So often, you’re told to keep your heart healthy, your liver clean, and your cholesterol low. And yes, you want to do all of those things. Your body won’t take care of itself, after all. But are you taking your brain health for granted?
Your brain is essentially your body’s computer. And just as a computer can’t work properly without a supply of electricity, your brain needs certain nutrients to keep running smoothly.
But what foods and supplements do you need in order to help boost you to an optimum brain-body connection?
Well, while people usually have no trouble associating how nutritional deficiencies tie into physical illness, they don’t always see the connection between diet and the brain.1
So, in order to understand what your brain needs most, you need to know a little bit more about what makes it tick – and how it all works.
How Your Brain Works
Put simply, your brain processes the information it gets from your senses and sends messages back to your body. That’s how it gets you to respond to certain internal and external stimuli.
However, your brain can do more than just direct your animalistic impulses in response to your environment. Because you’re a person, you can also think complex thoughts and feel emotion – all of this adds up to make human beings uniquely intelligent.
Now, if you clench your fists tight and press your hands together, you’ll get an idea of the size of your brain.2 And your brain is made up of around 100 billion nerve cells.3
One of the largest components of your brain is a substance known as DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid. Basically, it’s a form of omega-3 fatty acid. And it turns out, DHA is necessary for the growth, functional development, and maintenance of your brain.4
If you can get DHA in your diet, you’ll likely help improve your ability to learn. On the flip side, if you’re unable to supply your brain with enough DHA, you might experience difficulty learning. You see, your brain likes DHA better than the other omega-3s.
So, it’s important you find DHA where you can, since your body doesn’t make it on its own.5
In order to get more DHA-rich omega-3 oil in your system, you can either feast on marine algae or up your intake of wild-caught fish – especially coldwater fish.6 That’s tip number one, but there’s more to learn about how food can affect your brain …
Can food affect mood, stress, and anxiety?
In a word – yes. Unfortunately, you or someone you know has probably experienced the effects of stress, anxiety, and depression. And these aren’t just different words for the same thing. To be clear …
Depression is a kind of lethargy and sadness. And it’s a pretty regular occurrence. In fact, psychiatrists refer to depression as psychiatry’s “common cold.”7 So dealing with occasional feelings of depression isn’t anything to be ashamed of – on the contrary, it’s normal. But if you find your feelings of depression overwhelming, please consult a medical professional.
Anxiety is a combination of fear and general nervousness. Stress can be brought about by feeling overwhelmed by work or emotional factors. And believe it or not, stress can be more powerful than diet in its effects on your cholesterol.8
Also, according to large population-based surveys, nearly 34 percent of people are affected by anxiety disorders at some point in their life.9 That’s a pretty significant number, so if you’re experiencing either stress, anxiety, or depression, know you’re not alone.
Just remember – if you’re ever dealing with feelings of depression or anxiety that feel too difficult to overcome, please consult a medical professional immediately. And if you need someone to talk to right away, please call 1-800-273-8255.
What are some of the causes of depression and anxiety?
Well, there are a lot of theories about how rapidly our diets are changing and how technology is affecting our mood. You see, before the food business was industrialized, the things that made it onto your dinner table were home-grown, and it was easier to get all of the essential nutrients you needed from your diet.
But recently, soils have become weaker, and foods have been over-farmed and over-processed. Therefore, the natural supply of nutrients that can help feed your brain (like zinc) is shrinking.10 Not only that, but toxic pesticides are everywhere and can also strip nutrients in produce.11
It’s a big change. The modern diet consists of too many processed foods. As a result, your digestive system might struggle to provide you with what you need for adequate brain health. With all of the recent changes to our diet, it’s no wonder instances of anxiety and depression are on the rise.
Of course, another big factor in several cases of depression can be a lack of active serotonin.12
What’s serotonin got to do with it?
Well, serotonin actually affects more of your body than you may know. It impacts your emotional experience, and even your motor skills. It’s basically a natural mood stabilizer that helps you eat, digest, and sleep.13,14
You see, your nerve cells make serotonin so they can send signals to one another. While it’s mostly found in your digestive system, it can also be found in your blood and central nervous system.
To up your serotonin levels, you’ll want to boost your tryptophan intake. That’s because serotonin is actually made of tryptophan. It’s an essential amino acid that you can only get through food.
A few great sources of tryptophan are –
- Walnuts, pecans, and pistachios
- 76 percent dark chocolate
- Goat cheese, buffalo mozzarella
- Grass-fed beef and lamb
And of course, you’ve probably heard about the tryptophan in turkey – so enjoy a pasture raised, heirloom, or kosher bird this time of year.
Natural Ways to Improve Brain Health
If you’re looking for more ways to boost your brain health, here are a few other ways to nourish your brain.
Omega-3 Fish Oil
Omega-3 fish oil is pretty much famous for its multiple benefits, like helping to keep your heart healthy, keeping your immune system up to par, and even calming inflammatory conditions.15 Also, there are several studies that show omega-3 fatty acids are quite effective in the fight against major depression disorders.16 So, for a healthier body and an at-ease mind, increase your omega-3 fish oil intake.
It’s not easy to pronounce, but phosphatidylcholine is a pretty sizeable part of lecithin (not to be confused with lectin). In fact, it’s necessary in order to make acetylcholine (a pretty hefty neurotransmitter in your central nervous system). Phosphatidylcholine may benefit those dealing with depression and anxiety by helping to improve mood, sharpen brain energy, and even boost short-term memory.17
As mentioned above, SAMe can be used to help decrease the symptoms of depression. In fact, there have been least 40 studies in regards to the use of SAMe as an effective tool in the fight against depression, and many of them have shown proof of beneficial effects.18 So, SAMe supplements might be helpful if you’re facing mood issues.
A Closing Thought
There are several ways to try and help your brain stay healthy. Of course, if you seem to be experiencing any symptoms related to depression or anxiety, or if you’re simply feeling overwhelmed by the stress every day – there are people you can talk to. First, communicate with your doctor.
Once you’re under the care of a healthcare professional, you can work with them to find a supplemental regimen that might work for you. In the meantime, try to eat foods rich in omega-3 fish oils and tryptophan.