Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Mind matters: What you eat is affecting your brain

Does your diet affect your brain? The answer to this question that dates back to the early nineteenth century would be affirmative because nutrition does play an important role in determining how our brain functions. In fact, with the drastic change in our lifestyle and an increasing number of neurological researches over the past few decades, this connection has become quite obvious. Our dietary choices do bring about a direct and long-lasting effect on our brain.

Studies reveal that the brain is the most powerful organ in the human body that functions all the time and never goes to rest.  It works even when you are asleep, which means that it requires a constant fuel supply.  And obviously, it will function best when it gets premium, high-quality fuel.

MeikeVernooij, a professor in epidemiology and radiology at Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands, conducted a study to understand the relationship between food and brain. They questioned more than 4000 adults living in the Netherlands about their diet and analyzed their brain scans over ten years. People who consumed more fruits, vegetables and low volumes of red meat had a larger net brain volume as compared to the ones that consumed junk and greasy foods.

Hence proved, eating well has a direct connection to your mental well-being.

How food ties up with mood?

There is a close relationship between your brain and gastrointestinal tract, which is often termed to be the “second brain” of the human body. Billions of bacteria exist in this GI tract. These bacteria control the production of neurotransmitters (a chemical substance), which transfer messages from the gut to the brain. 

Intake of healthy food triggers the growth of good bacteria. This, in turn, boosts the production of neurotransmitters.

On the other hand, if a person eats more junk and unhealthy food items, their GI tract ends up with inflammation that obstructs the production of good bacteria. The positive state of neurotransmitter production reflects upon your mood; you feel lively and at comfort. However, as the production slows down, you face unreasonable mood swings.

Sugar, in particular, is the major cause of inflammation. It supplies food to the bad bacteria in the GI tract. Although consumption of sugar in small quantities is not harmful, most of us are eating too much of it. According to WHO, only 5 percent of daily caloric intake should come from sugar, but the typical American diet comprises 13 percent calories from sugar.

“Many Americans eat about five times the amount of sugar they should consume,” says NatasaJanicic-Kahric, an associate professor of medicine at Georgetown University Hospital.
 When you adapt to a healthy diet, you face fewer mood fluctuations. It is important to be aware that a diet including junk, greasy and sugary products is not only bad for our waistlines, but it poses an equal amount of trouble for our brain function and emotional state as well. In addition to that, several brain tests conclude that a healthy diet can slow down dementia and help recover from anxiety.

Food for a good mental state

The science of food and mood makes us wonder what we should eat. Mentioned ahead is a list of some food items that you should add in your list of meals. Use a different combination of these foods as per your taste.

Whole foods
The intake of preservatives and food colorings may cause severe depression. On the other hand, if you consume raw fruits and vegetables, you’ll notice an overall happier outlook and an improved ability to stay focused.

Foods that come via plants greatly facilitate with the absorption of blood sugars. The fiber-rich food items include not only fruits and vegetables but also the nutrient-filled items like beans and whole grains. Several dementiatests also endorse the positive impact of fibers on brain tissues.

Fatty acids
According to the research of University of Maryland Medical Center, to prevent degenerative brain conditions, individuals must increase their intake of nuts, seeds, and fish as these substances have a high amount of fatty acids.

Omega-3 is a fatty acid that plays a crucial role in brain development. Therefore, an added supply of these slows down the age-related mental decline and also help to ward off Alzheimer’s disease.

Vitamin D
Well-known for being the inflammation fighter, you can obtain this vitamin by exposure to the sun. Nonetheless, if a patient lacks this vitamin, they are recommended supplements by their physician.

It is an essential mineral that brings a notable impact on mental stability and mood of a person. Deficiency of magnesium can hurt the bacteria in your gut and trigger bouts of depression or anxiety. Therefore, ensure that your diet includes almonds, cashews, dark chocolate, spinach, beans, and bananas.

All set to take the wheel?
The first step is to prepare yourself. Are you fed up of your constant mood swings? Do you wish to have a content state of mind? Are you willing to get over the laze and be done with the pending chores? It starts with changing what you have on your plate.

Adding these food items may not be as simple as it sounds. It will take some extra effort at first but the results you will notice will encourage you to stay persistent. Replace small chunks at first such as trading white rice with brown ones. When you are having those sudden pangs of hunger, choose to have a salad of nuts or seeds instead of eating a bag of chips. It boosts up the fiber content in your body that aids digestion process.

For an overall nutritional balance, you must follow the basic rules. That means you’d keep your body hydrated, stay mindful of your caffeine intake and avoid skipping meals. It is quite natural that you won’t be able to make a change all of a sudden. However, you may find it easier if you start step by step. For example, you can add vegetables to your diet at first, then after a few days work on cutting down the sugar intake.

Over time, you will begin to notice the change in your mood that comes from a good diet. And, as your body starts to respond favorably, you’ll find it easier to sustain your energy and increase your focus level throughout the day.

ABOUT Alycia Gordan
Alycia Gordan is a freelance writer who loves to read and write articles on healthcare technology, fitness and lifestyle. She is a tech junkie and divides her time between travel and writing. You can find her on Twitter: @meetalycia

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