The brain needs food, just as any other organ - and the right kind of that. The brain controls all our actions and thoughts and the food we eat can affect the brain both in a positive or negative way. A lot of nutrients and chemicals from our diet interact with our brain and can do so in a positive way.
The main source of energy for the brain is glucose and though candy can give you a quick high, it is healthier to fuel the brain with foods which release carbohydrates which are then converted to glucose - slowly and continuously.
Amino acids are derived from protein-rich foods that are required for the synthesis of neurons and neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters behave like messengers and carry messages from one neuron to the next one. In a healthy brain, neurotransmitters are vital for keeping your brain sharp. These neurotransmitters include dopamine for immunity and care of the nervous system, serotonin for moods, sleep, memory and learning, norepinephrine for alertness and focus, and acetylcholine for retention of memory and recall.
The brain needs healthy fats including Omega 3 fatty acids.
Antioxidants protect the brain from free radicals – due to excess oxygen – which float in the blood stream. They can cause loss of memory as a person grows older –
The brain has a good amount of water and, to maintain this healthy level, a person needs to drink 7 -8 glasses of water per day.
Vitamins like B6, B12, and vitamin C are important, along with minerals like iron and calcium as they are the building blocks for the brain. Taking a multivitamin regularly – after meals – can take care of this.
Foods that help keep your brain healthy:
Blueberries: Berries are extremely good for the brain and their glycemic index is low with high fiber content – making them good for the brain. Blueberries are excellent for memory and learning; they reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Walnuts: These nuts contain high amounts of antioxidants which battle against brain cell damage caused by free radicals in the blood stream. They improve mental ability and clear the thought process. Walnuts are also known as “brain food” and the omega 3 fats found in walnuts aid brain function. Walnuts control the serotonin level of the brain – which is a chemical responsible for our moods.
Lentils and Beans: Beans have plenty of fiber, vitamins, proteins and minerals and are a rich source of carbohydrate. The brain uses 20% of the carbohydrates eaten. The brain needs glucose and beans can supply this at a steady pace.
Avocado: The monounsaturated fat in avocados help in blood circulation which, in turn, aids the brain to function better. They are rich in antioxidants and control high blood pressure.
Oatmeal: The best way to start the day is with oatmeal as breakfast. It is packed with fiber and is good for both the heart and the brain. The energy produced by eating oatmeal can sustain a person for long periods.
Pomegranate: As good as blueberries, pomegranate is rich in antioxidants. Rather than waste all the fibers present, it is better eaten in the fruit form rather than as a juice. Pomegranates are great stress busters.
Chocolate: Chocolate has caffeine and antioxidants, and of course serotonin, which is the happy protein. Chocolate can boost the brain and make you feel light hearted and happy, though take care – it’s the dark chocolate we are talking about and not the milky one.
Seeds: Sesame, flax and sunflower seeds are rich in protein and the good fat as well as vitamin E and minerals like magnesium and zinc.
Oysters: Popular as an aphrodisiac, oysters are rich in magnesium, selenium, proteins and nutrients, which are necessary for the brain.
Garlic: Fresh garlic is best as it has properties which reduce bad cholesterol and fights bacteria because of the antioxidant content.
Tomatoes: Tomatoes are rich in lycopene which again has antioxidant properties and so prevent cell damage. They are very good in warding off Alzheimer’s disease.
Carrots: The compound luteolin in carrots brings down the inflammation in the brain and helps cells to retain memory.
Tea and Coffee: The caffeine in coffee perks you up and gets you awake and alert. Tests on mice show that coffee slows down Alzheimer’s disease. Tea is very good for memory.
Spinach: Most greens and especially spinach are storehouses for vitamins C and E. They help the brain tissue to repair and also grow again. Eggs: The protein and fat in eggs supply energy to the brain for long stretches of time. Selenium found in eggs is a mood enhancer; eggs eaten in moderation are definitely a plus with no cause for concern.
Take care not to overdo the alcohol – a glass of red wine 2-3 times a week is alright, but imbibing alcohol regularly can inhibit brains function and interfere with dopamine production too.
Sugar and corn syrup is definitely unhealthy and should be indulged in as a treat only. Nicotine restricts blood flow to the brain and brain function is seriously hampered. A meal very rich in carbohydrates makes the brain and body very slow and sluggish.
It is also better to restrict aerated drinks, cakes and pastries, and junk food should be kept at a minimum.