Nutrients for a healthy brain

As we all know there are close to 7.5 billion supercomputers on planet earth. We’re talking about the human brain of course, an organic machine operating on autopilot most of the time. Our brain is not a static organ as once thought. We can boost its performance with the right nutrition, and even strengthen it by practicing new skills every day.

~ Energy ~

The adult human brain weighs about 3 pounds and burns approximately 330 calories per day, or about 110 calories per pound. As a comparison, the muscles in your leg will burn approximately 6 calories per pound per day, but this can change with physical exertion.

For an inert organ, the brain manages to consume an impressive number of calories, about 20% of the total calories used by your body. Unfortunately, scientists have calculated that heavy thinking will only consume an extra 20 or so calories for the day, so thinking your way to weight loss is out.

~ Nutrients for the brain ~

A healthy brain requires a vast breadth of nutrients. One article cannot highlight it all, but we will try πŸ™‚

For energy metabolism and enzymatic reactions the brain requires a steady supply of nutrients: iron, zinc, folate, choline, iodine, magnesium, Vitamins A, C, B12, D, and selenium for healthy neurons [*1], to name a few.

A diet of lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, and legumes will give the brain plenty of iron, protein, and selenium to work with. The best food for supplying all the selenium your brain and body need is the humble Brazil nut, a cheap and readily available source you can eat as a convenient snack.

Beef liver, eggs, and grass-fed beef are good sources of choline, a component of acetylcholine which is a neurotransmitter vital to mood regulation, intelligence, and improving memory. [*2]

Nuts, seeds, and leafy greens contain vitamin E, another vital component which some research suggests protects against white matter lesions developing in the brain β€” a condition which is thought to lead to Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, and an increased risk of stroke. [*4]

Science has discovered that a Mediterranean style diet consisting of fish, fruits, and vegetables may be beneficial for elevating moods and cognitive ability. [*3]

Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA which facilitates the flow of electrical signals between nerve cells for improved concentration and memory capacity. Leafy green vegetables, nuts, and legumes supply the brain with antioxidants for protection against free radicals (unstable oxygen compounds which damage cells). Fruits are high in flavonoids, compounds which improve memory function by increasing the number of connections between neurons.

Dietary lipids from dairy products are also essential for brain function. Lipids make up the membranes and myelin β€” a mixture of proteins and phospholipids which facilitate a speedy transfer of information between neurons. They account for 10% of the mass of the brain.

Most importantly, the brain becomes sluggish in a dehydrated body, and it becomes hard to focus when you are parched. Dehydration also depresses short-term memory function and long-term recall. Consuming 1 to 2 liters of water every day is one of the best ways to ensure your brain is operating at peak efficiency. Coffee and soda drinks don’t count as hydration as their diuretic effects will only dehydrate you even more.

~ Food for Growing Brains ~

Kids need healthy brains to soak up all the education they are getting at school so here are a few food ideas that should help keep the young mind active and alert.

First of all, growing brains need plenty of protein just like a growing body.

Egg whites are a great source of protein, while egg yolks are packed with choline. Peanut butter is a favorite for kids and has heaps of the antioxidant Vitamin E, as well as thiamin, which helps the brain metabolize glucose for energy. For a healthy supply of glucose use whole grain breads and cereals, which also have a good mix of the B-Vitamins to build up a healthy nervous system.

Lastly, oats are loaded with fiber and provide a sustained burst of energy that all active brains need first thing in the morning. [*5]

~ Stay Healthy ~

Diet is only one part of a healthy brain. Be sure to get plenty of sleep, exercise, and engage your mind as frequently as possible.
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