Did you know that 20% of your daily caloric intake is used by your brain? Not only that, the kinds of foods you eat on a daily basis have an influence on everything from cognitive function, to mood, and mental wellbeing.
Your brain requires a lot of energy to keep your body and mind functioning and alert. This means that it thrives on quality, nutrient-dense foods and suffers when you are inadequately nourished.
Researchers in the new and growing field of nutritional psychiatry have found that foods affect the structure and functioning of the brain, as well as mental health.
Is Your Diet Causing Poor Brain Function and Mood?
Studies have shown that certain foods, such as refined sugar, generally have a negative impact on brain function. These are your cognitive abilities like learning, thinking, reasoning, memory, problem solving, and attention span. Additionally, you may personally have food intolerances that negatively affect mood and cognitive functioning.
Studies have shown that eating large amounts of refined sugars, anything on a nutrition label ending in “ose” such as fructose, dextrose and sucrose, cane or brown sugar, corn sweetener or syrup, and more; is harmful to the brain. Additionally, it affects your body’s ability to regulate insulin, causes inflammation in the body, and oxidative stress at the cellular level. All of this leads to poor cognitive function and has been correlated to mental health issues, like depression.
Everyone is Unique: Know Your Food Intolerances
An elimination diet is a good option if you feel that you eat a balanced diet but are still experiencing symptoms. Foods like wheat and gluten, yeast, dairy products, soy or corn, refined grains, or red meat may be the culprit. Food sensitivity testing is also an option to get to the root of what foods might be best for you to avoid.
6 Foods for Mental Wellbeing and Better Brain Function
It is important to eat high-quality foods containing vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to nourish the brain, protect it from stress, and improve cognitive function.
With 95 percent of your serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep, appetite, moods and pain, being produced in the gut, it is important to take care of your digestive tract and gut microbiome. A healthy gut leads to less inflammation in the body, good serotonin production, and better brain function.
Use these foods to boost cognitive functioning:
- Blueberries: Regular blueberry consumption has been shown to improve memory function. Blueberries are rich in antioxidants, which aid in preventing damage caused by free radicals. And the good news doesn’t stop there. Research has also found that these little blue jewels can reverse age-related diminishment in coordination, balance and motor function.
- Eggs: Did you know egg yolks are rich in choline, an important nutrient in improving memory function?
- Broccoli: According to the authors of “365 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power,” broccoli – or, more specifically, broccoli sprouts – is a super food that has been linked to staving off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Flax seeds: Flax seeds are packed with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a fatty acid considered beneficial in combating a range of health conditions, including heart disease, cancer, and high cholesterol. Some evidence also suggests benefits for the brain’s cerebral cortex, where sensory information is processed.
- Salmon: Rich in omega-3 fatty acid, salmon promotes the growth of brain tissue, helping counter the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related cognitive disorders.
- Chocolate: For those with a sweet-tooth, perhaps the most exciting news to come out of medical research in some time is that eating chocolate can sharpen cognitive ability. Yes, chocolate! And both dark and milk chocolate have benefits. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, and can improve mental focus and concentration; milk chocolate is believed to improve memory and reaction time.
Your brain is full of potential, but in order to reach that potential you need to treat your brain to a healthy variety of fruits, vegetables, unprocessed grains, lean protein, and low in red meat, unhealthy fats, and refined sugars. Start by adding some of these super foods to your diet and getting rid of any foods that may be causing you more harm than good.