Food for brain and mind

Nicola - Wednesday, April 9, 2014

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The cliché ‘you are what you eat’ has multiple meanings, but for here it is Food as medicine: healthy food for optimal physical and mental health. Most people underestimate how much energy from protein, vitamins, minerals, healthy fat and carbohydrates the brain requires- a whopping 25%.

Brains need a healthy diet to function- all the neurotransmitters which enable the brain to work need to be made!

For a long time medical science has demonstrated that healthy food and eating breakfast improves new learning, memory concentration and other brain functions. Research also now suggests that diets in our middle-age impact upon our cognitive health in the future- memory and thinking abilities in our older age. This relationship is direct and not just by way of diabetes and cardio-vascular disease- both risk factors for dementia and associated with obesity, but directly because our brain does not get enough nutrients to support brain cells (neurons) and neuroplasticity (brain changes and growth).

Other studies indicate that what we eat not only impacts our waistline and diabetes risk, but also on brain function, dementia risk, and mood- psychological health. A British study found that individuals who ate a diet of highly processed food were almost 4 times more likely to develop a mental health issue like depression.  If we do not have a healthy diet with a range of vitamins and minerals and proteins our brains do not have the right ingredients or enough ingredients to make necessary neurotransmitters.  Serotonin, necessary for normal energy and mood,  is no different.  Worse, when we are stressed our metabolism slows and our production of insulin changes often resulting in weight gain. Therefore apart from eating healthily every day to feel energetic with a clear mind, when we are stressed we have to take extra care to eat well. When you plan your day’s food think of what ingredients you are feeding your brain to work -is it nutritious?

  • Eat slowly and mindfully- appreciate what you are eating and give your stomach time to tell your brain you have eaten enough (20-30 minutes)
  • Eat regularly- every 4-5 hours is best because long periods of no food cause stress on the body
  • Always eat breakfast- it is called break the fast for a reason- and helps speed up your metabolism for the day
  • Stay hydrated and limit diuretics like caffeine drinks and alcohol
  • Slowly cut down on sugar, salt, and fried foods and replace them with nutritious options