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Healthy Food for Your Brain

Updated on August 19, 2013

Your brain is a hungry organ. Despite only weighing about 3lbs, it uses about 20 per cent of your daily calorie intake. For your brain to work well throughout the day, you need to eat enough of the right kind of foods to keep it going. Eating well can improve your memory, mood and ability to concentrate.

So, just what are you supposed to eat if you want to think smarter and mentally work harder? Let's look at the links between nutrition and an effective brain.

Start Your Day With a Good Breakfast

A cup of coffee in the morning might give you a quick boost to begin with, but that burst of energy soon goes. A better way to start your day is with fruit. Fruit doesn't give you a short burst of energy. These complex carbohydrates habe long chains of sugar molecules that the body breaks down gradually. There is a slow release of glucose which fuels the brain over a longer period of time.

Improve Your Concentration With Omega 3 Oils

Good concentration means having signals flowing freely between brain cells. Signals need to be sent from one cell to the other. They travel through nerve fibres. These fibres have to be insulated so that the messages flow and so they need a fatty substance called myelin. Omega-3 oils help with the creation of myelin. Omega-3 oils can be found mainly in oily fish, such as salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kippers. Omega-3 oils can also be found in soya beans, walnuts, pumpkin and flax seeds. Have a snack of walnuts and seeds between your meals and it will help you with your concentration.

Drink Green Tea to Increase Mental Alertness

It is important stay hydrated. Drinking green tea relaxes the brain and helps you to stay mentally alert. Fruit juice is also good. Grapefruit juice, for example, has the same effect on your brain as fruit and will also keep you hydrated.

Put Yourself in a Better Mood By Eating Healthy Food

Feelings travel through the brain as electrical signals. The information is carried between cells by chemicals called neurotransmitters. You might have heard of dopamine, the feel good neurotransmitter. High levels of dopamine lift your spirit and give you enthusiasm for doing things. Low levels cause feelings of sadness and boredom. While fatty and sugar foods can give you a quick hit, that initial high is followed by a come down. To maintain high levels of dopamine all day, you should eat slow release protein-rich foods.

You should also make sure you brain gets plenty of precusors, the molecules the brain uses to develop dopamine. Phenylalanine, an important precursor, is found in beets, soybeans, almonds, eggs, meat and grains. Add some almonds to your nut snack box to put yourself in a better mood.

Serotonin is another neurotransmitter. It helps to reduce anxiety levels. You can raise your serotonin level quickly with a carbohydrate snack, although this will also make you sleepy. Tryptophan is needed by the brain so that it can make serotonin. Tryptophan can be found in eggs and meat.

Improve Your Memory With The Food You Eat

In order to remember things, our brain cells need to make new connections. This happens best when those brain cells are excited. Acetylcholine is a chemical within the brain which keeps brain cells excited. This chemical comes from choline, which can be found in eggs, liver and soybeans. Vegetables which seem to help memory include broccoli, cabbage and caulifower. There is also evidence that blueberries may be effective in improing or delaying short term memory loss.

Power Foods for the Brain

What you eat can have a major effect on the health of your brain. In his book Power Foods for the Brain, author Neal Barnard provides details of research which shows that certain foods can boost brain health, reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, stroke, as well as other problems, such as low energy, poor sleep patterns, irritability, and lack of focus. If you want to maintain a healthy mind, it certainly pays to be careful about what you eat.


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