The brain is composed of billions of neurons that drive every function you engage in, including mood, behavior, learning, and cognitive abilities. Neurotransmitters help the neurons communicate with each other, connecting prior learning with new learning and regulating the brain’s ability to remain alert and take in new information. These neurotransmitters are produced as a result of the food we eat.
Nutrition for brain health is extremely important. Neurons require water and nutrients in the form of healthy fats, protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals to function properly. The foods we eat influence our brain chemistry, which alters the way we learn and behave, as well as our mood and sleeping patterns. The brain is very demanding, drawing upon 30% of your energy intake, so if you are trying to fuel your brain with poor nutrition, you will experience reduced clarity, memory, concentration, motivation and problem solving abilities.
The brain is not something to mess with. If you want to live a long, healthy, happy life, taking care of your brain is an absolute must, and it starts with the food you eat. Leading an overall healthy lifestyle is the key instead of short-term fad diets. Here are our top nutrition for brain health tips so that you can fuel your brain with proper nutrition:
Medicinal foods are foods that provide strong health benefits and have natural medicinal value. Medicinal foods come from nature. When you cook home-cooked meals with natural whole food ingredients like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices, you can feel good knowing you are supplying your body with the nutrients it needs.
Eat Superfoods, such as spirulina, elderberries, blueberries, raspberries, pecans, cashews, beets, kale, and olive oil, all of which serve to reduce inflammation, increase blood flow to the brain and support overall health and wellness.
Stay away from refined carbohydrates, such as table sugar, products made from white flour, muffins, donuts, pastries, cookies, cakes, white pasta and white rice, which increase inflammation and reduce blood flow to the brain.
Avoid processed foods, which are convenience, pre-packaged foods that typically contain empty calories that provide no nutritional value while also being high in additives, artificial sweeteners and chemicals.
Avoid fast food, which are typically loaded with trans fats, saturated fats, cholesterol and sodium.
Blood flow to the brain is key to brain health and also to reducing the risk of stroke. Oxygen and nutrients are carried through the bloodstream and are delivered to the brain and the heart. When we eat foods that cause blockages in the arteries blood flow between the heart and the brain is reduced, damaging both organs. That means that many of the things you do to ensure good heart health are the same things you can do to ensure good brain health.
Managing weight is extremely important for brain health, just as it is for heart health. Studies have shown that obesity in middle age can lead to a stronger risk of dementia in senior years.
Maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels is also important for brain health. Middle aged people who have high cholesterol and high blood pressure have been found to have six-times the risk of dementia in later life. You can maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels by reducing your intake of foods that are high in saturated fats, like red meat, processed meats, dairy and fried foods. Replace them with healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), which include foods like olive oil, avocados, nuts and cold water fish.
Neurons are constantly under attack from oxidation that results from environmental toxins, poor diet, pesticides, excessive sun exposure, alcohol consumption, stress, and cooking methods such as frying and barbecuing. Over time, the results of oxidation can lead to chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease and Parkinson’s disease. Antioxidants help fight back against oxidation, neutralizing their ability to destroy our cells.
Dark-skinned fruits and vegetables and dark leafy greens contain high levels of antioxidants, which help to fight off disease causing oxidation. These include kale, spinach, broccoli, beets, eggplant, red bell pepper, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, plums, red grapes, oranges and more.
Fat is absolutely essential for healthy brain function, but choosing your fats wisely is the key. The best fats to consume are omega-3 fatty acids that come from coldwater fish like salmon, trout and tuna, as well as flax seed, walnuts, beans and dark leafy greens
Trans fats and saturated fats impede the flow of oxygen to the brain and cause the brain to become toxic since waste is unable to flow away from the brain. The brain function of a person who eats a lot of these bad fats, such as processed foods, fried foods and meats, will function at a much lower rate than someone who eats more healthy fats like home-cooked healthy meals, extra virgin olive oil, nuts and lean meats.
Protein is essential for brain health because the brain cannot create neurotransmitters that communicate with each other without it. The amino acids provided by protein helps the brain produce serotonin and dopamine, which help provide a sense of wellbeing, happiness and stress relief, and they also help protect DNA and cells from damage.
Smart protein choices are important, and they include nuts, poultry, coldwater fish, yogurt, green leafy vegetables, stone ground whole wheat and wild rice.
Carbohydrates are also essential for brain health because they provide the brain with energy. The key is to make sure you are getting mostly complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains instead of refined sugars, which are absorbed quickly causing a greater release of insulin.
B-Vitamins help with energy production for brain cells, and help produce serotonin for wellbeing and GABA for focus and concentration. They are found in whole grains and green vegetables.
Zinc is essential for the brain’s ability to take in and retain new information. It is found in seeds, nuts and lean cuts of read meat.
Magnesium protects the brain from neurotoxins. It is found in nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens and whole grains.
Water is an essential part of brain function, serving to maintain the quality of membranes that are necessary for neurotransmitters to function. Plus, it helps the brain remove toxins and waste and maintain proper brain temperatures that could otherwise lead to cognitive decline. Dehydration can lead to poor concentration and energy. Be sure to drink at least 8 glasses of water each day.