Food for the Brain

College and university studies demand long study hours, a lot of concentration, energy, and the ability to learn, understand, and eventually remember large amounts of information.  Therefore, to be able to keep up with the academic demands, our brain and body need to be well nourished. However, the lack of time and the stress students handle make them take food for granted, seeing it only as a way to be filled instead of being feed. Food therefore, becomes a matter of just grab and eat whatever, without realizing if what we are eating could be beneficial or detrimental to our memory and overall health.

 

Some might not know, but the brain has a nutritional part which consists of fats, proteins, amino acids, glucose and micronutrients. These components, according to a TED-ed video produced by Mia Nacamulli[1], have a big impact on our functioning, development, mood and energy.  The most important fats in the brain are Omegas 3 and 6, which according to this video are key to prevent degenerative brain conditions. Good sources of these omega are nuts and seeds and fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and tuna. On the other hand, proteins and their building blocks, the amino acids, are essential for growth and development. What it is key to understand is that a great part of our body is composed of protein, consequently we need to include it in our diet.  A website called Psychology Today, states that brain’s neurons communicate with each other through the protein we ingest[2]. This communication happens through chemical messengers called neurotransmitters, some of which are synthetized by amino acids. Neurotransmitters affect mood, behaviour, memory, as well as sleep, attentiveness and weight. According to Psychology Today, proteins raise the level of tyrosine, an amino acid that makes the brain produce norepinephrine and dopamine, other chemical messengers in the brain, that keeps us energized because they promote alertness and activity. Good sources of protein are fish, lean meats, white-meat poultry, seafood, eggs and beans[3].

 

However, since a healthy brain releases different neurotransmitters, a diet with a varied content of amino acids will help to maintain a proper combination[4].  Therefore, it is also vital to include in our diets good sources of carbohydrates, as well as micronutrients.  According to Nacamulli, the antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables strength the brain to fight free radicals which destroy brain cells. Consequently, the brain is able to work well for long periods of time. Blueberries, for example, are very rich in antioxidants, which are good at protecting the brain from degeneration and stress. A research made by the University of Cincinnati[5] found that this fruit can have a real benefit in improving memory and cognitive function in older adults. However, to be able to synthetize micronutrients, the brain needs carbohydrates for fuel. Carbohydrates are found as starch, sugar and fiber.  What it is key in consuming carbohydrates is to choose the ones that release a steady amounts of glucose, such as oats, grain and legumes, in order to have stable levels of attentiveness and mood, instead of getting quick peaks of glucose that will make us feel sluggish afterwards.

 

In addition to consuming food that is beneficial to maintain a good health, being hydrated is also very important since our bodies and brain are mainly composed of water. The water content of an average adult is between 55% and 60%, and the heart and brain are ¾ water. Since we lost water through sweat, urine and bowel movement it is important to intake water to compensate for this lost. Water helps to cushion and lubricates joints, regulate temperature and nourish the brain[6]. On the contrary, being dehydrated lowers energy, mood, skin moisture and blood pressure, causing also cognitive impairment. Additional to water, another good hydration sources are fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, cucumber and broccoli, as well as juices and tea.

 

To be able to keep up with the high demands of studying, it is important to have a healthy body and a well nourished brain that will help us stay focus and with energy for long periods of time. Since our brain has a nutritional contain, we need to maintain this contain balanced so our body functions properly. The main nutritional components of the brain are fat, and protein therefore, it is important to include them in our diets. The importance of proteins stays in their ability to break down in amino acids, which will generate the neurotransmitters that will affect among others, our mood, energy and concentration. However, since the brain produces different neurotransmitters, it is necessary to ingest a variety of food that will allows us to generate a balanced production. Additionally, micronutrients found in fruit and vegetables also contribute to our health because they can fight free radicals and help prevent brain degeneration. Moreover, to be able to process and break the nutritional content necessary to function, our body needs energy which can be obtained through carbohydrates. Ideally, these carbohydrates will come from sources that gave us a steady release of glucose so we can keep active longer. Finally, the high contain of water that our muscles, bones, organs and tissues have, demands us to keep hydrated, so our bodies will be lubricated, nourished and with proper levels of energy. Ultimately, making the right choices that allow us to keep a good health, will not only be beneficial to have a good performance during our studies, but also will provides a good quality of life.

[1]  Nacamulli, Mia. “How the food you eat affects your brain” Web YouTube. 21 June 2016. Web 29 Nov 2016

 

[2] Psychologytoday “brain-power-why-proteins-are-smart” Web 26 Nov 2016

[3] webmd. “good-protein-sources” Web n.d. Web 26 Nov 2016

 

[4] Nacamulli, Mia. “How the food you eat affects your brain” Web YouTube. 21 June 2016. Web 29 Nov 2016

 

[5] University of Cincinnati Academic Health Centre. “Blueberries Could Help Fight Alzheimer’s, UC Research Shows” Healthnews. Web 14 March 2016. Web 30 Nov 2106

 

[6] Nacamulli, Mia. “What would happen if you didn’t drink water?” Youtube. Web 29 March 2016. Web. 29Nov 2016

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