There is little doubt that our physical health feels the direct consequences of large quantities of fast food. Just as we fill up our cars with premium fuel to ensure best functioning, our brains function best when we feed them premium fuel. Premium fuel for the brain contains many vitamins, minerals and amino acids that nourish and are protective. However, if the brain is deprived of these good quality nutrients, this will have direct consequences on its health.
A consistent diet of fast food can directly rob the brain of crucial nutrients that it needs for optimal functioning. Whilst fast food is often seen as the easy or quick option, these foods deprive your body of essential minerals and vitamins. They also interfere with neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible for our overall wellbeing. In fact, according to research, a diet too low in omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids and tryptophan can increase feelings of depression, increase risk of attention deficit disorder, dementia, bipolar and schizophrenia.
Our diet can have a profound effect on our ability to learn and form memories. A diet of too many calories can interfere with the brains ability to produce normally functioning and health synapses, leading to a significant detrimental impact on our cognitive ability. Similarly, a diet high in trans-fats can worsen memory (trans fats include margarine, cakes, biscuits, crackers, deep-fried food).
So what should your healthy brain diet consist of?
Blueberries, dark chocolate, coffee and fish can reduce harmful inflammation and increase mitochondria activity.
Mitochondria are known as the power houses within our cells. By boosting them, we are also boosting overall energy levels and reducing inflammation. While inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury, uncontrolled and excess levels of inflammation can cause damage to the brain. Mitochondria also increase brain-derived neurotic factor (BDNF), a protein in the brain that supports the outgrowth of neurons. Many people refer to the actions of BDNF as ‘miracle grow’ for the brain; by stimulating its release, the effects of ageing are reversed and the brain actually makes more neurons.
Boost your brain power with the goldmine of vegetables and fruit, particularly beetroots, tomatoes and avocados.
When we age, our blood flow decreases and contributes to cognitive decline. However, research has found that natural nitrates found in beets can increase blood flow to the brain by promoting neuron growth in the hippocampus.
Go nuts for nuts!
Nuts play an active role in the brain to fight amyloid plaques. Amyloid is used by brain cells to communicate, however, when it accumulates, it groups into plaques which kill neurons and cause inflammation. Amyloid plaques are clumps of beta-amyloids, which destroy connections between nerve cells. They are found in the brains of people with Alzheimers disease, an incurable dementia that impacts thinking, memory and behaviour.
Swap the simple carbohydrates for complex carbohydrates such as whole-grains.
The brain is like every other organ in the body – it needs energy to run. In fact, our ability to focus and concentrate is a result of a steady support of energy. When we consume complex carbs such as whole-grains, glucose is released slowly in the brain. On the contrary simple carbs provide us with a sharp skyrocket in glucose levels. Managing your energy throughout the day and managing your blood sugar is critical for helping you remain alert, attentive and focused throughout the day.
For optimal performance, it is important to pay close attention to what you eat. Make strategic use of food – it can help you to optimise your cognitive health, boost your brain function, enhance your memory, improve your concentration and focus and ultimately deliver great performance!