The abundance or lack of relevant nutrients in our bodies can affect our cognitive process and emotions. Our brains require certain nutrients in order to carry out normal cognitive thinking skills. Studies of neurological functions have revealed the incredible influence that our diet has on our brains. Food plays such a vital role in our cerebral health that it can be used to treat and even cure emotional and physical ailments. Food is like a pharmaceutical compound which has the ability to enhance cognitive abilities, prevent mental disease and protect our brains from degeneration as we age.
Some foods (used as a general term to cover anything we consume) like spices; alcohol, drugs, sugar and coffee affect our brains almost immediately. Other foods like rice, potatoes, eggs and chocolate affect our bodies slowly over several days. Foods which affect our brains slowly over a life time include foods which contain anti-oxidants like fruit and vegetables, fish, legumes and several spices. With these foods the effect on our emotions and brain are not immediately apparent but rather go towards helping us live longer.
Too little or too much of a vital nutrient will cause undesirable effects on our brain. The trick is to balance our eating.
How Some Foods Affect the Brain?
When we get too little tryptophan (meat with fat, soy protein, eggs, spinach etc) we can become angry or depressed. If we consume too little sugar or are lacking water-soluble vitamins like the Bs and C there is a good chance of a change in brain function over the cause of a few days.
Too much MSG as found in many foods to enhance the flavor can over stimulate the brain’s neuron receptors. Precooked and processed foods can over stimulate the brain’s production of dopamine which leads to cravings. Processed foods rich in high-fat can damage the hypothalamus which regulates the body’s natural rhythms and appetite. Foods high in salt can affect our brains negatively over time causing improper fluid balance, lowered nerve transmission and make it difficult to relax.
If you love sugar then over time this could lead to problems in your mental health. Consuming a lot of sugar over an extended period can harm the brain’s insulin receptors and cause memory lose and undermine spatial learn. Sugar in the blood slows down the brain’s use of insulin to break down sugar and process thoughts and emotions. If you consume fruits and vegetables you are likely to get enough vitamins and minerals to help your memory.
Omega 3 is perhaps the most widely known nutrient which affects our brains. It has been found to have a positive effect on our learning ability, to slow cognitive decline in the elderly and to help concentration among other benefits.
In the future an understanding of how food affects the brain on a molecular level will allow us to manipulate our diet to promote mental fitness, emotional stability and treat or cure physical and psychiatric illnesses.