We often wonder how the food we eat affects our bodies, but how does the food you eat affect your brain? Of course, your brain is the most important organ in your body and relies on nutrients in food to survive and function. When we eat a heavy, carb-laden lunch only to find ourselves feeling sleepy when we return to our desks, our brains are feeling the effects of what we’ve chosen to put in our systems.
Check out the TED video below to learn about how the foods you eat can naturally affect your brainpower, memory, moods and energy!
The video explains that aside from water, your brain is made up mostly of fats, amino acids, proteins, micronutrients and glucose. These nutritional components each impact your brain’s development, functioning, mood and energy in various ways. Read on to see how each component specifically affects your brain when it reacts to the nutrition in your food.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential to helping your brain age with grace, and can only come from the foods we eat. That’s why health experts recommend eating plenty of nuts, seeds and fatty fish to maintain cell membranes. However, long-term consumption of other fats, like trans or saturated fats, can have adverse effects on brain health.
Proteins and amino acids tend to affect our feelings and behavior. Our brains also need micronutrients and vitamins found in food. For example, it is critical that our brains receive a steady supply of micronutrients from fruits and vegetables to ward off free radicals, which can damage brain cells. Vitamins B6, B12 and Folic Acid are particularly important to our diets to keep our brains healthy and sharp as we age. Iron, Copper, Zinc and Sodium are also important to brain health and the early stages of cognitive development.
Glucose is another nutritional component that helps the brain power its ability to process the essential nutrients that it needs in order to function properly. Typically, our bodies receive glucose from the carbohydrates we eat, which come in three forms: sugar, starch and fiber. However, the ratios of sugar and fiber can affect how the body and the brain responds when the carbs are digested. For example, white bread, a high glycemic food, can cause a spike in your blood sugar followed by a large dip in blood sugar, which is the ‘crash’ in mood, memory and attention we sometimes feel. On the flip side, carbs like oats and grains have a slower, healthier release of glucose, which help prevent those crashes that slow us down.
Eating healthy foods doesn’t just help you stay in shape physically – it helps you stay sharp mentally as well. Be sure to think about your brain the next time you crave a bowl of sugary cereal for breakfast. Instead try Greek Yogurt with Crispy Fruit or Overnight Oats to boost your brainpower naturally at breakfast.
– Sara Kildunne