What should we eat to feed our brains?
Published 15 Feb 2021 • By Candice Salomé
Everyone knows that a balanced, healthy and ample diet contributes to good health. However, when we look at our brain, how it works and how it develops, we do not necessarily think about the role that food can play.
So how does food impact our brains? What foods should we eat to stimulate it and why?
We tell you everything in our article!
The brain represents only 2% of our body weight, but its nutritional needs are considerable. In order to carry out daily activities and promote the proper function of our brain, it is essential to follow a balanced diet.
What nutrients are essential for proper brain function?
The brain supervises most of our body's functions, such as transmitting nerve impulses, maintaining body temperature and learning and memory processes.
To function properly, it therefore has multiple needs. Diet provides the majority of the nutritional intake necessary for the brain to work properly.
Let's take a quick look at the essential nutrients:
Essential fatty acids (EFAs):
The brain contains 50% lipids, it is therefore an organ composed mainly of fat. The neurons, nerve cells that ensure the transmission of nerve impulses, are surrounded by a sheath of myelin. Myelin alone contains 70% of the lipids necessary for the construction and maintenance of nerve cells.
A deficiency in fatty acids could lead to reduced brain performance and mental fatigue. However, it is essential to choose good fatty acids such as omega-3 and -6.
The brain consumes large amounts of glucose to function (40% of the body's carbohydrate intake). To meet this required intake, it is best to eat foods with a low glycaemic index. The sugar will then be delivered to the brain over time.
When working for long periods of time or during exams, don't hesitate to eat to avoid loss of concentration or fatigue.
Proteins, whether vegetable or animal, are not stored by the body. It is therefore important to consume them regularly, especially those containing quality amino acids that constantly repair and rebuild brain cells.
The daily protein requirement for adults is 70 grams. Consuming more protein before an activity or test requiring brain power will activate substances like dopamine and norepinephrine that alert brain functions.
Antioxidants fight against the accumulation of free radicals (especially in the brain). They thus help fight against brain ageing, and help to improve blood circulation in the brain.
Vitamin intake is also essential for proper brain function! Indeed, vitamins B1, B6, B9 and B12 have a positive impact on the cognitive functions of the brain. They are involved in acetylcholine synthesis (a neurotransmitter).
Trace elements help to reduce anxiety, limit neurological fatigue and avoid nervousness and stress. In particular, the brain needs zinc, magnesium, iron, iodine and copper to function properly.
So which foods are the best to fuel the brain?
Eating well is essential to maintain good cognitive skills and a healthy brain. Here are a few foods that are beneficial to the proper functioning of the brain:
Foods with a low glycaemic index such as whole grains, legumes and vegetables provide the brain with a constant source of energy, gradually releasing glucose into the bloodstream.
Omega-3s are essential for proper brain function. They can be found in fatty fish such as sardines, mackerel, herring, tuna and salmon, but also in nuts, linseed and rapeseed oil (which are more difficult to synthesise for children and the elderly).
Raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, currants, goji berries and blueberries are rich in antioxidants. They should therefore be consumed regularly. These nutrients are also found in tomatoes, peppers, carrots, apricots and all colourful vegetables!
The vitamin E contained in almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts as well as in avocado, olive and rapeseed oils helps to prevent cognitive decline, especially in the elderly.
Eggs are particularly rich in choline, a B group vitamin which is essential for the production of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter associated with memory.
Turmeric is a spice with strong antioxidant properties. It protects the brain from oxidative stress and has beneficial effects on memory disorders. Turmeric can be used to flavour many dishes, so don't hesitate to use it liberally!
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