Our brain controls every aspect of our lives, including our heartbeat, breathing, senses, thoughts, and movements. The brain also requires nutrients to perform these functions optimally. Improper nutrition can lead to cognitive decline and other brain disorders.
How Does Nutrition Impact The Brain?
Nutrition doesn’t just help in food digestion; it also affects your brain. Your brain produces the neurotransmitter serotonin that regulates your mood, appetite, and sleep. Many studies have reported that the consumption of probiotics is highly associated with improvements in perception of stress, anxiety, and mood. So, this gut-brain communication is crucial for cognition (1).
Improper nutrition can lead to cognitive decline and increased risk of stroke and memory loss. Nutritional disturbances also have a significant impact on behavior. It has been found in a study that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) frequently are deficient in essential fatty acids and iron (2).
Therefore, from psychological wellbeing and cognition to behavior and mood, nutrition highly influences brain function.
Dietary Fats And Brain Functioning:
Do you know your brain is made up of 60% fat, including omega-3s and omega-6 fatty acids? When you eat the right kind of fats, your brain function is highly boosted. Omega-3 fatty acids, being the building blocks of the brain, are vital for learning and memory (3).
However, you should avoid saturated fats like fatty meat or whole-fat dairy products. Trans fats can worsen your brain because they damage brain cells by oxidizing over time (4).
You can get omega-3s from:
- Fatty fish like tuna, sardines, and salmon
- Plant sources like chia, walnuts, and ground flaxseeds.
- Low-fat dairy products
Effects Of Carbohydrates On Brain Health:
Your brain is mostly fueled up by the consumption of carbohydrates, including sugar and starch. Good and bad carbohydrates are what make a big difference.
Complex carbohydrates boost brain function and provide protection to the brain cells against free radical damage. Refined carbohydrates have been linked with cognitive decline (5).
Healthier carbohydrates are also rich in fiber. Fiber is good for gut bacteria that also play a role in brain health.
You can get healthy carbohydrates from:
- Whole grain
- Fruits and vegetables
Effect Of Proteins On Brain Health:
A high intake of lean proteins is essential for neurotransmitters that send signals throughout the brain. Healthier sources of proteins include:
- Poultry and fish
Eggs are rich in choline that is important for improving brain function. A deficient dietary intake of proteins highly affects the blood-brain barrier (6).
- Gómez-Pinilla F. Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2008 Jul;9(7):568–78.
- Iron Deficiency in Children With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder | Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders | JAMA Pediatrics | JAMA Network [Internet]. [cited 2021 Jul 20]. Available from: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/485884
- Gomez-Pinilla F, Tyagi E. Diet and cognition: interplay between cell metabolism and neuronal plasticity. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2013 Nov;16(6):726–33.
- Chianese R, Coccurello R, Viggiano A, Scafuro M, Fiore M, Coppola G, et al. Impact of Dietary Fats on Brain Functions. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2018 Aug;16(7):1059.
- Maw H, Ng K, Z H. Carbohydrates and cognitive function. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care [Internet]. 2018 Jul [cited 2021 Jul 20];21(4). Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29851417/
- Snelson M, Mamo JCL, Lam V, Giles C, Takechi R. Differential Effects of High-Protein Diets Derived from Soy and Casein on Blood-Brain Barrier Integrity in Wild-type Mice. Front Nutr [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2021 Jul 20];0. Available from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2017.00035/full