Healthy Foods for a Healthy Brain

Did you know that your brain represents only about two percent of your entire body weight?  Yet, it uses more than twenty percent of all your energy!

Your brain consumes half of the blood sugar that circulates in your bloodstream.  It uses twenty-five percent of your body’s nutrients and twenty percent of all the oxygen you inhale.

Yet, for all the work our brain does, it is often deficient in the necessary nutrients and sources of food it needs to be properly nourished.  Just like your muscles, bones, and other organs in your body, without the proper nutrients, your brain will begin to break down.

A well-nourished brain keeps you happy and healthy, feeling vibrant and well, and able to make good decisions about your life. On the other hand, if your brain is malnourished you may find that you suffer from chronic anxiety, depression, fatigue, insomnia, memory loss, difficulty focusing, and a general sense that you are melting down.

When your brain does not receive the necessary food and nutrients it needs, it can be manifested in your emotions, your moods, your thoughts, and your behavior. It is important to understand the type of nutrients your brain needs.  Just like exercise and proper rest, brain nourishing foods should be part of your daily wellness plan!

What Kind of Food Does Your Brain Need?

A well balanced diet consists of six basic nutritional components: protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. Without a sufficient balance of these components, your brain will fail to thrive or function at its optimum.

  • Protein –  The amino acids found in protein are the building blocks for your brain’s network of neurotransmitters.  Most of us, regardless of how conscientious we are, will have a difficult time balancing our brain chemistry. Without the necessary amino acids there will not be a healthy balance of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and GABA.

I recommend that my patients start their day with a serving of protein and at least two more servings during the day.  Excellent sources of protein are organic meats, cheese, eggs, fish, poultry, and game meats.

  • Carbohydrates –  Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose by the body.  Glucose is the primary energy fuel used by the brain.  A diet low in carbohydrates will negatively affect brain function.  It’s important, however, that you eat complex carbohydrates rather than simple carbohydrates.

Simple carbohydrates found in junk food, for example, can you leave feeling hungry, dizzy, and tired.  Whereas complex carbohydrates such as those found in whole grains, fruits, beans, and vegetables, provide your body with necessary fiber, vitamins, and minerals your brain needs to have a steady supply of energy giving glucose.

  • Fats – Your brain is composed of EFAs, essential fatty acids, which lay the foundation for brain nerve cells and neurotransmitters.  Without these essential fats, brain tissue becomes starved and nerve cells become hardened and shrivel. As a result, neurotransmitters are unable to gain entry to message carrying neurons, which affects our ability to learn, concentrate, focus our attention, and remember things.

Eating a diet rich in healthy, essential fatty acids will nourish brain tissue, improve the health of our cell membranes, and even improve the health of our skin.  Some of the best sources for essential fatty acids are nuts, nut butters, olives, avocados, coconut oil, butter, extra-virgin olive oil, and flaxseed oil.  Cold-water fish such as salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel, and herring, along with shark, swordfish, and tilefish are excellent sources as well.

  • Vitamins & Minerals – Multivitamins contains vitamins, minerals and essential trace elements needed for your brain to function in a healthy fashion.  Without them, necessary biochemical functions are not able to take place properly, which can negatively affect mood and behavior.

A good multivitamin should contain all of the necessary B-vitamins, which your body does not store, along with folic acid, anti-oxidants such as vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, selenium, manganese, chromium, iron, and boron.

Foods to Avoid

Many of us –  women especially –  love red wine.  While in moderation, red wine has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, alcohol has a dramatic effect on brain function and is counter-productive when it comes to mood.

Alcohol not only depletes necessary vitamins and minerals in our body, but it also causes an imbalance in the mood regulating neurotransmitters.  While it may provide some measure of relaxation, in the long-term, too much alcohol can negatively affect not only your mood, but your over-all health as well.

Red food coloring and artificial sweeteners are both very harmful to the brain and have been linked to hyper-active behavior, impulse control issues, attention deficit disorder, migraines, depression, and even joint pain.

White flour and hydrogenated fats not only lack necessary nutrients to support good brain function, but they replace the good fats and fiber-rich parts of food that we need with chemically altered substances that impair good health.

For more information on my Basic Supplement Plan and foods to support healthy brain function, check out our store and my book The Female Brain Gone Insane!

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