What do we need to feed our brains? There is so much hype out there, you can’t open a magazine, read a blog or avoid an add for a new diet trend. Unfortunately they’re usually high-sugar and high-fat diets, both of which tend to lack beneficial micronutrients like the anti-inflammatory omega-3s. Many diets take away vital fruits and vegetables.
Your brain needs food just like your body. A healthy food lifestyle contains a significant amount of naturally occurring sugar. Actually the brain runs on sugar, something called glucose, it’s the brains gasoline. That sugar comes from simple carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables and grains. Brains require two times the amount of energy needed by other cells in the body in order to function. At rest a quarter of the body’s total energy consumption is by the brain.
For a while now we’ve been hearing about the danger of sugar and the epidemic of obesity and diabetes, but people don’t realize that’s its added sugar that’s the demon. Added sugar means sugar that is added to a product to make it taste “”Nice””. And sadly it’s in everything – from health foods to fruit juices to bread, cereals, and kid’s drinks. We try and buy healthy snacks for our kids not realizing the high sugar content, even their yoghurts and muesli bars are sugar loaded.
Recent research links overeating, poor memory formation, learning disorders and depression to the overconsumption of sugar. A high risk factor for Cognitive issues later in life is also linked to sugar issues. A diet high in added sugar reduces the production of Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor which protects our brain. Low BDNF lowers our capacity to remember or learn and slows our ability to make memories.
Low levels of BDNF have been recorded in people with impaired glucose metabolism, diabetics or pre-diabetics. Worse, long-term over-consumption of sugar weakens all the regulatory mechanisms, often leading to insulin resistance, hyperglycaemia and a greater risk of diabetes, fatty liver, heart disease and neuro-degeneration. Hyperglycaemia can also damage the platelets which help blood to clot, worsening the damage after haemorrhagic strokes (brain bleeding)
The brain also needs good quality fat as cell membranes are made of it. Saturated fat is believed to cause inflammation and artery damage and higher inflammation may affect cognitive functioning in aging. Although fats have twice the energy content of glucose they need to be broken down to Ketones before they can get into the brain. This only occurs to a major extent during starvation when stored fat is broken down to ketone bodies and can substitute for glucose.
So what do we need to feed our brains on? There is so much hype out there – pick a diet trend. Ultimately High-sugar and high-fat diets, both tend to lack beneficial micronutrients like the anti-inflammatory omega-3s. Many diets take away fruits and vegetables.
Scientific research based in longitudinal studies (over long period of time) shows the healthiest centenarians follow a Mediterranean diet – good quality olive oil, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, plant based proteins, small amounts of fish, foods that are locally sourced to its own region, lots of sleep and minimal stress.
(Referenced from The institute for Food, Brain and Behaviour)