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When you think about your nutrition and diet, neuroscience probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But emerging science has revealed that our diet has profound influences on our brain health throughout our lifespan. Our food choices are involved in almost every facet of neurological functioning, including alterations in neurogenesis (the process where new neurons are created in the brain), neurotropic factors (small proteins that support the growth of new neurons), and neural pathways (connections and neuroplasticity) throughout a persons life cycle.
The human brain is approximately 2% of the human body mass and uses 20-25% of the total energy expenditure. The transfer of energy from foods to neurons are fundamental to the control of brain function. Diet actually directly impacts the central nervous system by supporting the roles of neurotransmitters in the brain, which are amino acid-based messengers.
Macronutrients and Neurotransmitters
Our three macronutrients—protein, carbohydrates and fat—each direct neurotransmitter increases or decreases in the brain. Eating healthy carbohydrates like brown rice, sweet potatoes or quinoa boosts serotonin in the brain, which helps us feel calm and steady. Lower levels of this neurotransmitter is linked to depression, anxiety and even insomnia. It also raises the level of acetylcholine in the brain, which plays an important role in memory and cognition. Protein, found in animal sources and things like tofu, seeds and certain grains, works a bit differently. It enhances the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, which act to strengthen focus and alertness. Finally, omega fatty acids like EPA and DHA from sources like fish and fish oils affect several neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, GABA and others—these can be really effective for supporting a balanced, relaxed mood.
The Mighty Mitochondria
Also ATP that’s produced by the mitochondria can turn on neurotropic factor in the brain as well as insulin-like growth factor—both of which aid in brain plasticity and function. This allows us to adapt to new situations, create new and healthier behaviors and patterns, and even potentially with recovering from brain injuries. How to build more ATP from food? Antioxidants like glutathione, vitamins E and C, and the B vitamins are some foundational nutrients that work wonders on the brain. Both foods and supplements can be considered for obtaining appropriate amounts of nutrients to cause some effective changes.
Food sources include cruciferous vegetables, garlic, shallots and onions, strawberries, citrus fruits, kiwis, bell peppers, Brazil nuts, avocados, asparagus, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. Some of our favorite mitochondria-supporting supplements, which can take results to a new level, are: Mitochondrial NRG and Mito PQQ.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the connection between nutrition and neuroscience, but we’re excited about the potential for future implications. To learn more about how neuroscience affects our food choices and behavior, schedule a complimentary breakthrough session by calling or texting 925.280.4442.