Our brain is the power house of our body. It’s like a maser control panel that constantly ensures that all of your bodily functions – your heartbeat, your breathing, your digestion, etc- are being managed. And understandably so, this power house needs a rich supply of fuel to keep it going. We fuel our brain by the food that we eat, specifically by the amount and the type that we consume. What you eat has a direct effect on your mood and cognitive function.
There are many ways in which food affects mood. One of these is the bacteria circulating in your gut. By consuming the right probiotics and achieving a healthy balance of gut bacteria, the body is able to regulate certain neurotransmitters (chemicals that set the tone for your mood). For instance, serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, sleep, appetite, and pain is mainly produced in your gut and is highly influenced by the billions of good bacteria in there. While this is just one of many examples, below are the top types of foods essential in maintaining great cognitive and mental health.
Omega 3 is a type of healthy unsaturated fatty acids which have been linked to the efficiency of the brain’s clearance system. Studies found that the more omega 3 was circulating in the brain, the better the brain was able to clear itself of beta amyloid plaques. Beta amyloid plaques are responsible for the damaging clumps in the brains of those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Thus by consuming more omega 3, we are maintaining a better clearance system within the brain, and preventing the onset of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Omega 3 is found in high amounts in salmon, cod, canned light tuna, flax seeds, avocados, walnuts, or could be taken as a supplement.
Polyphenols are like the FBI of the brain and body. They act as scavengers of free radicals, and help locate and mitigate the damage that is being caused to the brain. By mitigating oxidative damage polyphenols are also able to prevent the onset of degenerative diseases. To increase consumption of polyphenols you can incorporate nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and spices. Specifically, curcumin, a spice which was also found to be able to cross the blood brain barrier and clear already existing beta-amyloid plaques.
Studies have shown that people who incorporate probiotic rich foods in their diet had better managed anxiety levels, perception of stress, and mental outlooks than those who didn’t. This makes sense, considering that a number of neurotransmitters like GABA, serotonin, and glutamate are influenced by the gut flora. These neurotransmitters help regulate mood which in turn manage stress and anxiety. Thus to sustain a healthy mental state we must incorporate probiotic rich foods into our diet, like sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefir, and probiotic supplements.
Put simply our brain is like a top notch car with an engine that requires premium fuel in order to function properly. And just like that car, consuming anything less than premium fuel would cause the engine some damage. In a similar way, in order to maintain the best possible state of cognitive and mental health, we need to consume the right type of foods to fuel our system.