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How What You Eat Can Affect Your Brain

How What You Eat Can Affect Your Brain

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What you eat can have a direct and long-lasting impact on your brain. We take a look at what are the best foods to feed your brain and keep a healthy mind.

Key Takeaways

  1. Healthy eating is essential for your memory, mood and focus
  2. Many foods can be harmful to the brain and can lead to conditions such as Alzheimer’s
  3. There are also foods that can boost brain function and maintain a healthier mind

The brain is the most powerful organ in your body. Your skull does a great job at keeping it protected but what you decide to eat can have a distinct impact on your brain.

If you took all the moisture out of your brain and broke it down to its constituent nutritional content, then most of the weight would come from fats know as lipids. The remaining brain matter would contain proteins and amino acids, traces of micronutrients and glucose.

Each component of the brain has an impact on function, mood, development and energy so if you feel tired after lunch or restless on an evening, this could be the effects of food on your brain.

What’s Good To Eat?

Omegas 3 and 6 are important fats in your brain which have been linked to preventing degenerative brain conditions. These have to come from our diet so eating omega-rich foods like fatty fish, nuts and seeds is important in creating and maintaining cell membranes.

Proteins and amino acids are vital for growth and development and can manipulate how we feel and behave. Amino acids contain the precursors to neurotransmitters which affects things like sleep, attentiveness, mood and weight. This means you might feel more alert after a protein rich meal.

The brain, like other organs in the body, benefits from a steady supply of micronutrients. Fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants that strengthen the brain to fight off free radicals that destroy brain cells. This enables your brain to work well for a longer period of time.

Consuming powerful micronutrients like vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid reduces your susceptibility to brain disease and mental decline.

What’s Less Beneficial To Eat?

While omegas are good fats for your brain, consuming other fats like trans and saturated fats may have a negative impact on your brain in the long term. Industrially products trans fat, known as hydrogenated vegetable oils, are one of the worst culprits here. They can be found in margarine, frosting and ready-made cakes and studies have found that when people consume higher amounts of trans far, they tend to have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease, poorer memory, lower brain volume and cognitive decline.

A high glycemic food such as white bread leads to a rapid release of glucose in the blood. Then the blood sugar comes down quickly and your attention span and mood will drop too. Oats and grains have a slower glucose release which provides a steadier level of attentiveness.

Sugary drinks not only can cause you to gain weight, but it also has a negative impact on your brain. Excessive intake of sugary drinks increases your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, which has been shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Higher sugar levels in the blood can also increase the risk of dementia.

A Balanced Approach

Food finding its way to your brain is not a simple journey and amino acids have to compete for limited access. Having a diet with a range of foods helps maintain a more balanced combination of brain messengers and stops your mood jumping around in different directions.

For sustained brain power, try opting for a varied diet of nutrient rich foods.

References

Francis, Heather M., et al. “A brief diet intervention can reduce symptoms of depression in young adults–A randomised controlled trial.” PloS one 14.10 (2019): e0222768.

Moreira, Paula I. “High-sugar diets, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.” Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care 16.4 (2013): 440-445.

Crane, Paul K., et al. “Glucose levels and risk of dementia.” New England Journal of Medicine 369.6 (2013): 540-548.

Barnard, Neal D., Anne E. Bunner, and Ulka Agarwal. “Saturated and trans fats and dementia: a systematic review.” Neurobiology of aging 35 (2014): S65-S73.

Gibson, Edward Leigh, Suzanne Barr, and Yvonne M. Jeanes. “Habitual fat intake predicts memory function in younger women.” Frontiers in human neuroscience 7 (2013): 838.

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