Certain foods can make you feel ill, cause gastrointestinal troubles, or trigger an allergic reaction. Well, food can also affect how your brain functions. Foods like refined carbs, high fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate (MSG), or even canola oil can cloud your brain and cause inflammation. Your body needs plenty of nutrients to survive, and so does your brain. A poor diet can lead to depression, anxiety, and it can even affect your sleep schedule.
The brain is mostly made up of fats (lipids) and needs fat to stay healthy. That is why low fat diets are not conducive to brain health. The brain needs fats, but this does not mean you should go out to eat a cheeseburger and fries with a large, sugary soda. You can actually get healthy fats, in addition to glucose, micronutrients, amino acids, and protein, from plant-based foods. Nuts and seeds are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which help create cell membranes and help prevent degenerative brain conditions. Great sources of omega-3s include:
- Pumpkin & Chia Seeds
- Hemp Seeds
- Hazelnuts, Brazil Nuts, and Butternuts
- Turnip & Beet Greens
- Alfalfa Sprouts
- Pinto & Kidney Beans
- Brussels Sprouts
Studies have shown that people with omega-3 deficiencies are likelier to develop mental disorders such as attention-deficit disorder, dyslexia, dementia, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia. Alternatively, children who have diets high in omega-3s perform better in school and are better behaved.
You can help improve your attention span by avoiding high-glycemic carbs like white bread and desserts. These foods can spike blood sugar levels in the brain before plummeting to a crash. It’s better to eat complex carbs like legumes or whole grains because they help raise blood sugar levels slowly. If your blood sugar levels are balanced instead of constantly fluctuating, you can have improved attention and brain function.
While there are beneficial foods for your brain, there are other foods that are not so healthy for it. Trans fats are the worst for your brain. To be honest, trans fats are terrible for your whole body. They are mostly found in fast foods and highly processed foods, both of which should be avoided for better overall health. It’s also beneficial to avoid saturated fats because they can impair your brain’s mesolimbic dopamine system, which is responsible for your general wellbeing, motivation, and moods.
It is best to eat real foods, avoiding your consumption of processed foods, refined sugars, and trans fats, in addition to the other unhealthy brain foods mentioned above. By eating real food, i.e. fruits, nuts, legumes, vegetables, and seeds, you automatically reduce your ingestion of foods that have a negative effect on your overall health. Plus, eating these foods gives you the essential nutrients that your brain, and body, need for optimum health.
As you can see, food affects your brain just as much as it affects your overall health. Set yourself up for success by eating healthy foods that are beneficial for your brain and body. Next time you have a hankering for chips, grab a bunch of spinach, an apple, a banana, or some watermelon instead; your brain and heart will be happy you did.