Last updated on November 28th, 2023.
After doing some research to come up with a more healthy grocery list, I started to wonder what other benefits that good nutrition can provide. I read some more articles and found out that nutrition can actually directly affect the brain, so I put all of the facts together in this helpful guide.
How does nutrition affect the brain? The foods that you eat will not only fuel your body but also your brain. By eating healthy and getting the proper nutrition, you will see improvements in the way that your brain functions on a daily basis, from improved focus to lower stress levels.
The brain is something that is always functioning throughout our lives, even while we are sleeping. In order to provide all of this energy, it will need to be fueled just like a motor vehicle.
The things that we eat will directly influence how we think and feel, traveling all the way up to the brain. In order to make sure that your mind is in tip top shape, you will need to ensure that you are feeding it only the best foods.
Keep reading to find out some of the ways that you can eat correctly to provide your brain with all of the nutrients that it needs.
How Nutrition Affects The Brain
Nutrition affects the brain just like the food that you eat will directly translate to how your body looks. When you eat an entire pizza from Domino’s all by yourself, you might see some changes in the way you look that you did not anticipate, from a larger stomach to breakouts on your face the next day.
In addition to the way that eating unhealthily will make you look over time, you will most likely feel terrible as well. After going on a snacking binge you might get the urge to go to the gym and work it all off, getting rid of the sluggish and lazy feeling you are experiencing.
As a result to this problem, you might also start to eat more fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods in order to create a balance for the damage that you had done to your body the previous day. (Want to learn new tips on nutrition?
The exact same concept applies to your brain, believe it or not. When you are purposely eating good foods to provide nutrition to your body, the nutrients from these foods are also traveling to your brain and affecting how you think and feel.
In this section, we will be going over how nutrition generally affects the brain. Take a look at the list down below to get an idea of how this process works, and keep reading for a more detailed explanation.
How Nutrition Affects The Brain:
- Gives you more energy
- Improves mental health
- Boosts confidence
- Faster thinking
- Chemical balance
- Correlates to sleep and emotions
Just like the food that you eat will provide energy to your body and help you to carry out all of the activities that you need to do throughout the day, it will help your brain in the same way.
Energy ultimately comes from the brain, since it is the central control hub of our bodies as a whole. So, when your brain does not have enough nutrition, you can become exhausted and lose all motivation, whereas healthy and nutritious food will have you bursting with energy.
In addition to improving your energy and livelihood, nutrition can also improve mental health. When a person is anxious, depressed, or otherwise stressed, sometimes the most simple solution is getting the right nutrition to balance everything out and help them to get out of bed.
When your brain is fed, you will feel much lighter instead of slow and sluggish, directly translating to faster thinking. If you are tired and malnourished, you most likely will not be able to pay attention and react quickly to your surroundings. However, a brain that is strong and fed will help you to function more effectively in your thinking.
Aside from all of the more obvious reasons why nutrition is good for your brain, it can also start to boost your confidence when it is getting the proper nutrition. If you know that your thinking is clear and you know exactly what is going on around you, you will be able to walk into any situation and conduct yourself with confidence.
The foods that you eat will also directly affect the chemical balances in your brain. The brain holds a variety of different natural chemicals and hormones that affect how we feel and behave.
When you have not been intaking the proper healthy foods, these substances can become imbalanced, causing a series of negative affects from lack of sleep to even depression in some serious cases. This is why it is increasingly important to make sure that you are eating right and taking good care of your brain.
The Best Foods For Your Brain
Now that you have gotten a basic understanding of how nutrition affects the brain in general, you are probably curious to find out how you can keep a healthy mind and body in your every day life.
The main factor that will go into providing your brain with the nutrients that it needs on a daily basis is obviously the types of foods that you put into it. In this section, we will be going over the best foods that you can eat for your brain.
The list below will give you a general idea of what types of foods will help you improve your brain functions, while the rest of this section will provide a deeper explanation of why you should make these changes in your diet.
Best Foods For The Brain:
- Oily fish
- Dark chocolate
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
- Vitamin supplements (B,C,E, magnesium, beta carotene)
The main reason why oily fish are great for your brain functions is due tot he omega-3 fatty acids that are present inside of them. Higher than average levels of these nutrients will have more blood flow within the brain, translating to the ability to think clearly.
Some of the specific fish that you can try to incorporate into your diet for this reason include salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines. If you are not much of a seafood lover, you can try to find fish oil or omega-3 vitamin supplements at the store instead.
The next item on the list might have surprised you, but it is actually true that dark chocolate can help you to provide nutrients to your brain. The cocoa in dark chocolate will provide you with antioxidants that will contribute to your thinking.
Eating dark chocolate will not only help you think more clearly, but it can also help you to learn and retain information, as well as remember it for longer at a later time.
Berries contain the same types of antioxidants that were just mentioned in the above description of dark chocolate. By eating berries, you will be able to reduce the stress and inflammation that naturally occurs in your brain when it needs nutrition.
When you are looking to incorporate berries into your weekly grocery shopping, try to pick up some strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, blackcurrants, and mulberries.
Nuts and seeds, on the other hand, are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids just like oily fish. Most of these foods will also contain vitamins that help to improve the structure and functioning of the brain.
The best nuts and seeds to look out for include sunflower seeds, almonds, and hazelnuts. The main vitamin that is present in these foods is E, so you can also look for that as an alternative.
Whole grains are not just good for the rest of your body when you are trying to lose weight naturally, they can also help your brain to function better than usual. The vitamins that are present in whole grains are helpful in more ways than you could count.
Whole grains can be found within foods like brown rice, barley, bulgur wheat, oatmeal, whole grain bread, and whole grain pasta. When in doubt, just pick up the box on the shelf that indicates that the food item is made out of whole grains.
There is a reason why coffee can provide you with energy and make you feel so great in the morning. All of the regular coffee drinkers can relate to the tired and sluggish feeling before your daily cup and the burst of enthusiasm that you feel afterwards.
The caffeine content in coffee keeps your brain alert and increases the capacity thinking and taking in information that is given. More positive antioxidants are included in this mix as well.
Along with helping you to think faster and remember things better, coffee has also been linked to reducing the risk of more serious conditions such as memory loss, stroke, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Eating avocados is a great way to get some healthy fat into your body and up to your brain. The health benefits that come with this food include reducing blood pressure and improving mental capacity.
Aside from the variety of nuts that was mentioned earlier in this section, peanuts hold special properties against all of the other options. Along with the high protein content in each one of these nuts, you will be able to gain valuable vitamin E contents and resveratrol.
In case you’ve never heard of that word before, resveratrol is a natural antioxidant that can be found in various foods such as berries and select nuts, including peanuts. This antioxidant can also help to prevent more serious brain disease down the line.
When you are eating your breakfast in the morning, you might want to consider adding eggs as an everyday option instead of just on the weekends. Eggs are a great source of several variations of the B vitamin, as well as folic acid.
Over time, it is possible for the functions of the brain to decline, or for the whole thing to otherwise shrink. Eating eggs on a regular basis can prevent this from happening before it even starts.
While it is true that broccoli is something that is usually dreaded and pushed to the side on a dinner plate, it can actually aid your brain functions in a huge way. This vegetable is full of glucosinolates, which are a type of compound that reduce stress in the brain and limit the risk of disease.
Broccoli is also a great source of Vitamin C and other helpful antioxidants that help to provide the brain with the proper nutrition that it needs. As a result, broccoli might be something that you want to start incorporating into your diet more frequently than usual.
Just like broccoli, kale can help to support nutrition to the brain and positive health when it comes to thinking and retaining information. It also contains glucosinolates, along with many other green vegetables such as cabbage, box choy, and Brussels sprouts.
Soy products can be very beneficial when you are making an effort to feed your brain as well. Instead of picking up your favorite tub of vanilla ice cream at the supermarket, you might consider choosing a soy based product instead.
The last item on the list that you should incorporate into a brain-healthy diet is vitamin supplements. By taking vitamins daily, you will be able to enjoy clearer thinking and boosts of energy throughout your endeavors.
The best vitamin supplements for brain health in particular are vitamins C, B, and E, as well as beta-carotene and magnesium pills. All of these can be taken together once a day, and will be able to help improve the brain’s performance as a whole.
Foods That Are Bad For The Brain (Stay Away From These)
After learning about all of the great foods that you should try to substitute into your regular diet, you might have made some additions to your weekly grocery list. However, there might be some items that you need to cross out as well.
In addition to the foods that are good for your brain, there are some nutritional choices that can prove to have negative affects on your thinking and ability to retain information.
Take a quick look at the list below to immediately rule out the foods that are bad for your brain, and keep reading to get some more reasons why you should limit these from your diet.
Foods That Are Bad For The Brain:
- Sugary drinks/sodas
- Refined carbohydrates
- Trans fats
- Processed foods
- Aspartame sweetener
The classification of sugary drinks can include anything from soda to fruit juices and sports or energy drinks. When you consume these types of products, you are putting yourself at a higher risk to get diabetes later on in your life.
Not only will diabetes affect the way you feel and how you must take care of your body going forward, but it can also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia, which are directly linked to the brain.
Refined carbohydrates include sugars and grains that are processed, including bleached white flour. These types of foods will provide you with a high glycemic index, naturally increasing your insulin and levels of blood sugar.
When you are frequently putting refined carbs into your body, you will be more likely to experience brain functions that are impaired and even some slight memory loss. If you find that you are consuming too many carbs, you may want to check out this article on what is the ketogenic diet and is it dangerous or helpful.
Not all refined carbs are bad, however. In fact, some of the good refined carbs that you can find include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which are much lower in glycemic levels and will actually help to improve the nutrition of your brain.
Foods high in trans fats, or unsaturated fats, can also be very bad for your mind. Examples of foods and ingredients that contain a lot of trans fats include shortening, margarine, cake frosting, packaged snacks, cookies, and pre-made cakes.
Highly processed foods that have a lot of sugar, fat, and salt content will also cause the health of the brain to decline. When you are eating things that have a very high calorie count with little to no nutrients, you will suffer from damage to the tissues in the brain.
The main processed foods that you should stay away from include bags of potato chips, instant ramen noodles, microwave popcorn, cans or bottles of ready to eat sauces, and freezer meals.
Aspartame is probably something that you did not recognize when you read through the list in this section for the first time. This is a certain type of artificial sweetener that can be found in food products that are advertised to contain no sugar.
Contrary to popular belief, eating fake sugars will not help you to lose weight or become healthier. Instead, you will be taking in harmful chemicals such as phenylalanine, which is a substance that can actually stop neurotransmitters from traveling through your brain and effectively sending messages.
For obvious reasons, alcohol is something that is very bad for brain. Just think about how you feel and process things when you are drunk. Your vision is blurry and your reactions are slow to what is happening around you, along with a clouded thinking process inside of your head.
If you are not able to think straight while you are intaking these types of substances, they are affecting your brain not only on a short term basis but also further into the future.
The chemical reactions that occur in your brain while you are drinking alcohol can stop neurotransmitters in your brain, slowing the communication that must happen in order fo you to be able to process and remember things.
The last thing that you should keep out of your diet in order to improve your brain function is anything that has a moderate to high mercury content. Since mercury is a metal substance that is considered poisonous, there is no doubt that it will cause negative affects when it reaches your brain.
Mercury is usually found in seafood such as fish, especially tuna. This is the most common way that humans will come in contact with this type of contaminant, and should be looked out for carefully.
Even though some popular seafood dishes such as tuna, swordfish, and mackerel tend to have higher levels of mercury in them, you won’t need to completely limit them from your diet. In fact, you can allow yourself to eat up to three servings per week of these types of food.
Keeping track of both the good and bad foods is easier than ever with nutrition calculators.
Other Ways To Take Care Of Your Brain
When it comes to making a conscious effort to provide nutrients to your brain on a regular basis, there are more factors than one to consider. To be more specific, eating healthy foods for your brain is only the beginning to actually having a healthy brain.
Along with eating the good foods that were mentioned in the previous sections and staying away from the bad ones that are not recommended, there are some more components that should be incorporated into your daily routine in order to properly maintain your brain functions.
The list down below will give you some ideas of things that you can do in order to take care of your brain the right way, in combination with eating healthy foods. In the rest of this section, we will be going over the final steps that go into living your best life with a mind that is full of nutrients.
Other Ways To Take Care Of Your Brain:
- Eating correct portions (not too little, but not too much)
- Getting enough sleep
- Staying hydrated
- Regular exercise
- Practicing yoga/meditation
- Limiting alcohol consumption
First and foremost, you will want to make sure that you are eating the correct portions fo the foods that you are choosing to put into your body. Even if you are eating all of the healthy items that were mentioned earlier in this article, they won’t help you much if you aren’t eating the right amounts of them.
To avoid any problems that can come with incorrect food portions, you should stick to the suggested serving amount for the foods that you are choosing. This means that you will not be eating too little or too much during meal time. This way, you can benefit form the nutrients in these foods without overeating and reversing your progress.
The nutrition that you are getting is also linked to how much sleep you are getting at night. It is recommended that you get at least 8 hours of sleep every night, and it is not just for the reason of not being tired throughout the next day.
When you are sleeping, your brain is getting rest and essentially re-charging for the next several hours when you will be awake and using it to function. With the right amounts of food and enough solid hours of sleep, your brain will remain healthy and strong.
Along with the foods that you eat, you should also be drinking plenty of water in order to stay hydrated. Your body and brain need water just like they need food to survive, and you will only thrive off of more water and healthy hydration.
If you are trying to increase your water intake for the purpose of improving your brain functions, you can try purchasing gallons of water at the store instead of bottles. This way, you can aim to finish the whole thing throughout the day and track your progress toward your goal.
While you are making the effort to drink more water, you should also be trying to cut down on alcoholic beverages that can impair your brain functions.
As discussed earlier in this article, your brain is full of natural hormones and chemicals that help you think as well as react to the things that are happening around you. A great way to increase the positive flow of these chemicals is to exercise.
When you work out frequently, you are allowing the good chemicals in your brain to pump through your head and body freely, boosting your mood and overall health. This is a vital component in making sure that your brain is healthy, and should be done several times weekly for the best results.
For a quick and easy workout routine that will help to boost positive brain activity, you can start with a cardio exercise such as running on the treadmill or walking on a stair machine. After that, you can do some kind of strength training that involves lifting weights to get your blood flowing in your body and brain.
Yoga and meditation activities, in addition to all of the above lifestyle tips, can help you relax and keep a clear mind and healthy brain throughout your daily life.
As you can see, the nutrients that you provide to your body will also directly affect your brain, including how you think, react to situations, and even remember vital information. With the help of all of the tips in this article, you should be able to successfully implement positive habits for a healthy mind.