“It’s late, but it has finally arrived. Psychiatrists are now looking at how what we eat influences human behavior” ~ Hara Marano, Psychology Today
After hearing the Editor-in-Chief of Psychology Today, Hara Marano, speak at a conference this week regarding the connection between nutrition and cognitive functioning, I decided to simplify it into 4 fundamental categories and the foods/vitamins/minerals associated with each.
Here are 4 essential ways the brain needs to be fed:
1. Energize and fuel the brain. Paying attention, self-control, good decision making skills – these are all key factors in success and achievement. The brain’s #1 source of energy is sugar, so we want to feed our bodies a regulated, steady supply of glucose. We don’t want spikes or highs/lows in glucose levels (refined sugars, flours, caffeine, chocolate). Good sources of steady glucose are: whole fruits, whole grains, vegetables, beans and nut butters.
2. Protect the Nervous System. This is important for heart health, blood flow and the immune system. Omega 3 fatty acids are the protective coating the nervous system needs to aid in proper brain functioning. Cut back on Omega 6’s (corn, peanut and soy oils) and balance it out with a diet rich in Omega 3’s – wild caught cold-water fish, flaxseeds, seaweed, olive oils, walnuts and beans.
3. Antioxidants. Antioxidants aid blood flow in the brain, boost memory and support executive functioning of the brain. Antioxidant rich foods are blueberries, cranberries, pomegranates, red beans, curcumin (the ingredient found in turmeric), and resveratrol, or better known as why the dark grapes in red wine are good for you.
4. Vitamin D “The Sunshine Vitamin”. Vitamin D is not just for our bones, it helps to maintain cognitive capacity. It is a key aspect of blood pressure regulation, cognitive performance, mood regulation and fat metabolism, not enough can actually lead to weight gain. There are Vitamin D receptors all over our bodies and the skin makes it when the UVB rays hit our bodies. You can only really get Vitamin D from the sun and from some Omega 3 fishes so supplementation is highly recommended.