We are happy to announce the addition of a wonderful nutritionist and guest blogger, Braelynne Morrow, to our site here at PsychSkills. So much of how we feel and how our moods can change rapidly has to do with what we put in our bodies. I believe it to be so important that I included a chapter on it, entitled Body Basics, in my book Dysfunction Interrupted-How to Quickly Overcome Depression, Anxiety and Anger Starting Now.
Braelynne will be blogging with us as well as developing webinars and materials designed to teach us how to get our brains functioning the best that they can.
6 Foods For a Better Brain
Have you ever thought about how the food you eat might be affecting the way you think? Whether you are happy or sad? Anxious or at ease? Well, it’s true! The nutrients in certain foods have numerous affects on the way we think and feel. Most whole foods (vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, poultry, beans/legumes, nuts/seeds, and whole grains) hold the vitamins and minerals necessary to fuel our brains properly, but some contain more of these nutrients than others. The following foods are some of the top choices for maintaining excellent memory, superb cognition, mood regulation, and reduced stress.
1.Salmon (and other fatty fish such as sardines and anchovies)
Salmon and other fatty fish are some of the best choices for a healthy brain because they contain high amounts of the many nutrients the brain needs in order to function properly. These include:
B vitamins (B12, B3, B6, B5), which are necessary for overall brain health and function. Without these vitamins, we would have poor memory and cognition, we would be unhappy, and our brains wouldn’t be able to tell the rest of our bodies to do things, like move an arm to grab a glass of water. This is because these nutrients are important for relaying messages from the brain throughout the body.
Vitamin D, which is known as the happy vitamin, though it actually functions as a hormone. Have you ever heard of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), or a form of depression associated with the Fall and Winter? This may be due to a vitamin D deficiency, which is obtained best from sunlight, but is also present in salmon! Vitamin D activates the genes that regulate the release of neurotransmitters (messengers from the brain that tell our bodies how to function) like dopamine and serotonin, and vitamin D receptors have been found in regions of the brain associated with depression.
Omega-3 Fats are essential fats, meaning we must get them from our diet. This fat is found mainly in fatty fish. They are necessary for overall brain function and health playing important rolls in mood regulation and cognition.
Choline synthesizes neurotransmitters that play an important role in memory and brain cell function.
2. Extra Virgin Olive oil
Olive oil contains
- Omega-9 fats, which are essential for maintenance and proper function of the brain.
- A high antioxidant content protecting the brain from free radical damage, which can destroy healthy brain cells. Free radicals can be formed in multiple ways, but many are formed from environmental pollutants.
Or, more specifically egg yolks, which are the most concentrated food source of choline in terms of nutrient density.
- Asparagus is the most nutrient dense and concentrated food source of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6.
- Asparagus fiber is a great prebiotic (food for bacteria), which means that it supports the growth of healthy bacteria in the intestinal tract. This is important because gut bacteria can play a huge roll in brain health because the brain and the gut are closely connected through the vagus nerve, a cranial nerve running along the spine. Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach when you like someone? Or had a “gut feeling” about a situation? Or felt anxious about talking in front of a crowd? This is your brain and gut talking to each other. When stimulated, the vagus nerve can treat some forms of depression (Bravo, al., 2011).
- The high antioxidant content of blueberries protects the brain from damaging free radicals.
- Blueberries help improve memory and slow cognitive problems associated with aging.
- Blueberries are also a good source of healthy prebiotic fiber.
- Probiotics are bacteria found in fermented food products such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, sourdough bread, and wine.
- Probiotics, specifically Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, may be able to reduce anxiety through stimulation of the vagus nerve, which regulates GABA expression. GABA is the neurotransmitter involved in anxiety and depression. This is interesting because many people who experience anxiety and depression also experience functional bowel disorders (Bravo, al., 2011).
- Bravo, et. al. (2011). Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve. PNAS, 108(38)
Psychology That Makes Sense!