When we choose our foods for the day do we ever consider our brain health as part of the big picture. Probably not. We think about our cravings and our immediate gratification.. right? Some of us may think about our waistline and our overall health but rarely do we choose a food because it is going to our “head”.
Feeding the brain healthy nutrition is probably one of the most important things we should consider. How we feed our brain will determine what kind of mood we will be in, how much energy we will have, how clear we are thinking, how well we will sleep etc.
It’s a proven fact that when we eat “garbage” foods or “junk” foods that are nutritionally void of value, we are “dumbed” down…so to speak. We just don’t operate or perform at our peak potential. So many things are affected by the fuel we take in. Yes, even the brain.
When it comes to “brain food” there are some nutrients to include in our food decisions.
Vitamin B in it’s many forms, supports cell energy production and improves our physical energy. But these B vitamins also help the brain in memory function and our clarity of thoughts. I take a good B Complex and also give myself a weekly B12 shot. That is not something very many people choose to do. I find it easy to do and I feel more energized afterwards. If you are feeling fatigued maybe there is a naturopathic doc close by who offers B12 shots. They aren’t expensive…and go a very long way to boost your brain. B1, also known as thiamin, helps your mood and confidence, both brain functions. Foods rich in B vitamins include yeast extracts, dairy such as good quality yogurt (I choose an organic yogurt from grass-fed cows), wild salmon, turkey meat and brown rice, to name a few.
Another important thing for the brain is IRON. Iron helps to send oxygen to your brain. You can get iron from red meat, seafood, dark chocolate, spirulina, black strap molasses, tempeh, dark leafy greens and sesame paste or Tahini, to name a few sources. Oxygen to the brain is important for proper brain function.
Calcium is a brain booster helping the brain release hormones and neurotransmitters. Dairy is high in calcium as is kale, broccoli, chia seeds, sardines, almonds and tofu, to name a few sources. I prefer organic when going after my calcium needs each day.
Selenium is a big brain booster. My favorite way to ensure I’m getting selenium in my diet is to eat Brazil nuts. You get selenium from sunflower seeds, mushrooms, turkey and chicken, brown rice, oatmeal and seafood, to name a few sources. This is a powerful antioxidant that helps to prevent your precious brain from getting “rusty”. Getting enough selenium is protective against stroke and dementia which are devastating short circuits of the brain.
Protein is important for brain boosting. It helps to make serotonin and dopamine which regulate mood. The best sources for protein are poultry and red meat, fish, beans and whole grains, nuts, seeds and eggs. ( I opt for organic and grass-fed protein sources so as to get more benefits from the food I consume).
Chromium is important for keeping your blood sugar in check. If you are lacking in this mineral then you will feel hungry all the time. You will have food cravings for things that aren’t the best choices. You could also experience irritability and depression if your chromium levels are low. Some of the best sources for this are the Brazil Nut, dates and pears. I love to make a salad with chopped dates, pears and Brazil nuts tossed with greens in a vinaigrette. What a brain booster that salad is.
Zinc is an important mineral which helps regulate hormones. Eating lean beef, liver, pumpkin seeds and oysters are a good source of zinc.
The absolute worst foods for brain health are the ones we often crave when we are tired or moody. We reach for refined carbs and fried junk. If you care about your noggin and how it’s working for you then you want to avoid the following
- French fries and their unhealthy trans fats
- Hot dogs, loaded with nitrites and nitrates, salt, sugar and dyes are not good for the brain…in fact they have been linked to brain cancers.
- White rice…opt for brown rice
- canned tuna for it’s mercury content
- Diet pop….artificial sweeteners are so damaging to the brain
- Fast food burgers and the like….are full of sodium and preservatives
- Cheese loaded with saturated fats increases inflammation and damages the hypothalamus which regulates body weight….yikes
- Caffeine…gives you a rollercoaster of ups and downs throughout the day. I know I have taken a liking to organic coffee for the pick up it gives me when I’m feeling daytime fatigue. I know it affects my brain function as sometimes I get a bit shaky. I try to limit my caffeine to a few early in the day so it won’t affect my brain where sleep and repair are concerned.
- Microwave Popcorn …. trans fat laden and toxic….can affect the brains ability to remember things. Memory is affected. Pop your own popcorn in an air popper. It’s so much better for you.
- Doughnuts and refined carbohydrates like pastries and store bought muffins. Loaded with saturated fats and sugars…these bad boys can damage the “blood brain barrier” potentially leading to Alzheimer’s Disease. High sugar content leads to cognition deficits and memory loss.
So, as with healthy eating for your heart health, your waistline, your overall health….eating poorly affects your brain, your mood, your energy, hormones, the body’s ability to fight off free radicals etc.
Skip the fast food, skip the sugar, skip the pastries and ice creams and your brain will be “firing on all cylinders “.