Just as you need to consume healthy foods to have energy, your brain needs certain substances to function properly. In fact, glucose (which helps fuel your brain), vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients and chemicals may be required to keep your brain at its best. Many of these things can be found by consuming the right types of foods (such as carbohydrates).
Without the proper proteins or fats, your brain cannot do what it needs to do, such as growing connections that help it to work properly. However, you can not only have a nutrient deficiency but also an overabundance, which can also cause some problems.
It is important to understand vitamins and minerals. These substances are not produced by your body on its own, so they have to be acquired through what you eat and drink. Your body needs vitamins and minerals, which is why a healthy diet is important. Lipids are also important; these fats include fatty acids that can help your vision, ability to learn, and they assist with coordination. Two types of fatty acids that may help your brain are n-3 and n-6 fatty acids. The n-3 acids assist with your ability to concentrate, while n-6 acids help with neurotransmitter release.
Neurotransmitters and How to Help Them
Neurotransmitters are very important to basic and complex brain functions. If you are not getting certain substances in your diet, your neurotransmitters will not be operating at their full potential. What are the substances that help neurotransmitters, and what types of foods are they found in? They include aspartic acid (peanuts, potatoes, grains), glutamic acid (flour, potatoes), choline (liver, eggs), tryptophan (eggs, milk, cheese, meat), tyrosine (milk, meat, fish) and phenylalanine (soybeans, eggs, meat)
How Nutrients Get to Your Brain
You may wonder how nutrients get to your brain once you consume them. Here’s the rundown on how nutrients make the trip:
First, they enter your body when you eat them (this is where you come in!). Next, they bypass the acids that break foods down in your stomach and are absorbed through the cell linings of the small intestine. They travel into your bloodstream and traverse through your liver on their way to your brain. There, they enter the brain tissue by using small blood vessels there. The blood brain barrier is instrumental to the last stage of travel.
More About the Blood Brain Barrier
Think of the blood brain barrier as a gatekeeper that decides what gets in and what stays out of your brain. This barrier allows certain substances in, including materials that can fit through the barrier, which are transported through the barrier by certain carriers or which break down the barrier temporarily. Nutrients that get through the barrier have access to neurons.
How Malnutrition May Hurt Your Brain
It is obviously unhealthy to have vitamin and mineral deficiencies, since we all know that getting enough vitamins and minerals is very important. How are these deficiencies (also known as malnutrition) caused? They can occur through sickness or infection, alcoholism, an unhealthy diet, starvation, having a body that has trouble absorbing nutrients, or a damaged digestive system.
One time that is particularly important for brain growth is when a person is still a fetus. In the middle of a woman’s pregnancy, the fetus’ brain grows quickly and requires a lot of nutrition. This period is important enough that babies of mothers with very poor diets can often have behavioral struggles or even mental retardation.
The importance of nutrition does not stop when a baby is born though, as the first several years of a child’s life are very important for brain development. Proper nutrition is a must throughout these early years.
How Brain Health, Nutrition, and Behavior Are Connected
Lastly, let’s take a look at the relationship between the human brain, nutrition, and behavior. These three areas are all very much connected, as your brain needs nutrients to run correctly, and a poorly-functioning brain often has a strong negative influence on behavior.
Of course, behavior can be affected by external influences, too. A person may not behave as they should if they are having social or family struggles, for instance. Scientists believe malnutrition can contribute heavily to poor behavior, but it is hard to do experiments to prove this theory because depriving a person of nutrients for an experiment is unethical.
In terms of brain functions, it is hard to quantify the effects of a healthy (or unhealthy) diet for a number of reasons. For one, some individuals respond to dietary changes in more or less radical ways than others. Also, because scientists have a hard time finding an objective manner in which to grade a person’s intelligence, it is therefore difficult to measure how diet affects one’s intelligence. Still, scientists and doctors alike encourage everyone to help their brain be at its best by consuming a healthy diet.
|The information presented is not intended to, and does not in anyway, constitute or replace a medical advice, and it should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem. The information is provided for educational purposes only, and is based upon the authors’ personal experiences or point of view. If you think you have a health problem, please consult a qualified medical professional..|