You’ll have no trouble finding people who choose what they eat with the hope of losing weight. A pretty significant number also follow a diet meant to support a training regimen, but how many people you know keep their brain health in mind when shopping for groceries?
That organ in your skull where “you” reside needs nutrition, too. To begin with, the brain burns about 300 calories a day – about the same as walking three miles. Unlike muscle tissue, however, it needs some particular nutrients to function most effectively. Just as is the case with other organs, a number of minerals and organic compounds are needed for it to function at its peak. Unlike other organs, if brain function is anything other than optimal, the effects can quickly affect your level of comfort, ranging from low energy and moodiness right up to diagnosable mental illness. If you think you might be suffering from the latter, eating an avocado is unlikely to cure you overnight. By all means, eat for wellness, but don’t neglect other forms of treatment.
The good news is that eating for cerebral and mental health means pretty much the diet you should already be following, perhaps with a few tweaks. Eating low-GI meals and staying away from sugary snacks will keep your blood sugar from see-sawing, already going a long way towards stabilizing mood and improving concentration. Still on the subject of macronutrients, eating carbohydrates boost production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, decreasing anxiety; while food high in protein can boost alertness for several hours. With stress being one of the chief drains on our mental energy, even leading to mild inflammation of the brain, choosing workplace snacks based on your mood is not the worst idea.
Particularly for smokers, maintaining adequate folate levels is extremely important, and neglecting this can contribute towards depression. Luckily, kale, spinach, lentils and beans are all good sources of this chemical. In addition, sufficient levels of B vitamins are essential for nerve tissue to work correctly. This can be a problem for vegetarians, particularly B12. Supplements may help, but as it turns out, many vegetarian protein sources are high in B vitamins, though it might still be a good idea to make sure you eat sufficient leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, avocado and dairy.
Just like they’re essential to every part of your body, antioxidants play a major role in brain health, so berries, fruit, herbs and a variety of surprising sources (like capers and garlic) can certainly find their way onto your plate. Keep in mind that there are numerous different types of antioxidants, each with a different function, so variety is as important as quantity. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are also hugely important to brain health, so a little oily fish, a few free-range eggs, or a handful of seeds or nuts a few times a week can work wonders. Bone broth is extremely cheap to make, and gives you omega fats as well as a whole laundry list of nutrients your body might be short of.
While eating for mental health can mean incorporating a few new superfoods in your diet, remember that a healthy diet is always a varied one. A meal consisting of shrimp and broccoli stirfry over brown rice is healthy, but eating nothing else will soon leave you malnourished. Experiment a little instead of eating the same dishes day after day.