Eating for the brain
The human brain uses 20-30% of the body’s energy intake when resting, making it by far the greediest organ in the human body. Without adequate nutrition from food, the brain loses control over hormonal, oxygen, immunity and nutrient transport function, leaving it hard for us to think straight let alone get anything done. Read on to find out ways in which you can eat your way to a healthier and bigger brain.
How Nutrients Affect the Brain
The brain electrically communicates with itself and other parts of the body through the movement of biochemical messengers called neurotransmitters. They control our memory, thoughts, learning ability, sleep, perception of pain and libido, and are heavily reliant on the nutrition provided by dietary carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Certain proteins sourced from these foods contain amino acids that influence neurotransmitters responsible for keeping us relaxed and alert. For example, proteins containing Tyrosine keep us alert by affecting the dopamine and norepinephrine transmitters, and may be sourced from meat, dairy, eggs, almonds and avocadoes. Also, the Tryptophan found in red meat, dairy, seeds, nuts, fish and soy products affects neurotransmitters that keep us calm.
Breakfast for your Brain
Skipping breakfast has recently been linked by science to reduce school and work performance. Breakfast replenishes the brain with energy and nutrients it missed during sleep. Without it, the brain must use stress hormones to source energy from its own stores, leaving you feeling tired, irritable, and less likely to remember things throughout the day.
The Importance of Carbohydrates
Eating an adequate amount of complex carbohydrates in your meals enhances your brain’s memory and learning capability. They usher amino acids into the brain increasing neurotransmitter performance levels as they do.
The brain also likes a nice steady supply of glucose throughout the day. When an individual eats irregularly or skips meals altogether, blood sugar levels dramatically fluctuate, resulting in erratic moods, behaviors and a potential bout of the “sugar blues”. For optimum brain function, aim for three meals throughout the day and snack regularly to prevent your mood from roller coastering!
Anti-oxidants Protect the Brain
Foods packed with anti-oxidants, such as fruits and vegetables, protect the brain from oxidative damage by free radicals. These free radicals if left unchecked can cause damage to the cells, leading to an overall reduction in brain function. Some of these antioxidants may include:
- Vitamin C – found in citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes and broccoli.
- Vitamin E - found in wheat germ, nuts, seeds and vegetable oil
- Vitamin A & Beta-carotene – found in Spinach, carrots, cantaloupe, and winter squash.
Eating Fish Will Make You Smarter
Yes, your mother was right: fish makes you smarter. But how? Recent scientific studies have linked the brain food to its high Omega-3 content. It has been shown to feed the brain with nutrition, assist in its development and to help prevent degenerative brain diseases such as dementia. Other rich sources of DHA include Flax oil, Canola oil, eggs, wheatgerm, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and soybeans.
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