Fix Your Nutrition for Better Brain Health

Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, and published author of "One Size Does NOT Fit All Diet Plan," one of Amazon's Top Gluten-Free and Weight Loss Diets. She is also a mother of three children - all labeled as either autistic, gifted, or creatively artistic. (You may read more about Abby at the bottom of this article.)

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“You are what you eat.”

You’ve probably heard this phrase dozens of times throughout your life. The notion is that a healthy diet will provide you with a fit and trim body. But, do you know that what you eat also affects your brain health?

Over the last several decades, the global food industry has impacted our eating habits profoundly. In addition to increases in heart disease and obesity, dietary changes have had a huge effect on mental well-being. It is only now that we are realizing this. Reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depression alone accounts for nearly one in 10 adults in the United States. Key findings by the National Health and Nutrition Surveys (2005-2008) also show that 11 percent of Americans over the age of 12 are on some form of antidepressant medication, while more than 60 percent have taken it for more than two years.

Depression is not the only illness that affects brain health. Anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia are just a few other disturbances. In fact, the CDC reported that about 25 percent of adults in the United States have a mental illness. Moreover, “50 percent will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime.” Other than mental illness, many Americans are also faced with brain fog and fatigue.

If any of the following sounds like you, fixing your nutrition for better brain health will help.

  • your thinking isn’t clear
  • you’re unable to process information as well as you use to
  • your responses to questions aren’t appropriate
  • you memory is poor
  • you can’t remember appointments or where you left your keys
  • you’re not comprehending what others are saying

Adjusting your daily diet may not be something you considered in the past, but it is necessary to for better brain function.

Good nutrition will feed your brain for better health.
Good nutrition will feed your brain for better health. | Source

Mental Health and Diet

Medical research now shows that depression and dementia are affected by our diets. In fact, studies indicate that people who eat more junk and empty calorie foods are at an increased risk for depression. While dementia has certain risk factors (i.e., high cholesterol, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and high body fat), these factors are influenced by dietary habits. On the other hand, a diet like the Mediterranean Diet has been shown to increase cognition and protect against dementia.

While some psychiatrists may express doubt that nutrition can help at all, we must appreciate the question Dr. William Walsh brings to the table: “Where do our neurotransmitters come from?” According to his article The Critical Role of Nutrients in Mental Health published by Mental Health Consulting:

“The brain is a chemical factory that produces serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and other brain chemicals 24 hours a day. The only raw materials for their syntheses are nutrients, namely, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, etc. If the brain receives improper amounts of these nutrient building blocks, we can expect serious problems with our neurotransmitters.”

While many psychiatrists believe prescription drugs are the only way to altering the mind for better health, those drugs also come with side effects. Besides, drugs only mask symptoms of a debilitating brain while benefits are achieved with sufficient nutrients found in natural foods. Side effects are also eliminated with nutrient therapy.

Boost your brain health with good proteins, carbs, and fatty acids.
Boost your brain health with good proteins, carbs, and fatty acids. | Source
Healthy Proteins
lean red meat, pork tenderloin,
chicken, turkey, eggs,
fish, seafood,
Greek yogurt, cottage cheese,
tofu, tempeh
These foods are also high in B vitamins that protect your brain and your nervous system. For vegans, you may want to try tofu and tempeh.
Healthy Carbohydrates
Vegetables such as spinach, kale, Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and onions.
Fruits like bananas, apples, grapefruits, and berries.
No GMO starches such as organic oats, quinoa, and brown or wild rice
Tubers like potatoes and sweet potatoes.
The most important types of carbs include green and colorful veggies. With hundreds to choose from, find which you like and incorporate them into your diet. Include a couple of fruits per day. If you can, include berries daily as they are high in ant
Essential Fatty Acids
olive oil, flax oil, fish oil
chia seeds, flaxseeds
walnuts
cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines, and anchovies
avocados
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are extremely beneficial for brain health. A type of polyunsaturated fat called Omega-3 protects your body against inflammation and disease. Omega-3 possesses anti-depressant and neuro-protective properties wh

How to Fix Your Diet

If you’ve been on a processed and refined diet for most of your life, fixing your diet for brain health may be difficult to begin. However, it is not impossible. While incorporating good eating habits, bad habits will diminish over time. It’s definitely worth it to have clarity and a sound mind. Just think of all you can do in life without a foggy and tired mind!

Following are a few tips in fixing your diet:

  1. Eliminate. Get rid of all processed, refined, and pre-packaged foods in your diet. They contain unnatural chemicals that contradict brain health, and they also make you fat and create disease in the body.
  2. Nourish. Include natural whole foods in your diet. Protein, carbohydrates, and fatty acids all play an important role for your body. Obtaining them in their natural form will provide you with essential vitamins, nutrients, and phytonutrients.
  3. Flush Toxins. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to eliminate toxins within the body. With less of the yucky stuff floating around, the better your body and brain health will be.

Your Brain Health

Taking measures to improve your brain health should have positive benefits for you. Good nutrition is one major component. Decreasing stress and getting enough exercise and rest per day also plays a role. If you’re still not feeling well after several weeks or months of incorporating good nutrition into your daily regimen, you may want to consult with your healthcare practitioner. Ask for diagnostic tests for vitamin deficiency and then correct them with healthy foods that contain those nutrients.

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Helping those who desire it!
Helping those who desire it! | Source

About the Author

Abby Campbell, BSc, SFN, SSN, CPT, is a leading professional fitness and nutrition expert, researcher, published author, and a naturopathic doctorate candidate. For more than a decade, she has coached thousands of women locally and online to lose body fat and lead healthy lifestyles. Hundreds have also consulted with her on gluten- and lactose-free diets due to health concerns such as Celiacs, depression, and developmental disabilities. Abby is from Northern Virginia but now resides near Charlotte, North Carolina. She has been married for more than 20 years and has three grown daughters, one of which is autistic. She is a 20+ year cancer survivor.

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10 comments

Sam Montana profile image

Sam Montana 22 months ago

I completely agree. Today's food is so void of nutrients, it is amazing anyone can function. Plus all of the chemicals in the food and the aspartame and MSG type additives also affecting the brain.


Dr Billy Kidd profile image

Dr Billy Kidd 22 months ago from Sydney, Australia

Yes, limit eating of processed foods.

The number one brain food is fish oil. It contains DHA. That's what the grey matter in the brain is made of.

Earlier generations seem to have known this. That's why many gave their children cod liver oil.


Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 22 months ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Thank you for your comment, Sam. I just updated another one of my hubs last night regarding the chemicals in food such as aspartame and MSG. Those are two very dangerous substances for the brain for sure. Again, thank you for your reading and commenting. :-)


Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 22 months ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

I agree with you completely, Dr. Billy Kidd. I also have a hub written on the wonderful benefits of fish oil. Though it so beneficial for the brain, it has many more benefits for the rest of the body as well. Thank you for visiting my hub. :-)


Sharp Points profile image

Sharp Points 21 months ago from Big Bear Lake, California

Nice article it was beautifully constructed. The only thing is it's difficult to completely cut all processed food out on a tight budget. Someday though! Anyway great work!


Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 21 months ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Thank you, Sharp Points. I appreciate your comment. There are actually many healthy foods that you can purchase on a tight budget that will get you through the week. We just have to be creative. I think sometimes we Americans have an ideal serving size in our minds, but that is what has gotten us into trouble. I'm not saying that is the case with you personally, but it is the case with many who talk about their tight budgets. Eggs, beans, and canned tuna or salmon are great economical choices for protein sources. Cutting fruits in half provides two servings... sometimes three. Frozen blueberries can provide 60 servings for a $10 bag. Two to three tablespoons of walnuts or almonds is a serving. So, hopefully this will provide you with a few ideas. Again, thanks for commenting. :-)


Sam Montana profile image

Sam Montana 21 months ago

It is easy to eat healthy on a tight budget actually. Many people refuse to eat leftovers, if you can cook 2 or 3 healthy meals per week, it can really work on a tight budget.

The worst foods are the fast foods, white carbs and junk. Cooking your own burrito fixings or pasta sauce is very healthy can last days, depending on the size of your family


Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 21 months ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Thank you for your comments, Sam. This is very true. Great advice shared! Thank you. :-)


pinto2011 profile image

pinto2011 18 months ago from New Delhi, India

I abide by your 3 rules of avoiding processed foods, flushing out toxins with water and watching what I eat. Still, living in a city, I cannot control everything like pollution, vehicular exhaust and industrial fumes, pilferage and all. Nice to go through your article.


Abby Campbell profile image

Abby Campbell 16 months ago from Charlotte, North Carolina Author

Hi pinto2011. Yes, I understand. All we can do is the best we can, and sometimes super antioxidants help resist the toxins we take in on a daily basis. Thank you for reading. :-)

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