Can what you eat really impact your brain health? Yes, more than you think! The human brain operates and performs through inherited genotype as well as external factors, like our diet. There are millions of microparticles in the food that we eat. These particles are so small that some are able to permeate our brain’s defense barrier, ultimately connecting diet and brain function. The brain is the essence of our existence, therefore it is always working and requires the best form of “fuel”.
The number one source of brain fuel is through the nutrients in the food we eat. What we eat significantly impacts our brain and can affect the structure and function of the brain, which in turn influences behaviors. The link between nutrition and the brain is often bypassed as individuals do not often relate their neurological, behavioral, and emotional symptoms with their diet. However, the connection has been researched by a plethora of professionals in nutrition and neuroscience. According to neuroscientist Dr. Fernando Gómez-Pinilla, there are many specific gut hormones that are able to permeate the blood brain barrier and negatively influence cognitive ability. The brain needs to have optimal conditions and power to perform its daily tasks (e.g. learning, memory, retrieval, thinking. There are a plethora of ways to ensure the brain is at its most optimal state to perform, starting with feeding it the proper foods.
What types of foods are “brain fuel?”
Leafy Green Vegetables
These types of vegetables contain nutrients like folate, beta carotene, lutein, and vitamin K that are suggested to moderate cognitive decline. Leafy greens include broccoli, spinach, kale, and collards.
Fatty fish carry omega-3 acids which have been shown to decrease the likelihood of Alzheimer’s due to lower blood levels of beta-amyloid. The best types of fish are those that are low in mercury like salmon, cod, and canned light tuna. For those who do n
ot enjoy fish, other sources of tertiary omega-3 fatty acids come from walnuts, avocados and flaxseeds. All of these options are also great sources of protein.
Berries contain a natural plant pigment called flavonoids which are shown to help improve memory. Researchers showed promising results from a study involving women eating two or more servings of berries a week showing delayed memory decline by up to two and a half years.
The benefits of drinking a cup of green tea are countless in terms of brain health. Green tea contains particles such as L-theanine, which crosses the blood brain barrier increasing neurotransmitter GABA, in turn decreasing levels of anxiety. Polyphenols and antioxidants are also in green tea, two substances that supposedly decrease mental decline while aiding to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.
Eating nutritious foods can help to get your brain closer to peak performance, and there are other options to maximize that effect. Introducing neurofeedback therapy accompanied by a healthy diet could be a helpful step toward optimizing brain health. We are lucky to live in an era with a plethora of opportunities to develop our brain toward maximum efficiency. Neurofeedback could be considered an additive bonus to a healthy diet in terms of promoting brain health.
Over the years, research has explored the impact of neurofeedback therapy on peak performance. Through a literature review, researchers unveiled twenty-three studies exemplifying the strong correlation between neurofeedback therapy and enhanced cognition through the areas of learning, memory, attention, complex psycho-motor skills, intelligence, mood and well-being. Each of these areas being benefited helps to optimize brain performance. With the integration of a healthy, nutritious diet and neurofeedback therapy there should be no stopping what your brain can do!
Fernstrom, J., & Wurtman, R. (1974). Nutrition and the brain. Scientific American,
230(2), 84-91. https://www.jstor.org/stable/24950009
Foods linked to better brain power (2021). Harvard Health Publishing.
Gruzelier, J.H. (2013). EEG-neurofeedback for optimising performance. I: A
review of cognitive and affective outcome in healthy participants. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 44(2014) 124-141. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2013.09.015
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