The brain requires energy and nutrition just like any other part of the body. However, many people often lack the essential nutrients necessary for a healthy, well-functioning brain despite the fact that they can easily be found in many common foods.
Let’s take a look at the most essential nutrients for your brain and their food sources:
Dietary fats are one of the most misunderstood macronutrients, as many people don’t realize that there is such a thing as good fats. In fact, healthy fats are a vital nutrient for the human brain — you just want to avoid bad trans fats rather than healthy ones!
Surprisingly enough, the total ‘dry weight’ of the brain is around 60% fat, with approximately 20% of this fat consisting of essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6. As the body has no natural way of producing these nutrients, they must be sourced from foods.
Both omega-3 and omega-6 should be consumed in equal amounts, although most people will find they have more omega-6.
Omega-3 is found predominately in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring, along with various seeds and nuts (e.g. flax seeds and walnuts). Omega-6 is present in more common food products, including poultry, avocado, eggs and nuts.
Always be sure not to confuse these good fats with trans fats, which can actually hamper brain functioning by stopping these essential fatty acids from working effectively.
The main source of energy for the brain is glucose, which is made from the carbohydrates consumed from certain foods. Complex carbohydrates are the best source of glucose as they release the nutrient at a slow and steady pace, ensuring energy levels remain stable in the brain.
Starchy foods such as wholegrain breads and pastas are ideal sources of complex carbs, as too is brown rice. These are better and healthier sources of energy than white breads, pastas and rice, which contain refined carbohydrates. You can also use vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, and yams for a source of complex carbohydrates.
Proteins are required for a healthy brain because they break down into amino acids, which are an important component of the brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. These are necessary for the various brain cells to communicate with each other effectively.
Neurotransmitters are vitally important for a number of reasons. For example, the neurotransmitter serotonin affects your mood and is directly linked to functions in the body such as sleeping and eating.
This makes it very important to get enough amino acids, which can be found in protein-rich foods such as meats and poultry (preferably grass-fed and free-range), dairy products, fish and eggs.
B vitamins are known for their ability to improve mood and reduce stress. Perhaps the most common B vitamin that is lacking in most diets is vitamin B12. This can be found in animal products like fish, meat, poultry and eggs. It is also a popular ingredient in over-the-counter brain supplements many men and women take to improve their brain health, memory and focus.
When you consider that the brain is made up of almost 80% water, it makes total sense that we need ample supplies of fluids to the brain. Oxygen present in water will help to keep the brain vitalized and functioning at a high level.
Even a little dehydration in the brain can make you struggle with concentration, memory and other cognitive functions. So make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.