What You Eat Affects Your Brain – In A Big Way

We all understand that what we eat affects our body. Yet, not everyone is aware of the important connection between what we eat and our mental health.

While mental disease is a complex and often debilitating state that is still not completely understood, we do know that the foods we eat affect our brain’s ability to function, and thereby affect our moods.

Eating the right kinds of foods can help keep our mental abilities sharp and can give us an edge against depression and more.

We have known for years that a main factor that contributes to poor brain function is the effect of damaging molecules known as free radicals. Our bodies typically produce a certain amount of free radicals just as a result of living, aging, and day-to-day functioning.

These free radicals contribute to the aging process and a certain amount of dysfunction that we all experience. But studies have shown that the brain is particularly affected by the damage caused by free radicals.

Foods that help minimize the damage of free radicals are called antioxidants. If we don’t take in enough antioxidants we impair our body’s physical and mental performance. In fact, we impair the body’s ability to heal itself.

These healing molecules help support our bodies’ ability to repair itself, grow, and function well—particularly our ability to think clearly and process new experiences properly.

So what are the foods high in antioxidants and therefore slow the aging process and improve brain function?

They are foods high in essential vitamins like beta carotene, vitamin E and vitamin C. Also  berries (especially blueberries), nuts, seeds, broccoli, carrots, and spinach, to name just a few.

But free radicals are not the only factor here.

A diet deficient in specific minerals can also affect our brain’s health. Studies show that certain nutritional deficiencies can result in poor brain function. The standard diet in this country is shown to be low in three nutritional food groups that affect our mental health: essential vitamins (many of them antioxidants), minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Two of the most important minerals for a healthy brain are magnesium and selenium.

Magnesium rich foods help our cognitive abilities such as learning and memory. These include seafood, leafy green vegetables, beans and legumes.

Selenium is another mineral that is associated with cognition. Studies have shown direct links between depression in pregnant women and a lack of selenium in their diets. They have also show the same in depression and memory loss in the elderly who are also selenium deficient. Foods that are rich in selenium include: fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

A third deficiency in the American diet that affects brain health is omega-3 fatty acids. For years we’ve been warned away from fat of any kind. But the omega-3 fatty acids found in grass-fed beef, fatty fish, avocados, and almonds actually help recharge our brains and sharpen our memories.

Keeping our brains healthy is something we can all take control of. Staying away from highly processed sugary foods and nutrient deficient meals and replacing these with whole foods rich in essential vitamins, minerals and the omega-3s mentioned above—are all excellent ways to stay healthy both physically and mentally.

Categories: Mental Health

About Author

Katie McCormack

Katie is a contributor for DailyHealthDigital® for all topics related to aging, well-being and health. Her interests lie in holistic and natural remedies. She is an avid reader and a yoga practitioner.