It’s true and well established that what we put into our body, has an impact on our health and well-being. However, research is just starting to uncover the impact that food can have on our mental health. Eva Selhub MD with Harvard Health Publishing put it this way, “Think about it. Your brain is always ‘on.’ It takes care of your thoughts and movements, your breathing and heartbeat, your senses — it works hard 24/7, even while you’re asleep. This means your brain requires a constant supply of fuel. That ‘fuel’ comes from the foods you eat — and what’s in that fuel makes all the difference.”
As your body uses oxygen, the “waste” product that is produced is known as free radicals, which can cause damage to cells. Nutritious food full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants helps take care of these free radicals and act as a restorative buffer to the negative impact of free radicals. Processed and refined foods are particularly harmful to this process.
Selhub goes on to explain, “If substances from ‘low-premium’ fuel (such as what you get from processed or refined foods) get to the brain, it has little ability to get rid of them. Diets high in refined sugars, for example, are harmful to the brain. In addition to worsening your body’s regulation of insulin, they also promote inflammation and oxidative stress. Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function — and even a worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression.”
That can sound serious, but luckily the remedy is simple and attainable. Making a few simple adjustments to our diet as well as implementing a few healthy life practices can have a huge impact. Were you aware that the brain uses 20% of the body’s calories? All the more reason to make what we eat count. Here are 5 recommended foods to keep your brain happy. And, keep in mind, food is just part of the equation when it comes to brain health, Sufficient sleep, stress management, good hydration, and regular exercise will play a role as well.
Rich in antioxidants, berries such as strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries are small powerhouses that have been shown to positively impact brain health.
2. Greens like kale and broccoli
Greens such as broccoli and kale are also antioxidant powerhouses, but another secret weapon is high fiber which can help with digestive health.
Known as a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, oily fish such as salmon, tuna, and herring contribute to brain health by providing essential building blocks for cell and neuron building. In fact, research shows that people with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids also showed increased blood flow to the brain.
4. Nuts and seeds
These little guys not only boast a healthy dose of antioxidants but they are also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, an essential component for building cell membranes throughout the body and brain.
5. Whole grains
Whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal, whole-grain bread and pasta are high in vitamin E, which has been shown to reduce oxidative stress.