How food affects our Brain?
Other than water, our brain consists of fats or lipids, proteins, amino acids, micronutrients and glucose. Each of these components has a distinct impact on the functioning and development of the brain, our mood and energy.
Out of the fats in our brain, the most essential are omega 3 and omega 6. These fatty acids have been linked to preventing degenerative brain conditions and must come from our diets. Omega rich food like nuts, seeds and fatty fish are also crucial for development of cell membranes. While omegas are good fats for the brain overconsumption of other fats like trans fats and saturated fats may compromise mental health.
Proteins and amino acids are the building block nutrients of growth and development. They can affect the way we feel. Amino acids contain precursors of neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that carry signals between neurons, affecting things like mood, sleep, attentiveness and weight.
The complex combinations of compounds in food can stimulate brain cells to release mood altering chemicals like dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. A diet with a range of foods help maintain a balanced combination of brain messengers, and helps keep our mood getting skewed in one direction or the other.
Like other organs of the human body, our brain also benefits from a steady consumption of micronutrients. Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables provide the necessary strength to our brain to fight the free radicals which destroy brain cells and enable it to work better for a longer period of time. Powerful micronutrients like vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid help prevent brain disease and mental decline. Trace amounts of minerals like iron, copper, zinc and sodium are fundamental to brain health and early cognitive development.
Our brain needs a lot of fuel to synthesize these nutrients. While the human brain makes up about 2 per cent of our body weight, it uses up to 20 per cent of our resources. Most of the energy comes from carbohydrates consumed as food that our body digests into glucose. A change in mental function may be the first signal of glucose deficiency in the body as the frontal lobes are sensitive to drops in glucose.
Carbohydrates enter the body in three forms i.e., starch, sugar and glucose. The ratio of sugar and fiber affect how the brain and body respond. High glycemic food like white bread may shoot up the blood sugar levels suddenly and then with the consecutive dip our attention and mood also lowers down whereas oats, grains and legumes have slower glucose release which enables a steady level of attentiveness.
Whatever we eat has a direct and often long lasting effect on our brain. Thus its important to choose a diet rich in varied nutrients for sustained brain power.