Eat Your Way to A Healthy Brain

By Kim Banting, Tags: , , , ,

Eat Your Way to A Healthy Brain

WHO defines mental health as “a state of complete mental, physical and social wellbeing, not merely the absence of disease” and states that diseases of the brain affect 1.1 billion people worldwide.  http://www.who.int/topics/mental_health/en/  1 in 4 people will be affected at any point in their lifetime.

Other alarming statistics:

How Can You Keep Your Brain  Healthy and Avoid Becoming a Statistic?

You have 100 billion neurons in your brain that are communicating with eachother at all times.  Picture the Amazon rainforest.  The trees represent the number of neurons you have and the leaves on the trees are the connections between these neurons!  Amazing isn’t it!  How well the communcation runs between these pathways is directly affected by what you eat.  Our diets have changed radically in the last 100 years.  Our bodies and brains are made entirely of molecules in the food, air and water we take in.  If simple molecules like alcohol fundamentally affect the brain, isn’t it unlikely that changes in our food and environment have no affect on mental health?  Eating the right foods has been proven to sharpen your memory, boost your IQ, improve mood and keep your mind young, but what are the nutrients we should be focusing on?

Sugar:

One of the most important things we can do to improve brain health and function is to balance our glucose levels.  Historically, as hunter/gatherers, we ate the equivalent of 20 tsp of sugar per person per year.  Today is it calculated that we eat 50 tsp of sugar per day!  That’s 158lbs of sugar per year!  When blood sugar levels exceed the maximum threshold, the body experiences damaged nerve cells and stops them from working properly.  This is refered to as glycation.  Membranes become thicker and gunked up which slows down brain communication.  This also creates inflammation in the brain which is the body’s way of saying something is wrong.  We need carbohydrates for brain health, but we need the right ones.  Your best bites are whole, intact grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and legumes.

Fats:

Every cell in your body, including your brain and nerve cells are 75% fat.  These fats are always being used and replaced, so the fat you eat is of utmost importance.  Our bodies cannot make the best fats for our brain and nervous system, so we must get them from outside sources.  Sardines, wild salmon, herrring or flax seeds, hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds will give you healthy omega-3′s.  Sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and Evening Primrose oil are great sources of omega-6′s.  However, even if we do make an effort to eat healthy fats, our body’s ability to make use of these is hindered if we are also consuming fried foods, too much red meat, refined sugar and alcohol as well as stress, smoking, obesity and not enough antioxidants.

Phospholipids:

Choline and serine are the star nutrients that help build cell membranes and the myelin sheath that insulates all of your nerves, helping information to run smoothly throughout your body.  Phospholipids also assist the methylation process  http://www.jacn.org/content/23/suppl_6/621S.short  which keeps the brain chemicals in balance.  Faulty methylation can lead to memory loss, mood disorders, depression, poor concentration, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and more.  Serine is an amino acid that is made in the body and egg yolks, peanuts and soy lecithin are excellent sources of choline.

Amino Acids:

Amino acids send messages in the forms of neurotransmitters that keep us motivated, reduce depression and anxiety, improve concentration and memory and help us to relax.  They are derived directly from protein.  We require 8 essential amino acids and our body can make the rest with the help of various vitamins, minerals and enzymes.  Quality protein comes mainly from animal foods (chicken, beef, fish, eggs and dairy foods) as well as whole grains, seeds and nuts and legumes.  However, plant sources must be combined to form a complete protein  http://nutrition.about.com/od/askyournutritionist/f/protein_combo.htm .  An example of a complete plant protein is rice and dahl.

Smart Nutrients:

Vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and enzymes.  These nutrients are the catalysts that help turn glucose into energy, amino acids into neurotransmitters, simple fats into complex fats and choline and serine into phospholipids.  They turn down inflammation and help build and repair the brain and nervous system.  Without these, none of the other nutrients can do their job.  They are found in all of nature’s foods, and interestingly, each food contains specific nutrients that contribute to its impact on overall health.  You see, turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid that helps make serotonin, a neurotransmitter.  However, it also needs B6, B12 and folic acid to make the serotonin and turkey just happens to contain those as well!  Perfect synergy.

Health and happiness,

Kim

 

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