It's time to supercharge your brain; how to eat for optimal brain function.
The food that we eat can influence how the brain operates. Some foods can interfere with how the brain works. However, if you focus your diet on the nutrients that the brain needs, you can support optimal brain function improving your cognition, mood, sleep, creativity and innovation.
Nutrients for optimal brain function
There are a number of nutrients required by the body to optimise brain function. They may act directly on the structure and function of the brain, or they may support the energy supply to the nervous system.
Low GI carbohydrates
Your brain runs on glucose, which the body will source from the carbohydrates you eat. But just like fuel for the car, there are different qualities of brain fuel available. When we consume high GI carbohydrates, blood sugar levels spike and then drop, causing energy fluctuations.
But the energy from low GI carbohydrates is absorbed at a slow and steady pace. This gives the brain a more balanced supply of energy, so it can work optimally for longer.
Low GI carbohydrate options include:
Wholegrains such as brown rice
Legumes such as chickpeas and lentils
Pseudo grains such as quinoa and buckwheat
To understand why protein support brain health, we need to look at neurotransmitters. These are the chemicals that act as messengers for the nervous system. For your brain to function optimally, you want a good balance of neurotransmitters being produced.
The building blocks of protein, amino acids, are required to synthesise many types of neurotransmitters. GABA, serotonin and melatonin are just a few examples.
If you are not consuming enough protein, your body cannot synthesise essential amino acids. This can impact on your neurotransmitter balance and overall function of the nervous system.
To ensure you consume sufficient protein, include a serve at each meal. If you follow a plant-based diet, variety is important to ensure that you consume sufficient levels of the essential amino acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids
When it comes to brain nutrients, omega-3 fatty acids are king. Omega-3s are known for their anti-inflammatory benefits, which can support overall wellbeing. However, they also have specific benefits for brain health.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found mostly in oily fish and seafood. If you prefer plant-based sources, the precursors are available from some plant foods such as:
Algae (think spirulina and chlorella)
However, the body doesn’t convert 100% of the precursor nutrient. So, you do need to consume these foods more regularly to reap the same benefits as oily fish.
B vitamins play a vital role in supporting neurotransmitters. In order to produce neurotransmitters, you require a variety of co-factors. Each chemical has specific co-factors, but most need at least one B group vitamin. So, if you’re not consuming enough B vitamins, your brain is unable to produce the chemicals that make it work.
B vitamins are also required for energy production throughout the body, therefore sufficient B vitamins are essential for fuelling the brain.
Like B vitamins, magnesium is a co-factor for neurotransmitter production. It is also vital for quality sleep and relaxation. The brain cannot function optimally if we don’t rest it sufficiently, as the brain flushes out toxins during sleep.
Magnesium-rich foods include:
Green leafy vegetables
Dark chocolate and cocoa
I provide personalised, therapeutic, nutritional and lifestyle solutions to busy professionals, executives, and business owners. If you are curious about how you can improve your brain function through nutrition and nutritional supplementation there are multiple ways you can contact me: