The human brain is the command center for the human nervous system. It receives input from the sensory organs and sends output to the muscles. The brain is energy-hungry and uses one fifth of all the blood pumped by your heart — so food and drink are very important to keep it working properly.
As the National Nutrition Week begins today, here are some of the food and nutrients it needs.
What role does nutrition play in brain-boosting and development?
Nutrition plays vital role in brain development and boosting. These brain-boosting nutrients are essential fatty acids (EFAs), Vitamin B- complex, Vitamin C, Amino acid etc.
The body stores only small quantities of the water-soluble B-complex and C vitamins, magnesium and zinc. Young and middle-aged adults with demanding lifestyles, and the elderly, may need more of these nutrients to maintain optimum brain function.
Eat more seasonal and colorful fruits and vegetables like green leafy vegetables, broccoli, bell peppers, capsicum, orange, lemons etc. which are packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients that protect your brain cells from damage.
Why does the brain need carbohydrates?
The brain uses glucose for fuel, which is made from carbohydrates in the diet.
Complex carbohydrates, found in starchy foods like wholegrain cereals and millets, starchy vegetables and fruits are the best way to provide these.
Complex carbohydrates help the brain to function in stable way by providing steady and slow release energy.
Essential fatty acids
Essential fatty acids cannot be made by the body, so they must come from the diet.
Most of us eat much more omega-6 (vegetable oils like safflower/sunflower/corn) than omega-3 fatty acids while, we need more omega 3 fatty acid which has anti-inflammatory properties and helps maintain brain health.
The most effective omega-3 fats occur naturally in oily fish in the form of EPA and DHA.
Good plant sources include linseed (flaxseed), soya beans, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and oil like soybean, rapeseed and mustard oil.
Pluses/ legumes, mustard, fenugreek seeds and green leafy vegetables are also good sources of omega 3 fatty acid.
Medium chain triglycerides (MCT)
There has been evidence to suggest that Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) available in virgin coconut oil can be used for management of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy.
MCT are unique in that they are easily absorbed and metabolised by the liver and can be converted to ketones.
Ketone bodies are an important alternative energy source in the brain and may be beneficial to people developing or already with memory impairment, as in Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
The neurotransmitters in the brain, which affect our moods, are made from amino acids. Some of these amino acids come from what we eat and drink.
For example, serotonin, which helps us feel content and is important for sleep, is made from the amino acid tryptophan, found in milk.
What kind of food is bad for the brain?
Trans fats, also known as hydrogenated fats, are particularly bad for the brain because they stop essential fatty acids from doing their work effectively.
Trans fats are found in many ready-made foods like cakes and biscuits check the label for hydrogenated fat or oil and avoid these foods where possible.
Other brain-boosting foods students and professionals need to eat:
1. Choose wholegrain foods (like oats, dalia, ragi) instead of refined versions (like white bread). Avoid sweets and sugary foods and processed foods.
2. Eat more oily fish as a rich source of omega-3 it is very good for the brain.
3. Add fresh coconut and its product in your diet as a healthy snack.
4. The food you eat really can affect your mood. For a good night’s sleep, choose food and drink rich in tryptophan such as a milky drink before bed.
5. Get a balanced diet by eating a variety of foods, including plenty of fruit and vegetables. Unless your doctor has advised you to take supplements, this should be enough to provide you with all the vitamins and minerals you need.
6. Drink 6-8 glasses of fluid every day! Water, milk and fruit juice are all healthy ways to keep hydrated. Avoid sugary drinks.
7. Include colorful vegetables, citrus fruits, nuts, seeds and legumes in your daily diet as they are high in antioxidants and essential fatty acids and micronutrients.