HOW FOOD AFFECTS OUR BRAIN
There are times when we human beings eat not because we’re hungry, or because we need the nutrition, but because of the way we are feeling. When we’re feeling down or experiencing anxiety, for example, it’s easy to turn to food for some kind of relief or distraction. But there is also evidence for the fact that our emotions may themselves be the result of the foods we eat. It is quite amazing but there is something to be said about how food affects our brain.
Many people reach for comfort foods like bread and chocolate when feeling down, anxious, depressed, or experiencing fatigue, but some foods also have a direct effect on cognitive performance, brain function and chemistry.
Carbohydrates do provide increased energy in the form of blood glucose, which feeds the brain, and increases mental acuity and mood balance. But just like the rest of the body, the brain needs carbs. It requires healthy fats, amino acids (the building blocks of protein), and vitamins and minerals.
Becoming more versed in which foods will deliver the best nutrition for your emotions and moods will aid you in nourishing your nervous system and restoring inner vibrancy. While the body needs carbs for energy, you need to monitor the amount of them you intake per meal, per day.
For more information about healthy eating, visit my article “Healthy Eating Over 50“.
HAPPY FOOD, SAD FOOD
Some foods alter brain chemistry in a way that is similar to some prescription medications. Some foods are good for your brain and some are bad.
Let’s take a look at some foods that are good for your brain:
> Fatty fish (salmon, trout, sardines)
> Turmeric (spice)
> Pumpkin seeds
> Dark chocolate
> Green tea
These foods contain antioxidants that keep your brain healthy and protect it from being damaged.
Foods that are bad for your brain are as follows:
> Sugary drinks
> Refined carbs (including highly processed grains like white flour)
> Foods high in trans fats
> Highly processed foods
> Aspartame (artificial sweetener)
> Fish high in mercury
These foods are bad for your brain because they impair memory and learning.
SUGAR AND OUR BRAIN
For quite some time now, it is known that sugar has an effect on the brain. For a better understanding of this, watch the below video:
THE EFFECTS OF SEROTONIN
Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that powerfully influences how we feel emotionally. Doctors believe that increasing the level of serotonin that is available to the brain has an effect on symptoms of anxiety, depression, sleeping problems, and over-eating to name a few. But there are alternative, natural ways of positively affecting serotonin levels, without taking prescription drugs.
The naturally occurring amino acid ‘tryptophan’ is the precursor, the key ingredient, to manufacturing serotonin in the body. By providing the diet with more foods rich in tryptophan, it is possible to increase serotonin levels naturally:
> Soy beans
> Soy bean products (tofu and soy milk)
> Nuts and seeds
> Fresh vegetables (potato skins – note: if organic, there’s no need to peel potatoes – just give them a good scrub and wash
> Kelp and spirulina
> Fruits (mangoes, bananas and dates)
All the above foods are excellent sources of this important amino acid. Including these foods in your diet may be the first step in brightening a low mood, alleviating anxiety, and providing more positive support for the central nervous system.
YOUR BIG FAT BRAIN
No one likes being told they have a fat brain, but it is actually a good thing. The human brain consists of high amounts of polyunsaturated fats, including the famous omega-3 essential fatty acids that you find in fish oil and some nut and seed oils.
The nervous system needs Omega-3 in order for nerve cells to conduct messages, in the form of electrical signals, to each other. So it is no surprise that low blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to an increased risk of anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. Supplementing with omega-3 directly improves how a person feels emotionally, and how well the brain functions as a whole.
In one double-blind, placebo controlled study conducted by the Medical University of Vienna in Austria during 2012, volunteers suffering from psychosis experienced a huge reduction in negative emotional symptoms, including anxiety after they were given omega-3 supplements for 12 weeks.
In lieu of taking supplements, you can improve your diet by including health-promoting omega-3-rich foods such as the following:
> Chia seeds
> Flax seeds
> Sea vegetables
FINAL FOOD FOR THOUGHT
There are foods that can affect our brain. Food can also be eaten as a way of getting through stress and anxiety. There is a way, however, to turn it around by eating foods that are rich in omega-3. It is known that sugar affects are brain as well. Now that these facts are known, it will help you make healthier food choices in the future.
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