, methanol, and aspartic acid.
- Phenylalanine– can cross the blood-brain barrier and might disrupt the production of neurotransmitters- serotonin.
- Methanol– can cause metabolic acidosis causing central nervous system disturbances.
- Processed foods– generally the foods found in the middle of the grocery store, these foods tend to be high in fats, sugar, and salt. Not only do these foods cause weight gain, that gain is harmful to the brain.
A study of 243 people found increased fat around the organs, or visceral fat, to be associated with brain tissue damage.
9 Healthy Foods to Boost Your Brainpower
These amazing, green, circles/ovals of joy are packed with nutrients! If you like guacamole, then you like avocadoes! Avocado is a fruit consisting of healthy carbs, fat, and vitamins:
- Vitamin K– synthesizes certain proteins that are prerequisites for blood coagulation.
- Folate– one of the B-vitamins that is needed to make red and white blood cells in bone marrow, convert carbs to energy, and produce DNA.
- Vitamin C– cannot be produced in the body therefore awareness on consumption is essential. Vitamin C is a necessary antioxidant for strengthening the body’s natural defenses, also known as immune system.
- Potassium– a mineral and electrolyte, that produces electrical impulses around the body and assist with: blood pressure, muscle contractions, nerve impulses, digestion, and heart rhythm.
- Vitamin B5– essential for the production of energy and breaking down fats and carbohydrates.
- Vitamin B6– necessary for normal brain development and for keeping the nervous and immune system healthy.
- Vitamin E– dissolves fat and supports vision, reproduction, and healthy blood, brain, and skin.
Understandably, those with nut allergies cannot consume walnuts.
For those that can, walnuts provide amazing benefits, like having twice as many antioxidants than almonds and peanuts. These small nuts are packed with DHA (omega’s), protein and minerals.
A study conducted by Rush University showed that people that 1-2 servings of greens, like spinach, for 5 years, had the cognitive abilities of someone 11 years younger.
Spinach is loaded with vitamin K, folate, beta carotene (an antioxidant), and lutein (an antioxidant).
4. Dark Chocolate
This is a win. chocolate for brain food!
Chocolate has high levels of flavanols. Dr. Bret S. Stetka, MD, states the following about flavanols:
“These abundant phenolic plant compounds have marked antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and are thought to be responsible for much of the health benefit ascribed to chocolate consumption”.
Studies like the Swedish Mammography Cohort study found the following results:
Increasing chocolate consumption by 50 g per week reduced
- Cerebral infarction risk by 12%
- Hemorrhagic stroke risk by 27%,
- Total stroke risk by 14%
5. Green Tea
Green tea is known to be a powerful antioxidant beverage that helps improve brain function, contributes to fat loss, and reduces risk of cancer.
Additionally, loaded with L-theanine (an amino acid), it increases dopamine.
Kale has so much of what we need in one bunch. Loaded with iron, folate, vitamin B6, and protein, it has everything that the brain needs to produce serotonin and dopamine.
Tomatoes are packed with antioxidants; however, have an added benefit- lycopene. Lycopene regulates the genes in the brain that influence inflammation and contribute to brain growth.
Besides adding amazing flavor, sage is makes for great brain food. It’s an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Not only is it used for pain relief, but it also contributes to the enhancement of memory and cognitive abilities.
A little seed packed with huge benefits. Chia seeds are rich in DHA (omega)and a complete protein.
This means that they carry 9 of the essential amino acids necessary to keep moods sable and brains functioning at their best.
Eating mindfully is essential for our well beings. Our brain control everything. We feed it knowledge, we also need to feed it proper nutrients. Stock up on these brain foods to keep that machine running at its best!
Featured photo credit: Mohammad Jafar Mansuri via unsplash.com
|||^||Nat Rev Neurosci.: Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function|
|||^||European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Direct and indirect cellular effects of aspartame on the brain|
|||^||Choudhary, Arbind Kumar: Neurophysiological symptoms and aspartame: What is the connection?|
|||^||Neurosciences (Riyadh): Methanol intoxication with cerebral hemorrhage|
|||^||Ralph L. Widya: Visceral adipose tissue is associated with microstructural brain tissue damage|
|||^||Michiel Sala: Microstructural Brain Tissue Damage in Metabolic Syndrome|