Nutrition and Brain Health
There is an old common adage, “You are what you eat.” While it is a visual gag for comic strip artists, the idea behind the quote is different. If you eat healthily, you become healthy. I, for one, am glad it is not a literal interpretation. We do not need to run on the assumption of people either have eaten other people or are turning into food items literally. Our diets shape our physical outcomes. That much is certain. But what about your brain? Can nutrition help or hurt it, or is it something that is less influenced by diet?
How Our Bodies Work
For starters, anyone well versed in nutrition, or anatomy will tell you that not all of your anatomical parts are a vacuum. Each organ, blood vessel, muscle, and bone are all connected to create various working systems. We need out bloodstream to carry nutrients from one place to another. Muscles, bone, and organs also require blood sources to stay healthy and alive. And all of them require the brain to function at all.
So, if you think about it, the human body is a very complicated network of multiple systems. All of which are interdependent with one another.
That would mean that the brain will most likely require nutrition. Especially, if it is technically an organ in your body. But what sort of nutrition is required for your brain? Can a lack of it hinder its own performance?
This is Your Brain on Nutrition
In Barcelona, Spain, there was research conducted by a study group of 2oo older participants who were split into two groups. For four years, some of them had a low-fat diet, while others were on the Mediterranian Diet. When compared against a low-fat diet, subjects who had participated in a Mediterranian Diet had better cognitive functions and memory recollection.
The only difference between the two diets was the supplement of olive oil and nuts, both of which have healthy fats. So, in a way, our brains need healthy fats, as well as fruits and vegetables to stay healthy.
This discovery was enough for hospitals and nutritionists to create the perfect diet for Alzheimer’s patients, The MIND diet. It gets its name from the acronym Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay and most of it relies on common sense strategy.
There is a list of foods that people are supposed to eat and avoid on this diet. Most of which stress the importance of antioxidants as well as healthy fats.
So, what is permissible as proper brain food?
Nutrition and Brain Food
What to eat, what to skip
Creators of the MIND diet suggest 10 brain-healthy foods and five cut back on.
- Green leafy vegetables
- Other vegetables
- Dark Chocolate
- Whole grains
- Olive oil
- Red Wine
Try to limit:
- Red meats
- Butter and stick margarine
- Pastries and sweets
- Fried or fast food
But why is this the case? What makes these approved foods work, and what doesn’t? Harvard has the answer to that one.
“Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate moods, and inhibit pain. Since about 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, which is lined with a hundred million nerve cells, it makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system don’t just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions.
What’s more, the function of these neurons — and the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin — is highly influenced by the billions of “good” bacteria that make up your intestinal microbiome.
These bacteria protect the lining of your intestines and ensure they provide a strong barrier against toxins and “bad” bacteria; they limit inflammation; they improve how well you absorb nutrients from your food, and they activate neural pathways that travel directly between the gut and the brain.”
So not only does it affect our brains on a purely functional level, but it also shifts how we feel about things. That is amazing!
Conclusion: Eat Clean, and Get Smarter
We are certainly what we eat, but on a level that we could hardly comprehend until now. Nutrition has a surprisingly high impact in our lives and is a driving force that determines our overall health. Food is medicine for the body, so it is only right that we should give it the stuff that we need.