Here’s How the Food You Eat Affects the Brain – How to Boost Mental and Physical Health

The brain is a complex organ responsible for thought, memory, motor skills, vision, breathing, and every process that our body goes through. It is how we understand and make sense of the world around us. Since the brain is responsible for so much, it should come as no surprise that it needs certain nutrients to function optimally. The food you eat affects the brain in many ways.

person eating unhealthy food which reduces brain health
Foods are the building blocks for health – source

What you eat has both short-term and long-term consequences on the brain, good and bad. Depending on the food, quality, and type, the brain can experience certain symptoms which in turn affect your quality of life. Why are you tired sometimes after lunch, why is sleeping hard, or why do your thoughts feel cloudy and depressing? It can all come down to what you eat.

What Does the Brain Need to Function

Most of the composition, about 60%, of the brain is made up of fats, also known as lipids. The rest of the brain is composed of amino acids, proteins, small amounts of micronutrients, and sugar also known as glucose.

Essential fatty acids are vital in determining your brain’s ability to carry out all its functions. Each component of the brain impacts mood, repairs, development, mental clarity, and energy levels. So, how do certain nutrients, proteins, or even sugar affect the brain? Let’s find out.

How Certain Foods Affect the Brain

Certain feelings of tiredness, insomnia, restlessness, bad mood, or even stress, may all be due to certain effects of food on the brain. Here is how certain foods affect the brain! Learning which foods help the brain and which hurt can help you make better nutritional decisions, allowing you to feel better, look better, and be healthier.

Sugar to Eat

The brain contains a storage of glucose which can help the brain perform functions like thinking, learning, and memorizing. Too little sugar reduces the production of neurotransmitters and impacts their ability to function.

Healthy sources of sugar include those found in complex carbohydrates, as these are rich in glucose and don’t spike out insulin. Choose whole grains, beans, betters, and sweet potatoes as healthy carbohydrate sources that won’t cause tiredness, inflammation, or mental fog.

Sugar to Avoid

Too much consumption of certain sugar can harm the body and brain, such as mental fog, restlessness, and inflammation.

Avoid simple carbohydrates as these spike blood sugar and raise insulin. If insulin is high, the body cannot repair and grow, and constantly flooding the body with insulin may lead to insulin resistance, eventually leading to diabetes. Avoid high levels of simple sugars, like those in white bread, pasta, white sugar, candy, and soft drinks.

Fats to Eat 

Omega 3 and omega 6 lipids are essential fatty acids in the brain and have been linked to preventing neurological damage, reducing degenerative brain diseases, and protecting the brain structure. These have to come from the foods we eat as they are not made in the body. 

Omega 3 can be found in fish, nuts, and plant oils while omega 6 can be found in sesame, eggs, tofu, and nuts as well. A good ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids should be about 1 to 1 or 4 to 1. Saturated fats are a fundamental building block for brain health. As long the source comes from healthy products such as nuts, coconut oil, and grass-fed animal products, it is healthy.

Plus, good monounsaturated fats like avocado or olive oil support brain cells and function greatly.

Fats to Avoid 

An imbalance of omega 6 to omega 3 is dangerous. Western diets tend to be high in omega 6, causing it to be 15 to 1 or even more out of balance. Too much omega 6 can hurt the cells of the body and blood vessels. In the brain, it leads to inflammation, brain fog, and mental illness such as depression and anxiety. 

Avoid too much canola oil and other vegetable oils, as these can increase omega-6 fatty acids way too much. Plus, avoid trans fat in general, as these can also have negative effects on brain health.

Protein to Eat

Proteins, which are rich in amino acids, are the building blocks for any growth and development in the body and brain. These greatly determine behavior, mood, and thoughts. Amino acids contain vital components to make neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that play a role in emotions like fear, happiness, and anger, and even impact concentration and energy. Just think of the happiness chemicals and how they influence mood daily.

Protein sources should be grass-fed if from an animal as these are of higher quality. Even eggs have more nutrients if they are from pasture-raised hens. While animal sources are the easiest to absorb and use by the body, you can also get some from soy, quinoa, nuts, seeds, and beans.

Protein to Avoid

Avoid animal products of low quality, such as anything found in fast food or takeaway. Unless specifically noted, most of those proteins are slathered in harmful, overused oils and obtained from cheap sources. 

Fish, which is great, should be consumed in moderation as too much consumption can lead to high levels of mercury, a toxic chemical to humans.

Micronutrients You Need for Brain Health

In general, there are some nutrients you need in very small amounts. These are called micronutrients. The antioxidants in fruits and vegetables provide the brain with the needed components to fight off free radicals, reducing brain cell damage.

Important micronutrients include B6, B12, and folic acid, which protect from neurodegenerative disease. Vitamin B6 sources include starchy vegetables, organ meat, fish, and non-citrus fruit. B12 can be found in animal products like meat, eggs, and daily, or can be supplemented with nutritional yeast. Good folic acid sources are dark leafy greens, beans, fruit, peanuts, and some seeds.

The Takeaway

The foods you eat influence the brain which in turn impacts the entire body, from how you think, act, and feel. Certain foods can give you energy or make you tired or can boost your mood, or cause insomnia. Eat the right foods to provide your body and mind with the tools they need to thrive.

Remember that health comes from within. Sometimes, taking care of health, both physical and mental, can come down to nutrition. Providing your body with the right foods can give you the building blocks you need to feel better physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Practice self-care, eat well often, and work out at least three times a week to watch how overall wellbeing flourishes. 

Take care of gut health as well! A balanced gut allows you to use and absorb nutrients eaten. Without a good gut microbiome, you cannot utilize all the nutrient-dense foods you eat. Gut health also influences muscle growth, mental health, immune system response, digestion, metabolism, and much more. Learn everything you need to know about gut microbiota today for free here!

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