Updated: Dec 20, 2022
Just like the body, the brain needs adequate nutrition to feel active(free from stress, mood disorders, depression, etc) and be active (cognitively). Here are some quick bites which will help you kickstart your journey to brain health.
1. For the brain to feel active
Some foods have more immediate effects on the brain than on the body because they help to synthesize certain neurotransmitters for e.g. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter with an essential role in regulating sleep and moods. A lack of serotonin can cause depression, anxiety, and even mania. Serotonin is synthesized in the gut from tryptophan, which you can get from some foods. Since the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin is a complex process, it's difficult to say how much is converted, and how much of those specific foods one needs in terms of dose. However, it doesn’t hurt to introduce those foods into the diet. Food alone will not cure, but it sure can help!
Of course, if you have major mental health issues, you must consult a specialist.
Foods rich in tryptophan: salmon, eggs, whole milk, cheese, chicken, turkey, tofu, bananas, apples, prunes, pineapple, nuts, oats and seeds. For more information, click here.
2.For the brain to be inflammation free:
Improve gut health to improve your brain health.
The healthy gut bacteria (microbiome) protect the gut lining by inhibiting inflammation and hence prevent absorption of toxins from the gut which can be harmful to the brain. One of the best anti-inflammatory diets is the Mediterranean diet, though there are many others. It isn’t necessary to follow any one diet as long as you include the foods in your diet in some way.
Some anti-inflammatory foods: bananas, fermented foods, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables. You can learn about this here.
3. For the Brain to be Active (cognitively)
A predominantly plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds, with minimal intake of animal products, is best for cognitive health. These foods increase memory, concentration, and attention. There is evidence that some of these foods are protective against Alzheimer's disease.
To design your own diet, check out the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet, which stresses a little more on the intake of berries as compared to other fruits, and green leafy vegetables for protection against dementia.
Other foods to eat in the MIND diet:
other vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, and olive oil.
There are also certain foods that must be avoided, which have no benefits and are actually considered
unhealthy-red meat, butter, sweets, and fried food.
Bonus: Most foods that improve brain health also protect the heart! Risk: Animal foods are inflammatory, which may offset some of their benefits
Note: Try to get your nutrients from plant foods, mainly. However, be careful of overconsumption of certain foods like nuts. Always consult an expert to find the right diet for you.
Interesting Read: Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food - Harvard Health