“Treat your body like a temple, not a woodshed.”
Chances are, you’ve heard this quote, or something similar to it, at some point in your life. While this particular saying comes from motivational speaker Jim Rohn, it is a common sentiment; if you take good care of your mind and body, it will take care of you. It’s a great philosophy to live by, but many people don’t realize how accurate that saying is!
All of the food we put into our bodies affects us in different ways. For example, most of us know that caffeine and sugar can give us short bursts of energy, and protein helps us build muscles, but in reality, it extends much deeper than that. Everything we eat can chemically affect our brains, and put simply, unhealthy foods can decrease your energy levels and affect your mental health to varying degrees.
This article will explore a few ways that food can change our brains and go over a couple of tips that you can follow to make sure you’re getting the most out of your diet.
What Food Is Bad For The Brain?
To find the connection between food and mood, you have to begin in the gut. Many people may not know this, but every human’s internal gut is unique and has a decisive say in how your brain functions. Our “gut biome” is made of billions of bacteria, which break down food into chemicals called neurotransmitters.
These chemicals, like serotonin and dopamine, directly affect our brains, and as you might suspect, the food we eat changes what our gut biome transmits to the brain.
The bad news? Most of our favorite starchy and sugary foods are probably contributing to our mood, and not necessarily in a good way. In particular, foods like bread and crackers, which are based primarily on flour, and sugary foods like soda and candy, can give you a short burst of energy, followed by a dramatic energy crash later on.
This isn’t saying you need to cut out bread and sugar entirely! However, if the majority of your diet consists of these kinds of foods, they may be playing a role in your mood and energy levels throughout the day. Of course, you can’t “fix” your brain health entirely with your diet, but it is undoubtedly a contributing factor.
What Food Is Good For The Brain?
On the other side of the spectrum, there are a plethora of food choices that can help you and your brain get on the right track! Even better, there are specific foods correlated to the production of different chemicals, meaning that you can add or subtract certain foods from your diet on a needs-only basis.
First on the list are complex carbohydrates! These are carbs found in foods like brown rice, whole grains, and vegetables. As a rule of thumb, most of your daily energy comes from carbohydrates, and to reap the most health benefits, you should try to opt for complex rather than simple carbohydrates.
Simple carbs (like sugar and corn syrup) can give you quick bursts of energy, but the fatigue that follows it far outweighs the benefits. On the other hand, complex carbs help raise your blood sugar levels for a more extended period of time, making them the definition of super energy foods. Additionally, complex carbs are full of fiber and provide essential vitamins and minerals to your daily diet.
Next on our list of brain-healthy foods; protein! Protein can come from various sources, but lean protein, such as white fish, white meat poultry, lean beef, and legumes, is the best protein. These sources of protein are essential for a few reasons.
Firstly, there is a correlation between protein intake and the production of important neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals help with mood, motivation, and concentration, so you can see how an increase in these neurotransmitters can be incredibly beneficial. Beyond the neurotransmitters, lean proteins, mainly fish, can provide a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids.
These fatty acids are healthy fats that your body cannot produce on its own. We pull Omega-3’s from the food we eat, so a good source of them is helpful to have.
Fruits and Vegetables
The final food group that rounds out our list is none other than good old fruits and veggies. As the staple of any healthy diet, you can rarely go wrong with brain foods like fruits and veggies. On the chemical side of things, fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals, which play an important role in your nourishment.
More importantly, however, fruits and vegetables are a superb source of antioxidants. Antioxidants protect your body from free radicals, which gives us an overall health boost and is thought to reduce the risk of illness. One study even examines a link between happiness and an increase in fruits and veggies in a diet.
Putting It All Together
Individually, all of the above foods are great additions to your gut biome, but the best results come from meals with all three categories. There has been plenty of research in this area, leading to the creation of one diet, in particular, call the MIND diet.
The MIND (Mediterranean/DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet combines the Mediterranean diet with the DASH diet, two diets that are among the healthiest options out there. This combination targets nutrient-dense meals made of standard brain-healthy foods such as those above.
Though there is still plenty of research to be done on the topic, studies have shown the diet effectively reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s, lowers blood pressure, and slows cognitive decline as we age.
Try out some MIND diet recipes, and see how you feel after a few meals! Chances are, you’ll feel more balanced, whole, and healthy!
Medical Disclaimer: All information, content, and material of this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider. Always seek the medical advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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