Brain food: What foods for thought?
Is there such a thing as “Brain Food”? The answer is “Yes” – but everyone will be surprised! It’s sugar. Don’t make a mad dash for the sugar bowl, however, there is more to this sugar business than first meets the eye. Here are amazing tips on brain nutrients.
Main food for brain nutrition is glucose
The main food for the brain is sugar, more correctly, glucose which is a type of simple sugar the body processes from the foods we eat. Proteins, starches and complex sugars in our foods are converted to the simple sugar glucose and fed back to the body cells through the bloodstream.
This is what we mean by “circulating blood sugars”. Only glucose and a very rare few other nutrients or chemicals can actually be absorbed by brain tissue across the protective and very efficient brain nutrients, to membrane of the blood vessels in the brain called the “blood-brain barrier”.
If this special membrane were not so exclusive in its selection of chemicals it allows through to the brain, our brain cells could be exposed to a lot of harmful, indeed deadly, substances. Luckily for us, and our brains, the blood-brain barrier is something of a guardian for us in this respect.
Important hormones produced by the pancreas
The brain represents about 2% of our total body weight (1), but its energy needs in terms of demand on the body’s stores of blood sugars can be as great as 20% of the total available glucose. It is no wonder that after a hard day at the office, the school desk or at the crossword puzzles we’re ravenous!
Healthful feeding of the brain is not as simple as topping up the tank with a sugary feast and overfilling the sugar tank causes enormous problems. Circulating blood sugars derived from our foods are regulated by a complex set of checks and balances controlled by two important hormones produced by the pancreas: insulin and glycogen.
Over eating simple sugars flood the bloodstream with glucose, upset the balance and can cause some very distressing symptoms (as any diabetic person can report). Wide fluctuations in blood sugar adversely affects brain chemistry and therefore brain function, fatigue, depression, general weakness, faintness or a “spacey” feeling are often symptoms experienced by people in the midst of a blood sugar swing.It is advisable to know brain nutrition.
Benefits of whole foods for brain nutrition
The brain runs best on the glucose derived from a varied diet of complex carbohydrates, that is the fruits, vegetables and grain products we could just as easily call “whole foods” because in their unprocessed state, these food groups are “whole”, can be appropriately digested with all their vitamins, minerals, amino or essential fatty adds intact and thereby release their “sugars” slowly into the bloodstream where the body can use them at need.
You could say that whole foods are “foods with an attitude” and that attitude is “balance”. So, it is important to remember that a slow consistent utilisation of sugars in the blood is what the brain food prefers to receive in order to function well.
Helper brain nutrients
After glucose as the prime fuel for the brain, there are other helper brain nutrients we need from our diet. One example is a protein called “L-Glutamine” which is a single amino acid especially identified with improved brain function (2). L-Glutamine participates in the actual chemistry of the brain where it is converted to glutamic acid and used directly as fuel just as glucose is. The body can usually make its own supplies of L- Glutamine from our food intake, but in specific cases L-Glutamine can be taken orally as tablets.
Minerals help brain function
Other brain nutrients that help brain function by aiding sugar metabolism are potassium, magnesium, chromium and manganese – all are minerals and all are required for sugar metabolism and brain nutrition.
Potassium foods include citrus fruits, all green veggies, sunflower seeds, potato and bananas. Magnesium foods include figs, yellow corn, lemons, grapefruits, almonds, nuts, seeds, dark green veggies.
Chromium is found abundantly in brewer’s yeast (yes, the kind in vegemite – but please hold the salt!) and black pepper. Manganese, a trace element but a very important one, occurs in alfalfa sprouts.
Lecithin, often derived from soy products but also abundant in whole eggs, is an overlooked brain fuel because it is more readily associated with fat digestion. Lecithin’s claim to fame is its supply of phosphatidylcholine, a major nerve impulse facilitator.
Lecithin contributes to clear thinking in helping to keep arteries healthy and free of fat deposits. Traditional herbs associated with healthy brain function are those which help maintain good circulation too, among these herbs are Ginkgo Biloba, Gotu Kola and Ginseng.
Natalia, having 7 years of experience in Health and Fitness industry. She enjoys writing Health & Fitness articles, and sharing tips on 14 day diet plan for those who think diet is too hard to maintain.