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Article by Sucharita Desu

Nutrition is the study of nutrients in food, how the body uses them, and the relationship between diet, health, and disease. It is essentially a study of how food and drink affect our bodies by focusing on a few of the more important nutrients needed to support health and life. The study of certain allergies is also associated with nutrition. Furthermore, nutrition looks at how substances in food provide energy and are converted by body tissues for use. Experts try to understand how nutrients affect the body by using molecular biology, biochemistry, and genetics.

Nutrients provide nourishment for our body. They come in a few main forms, including proteins, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals, fibers, and water. Having good nutrition – having the right balance of these nutrients – allows for the decreased risk of developing many health conditions. In fact, having better nutrition improves infant, child and maternal health, assists in the development of a stronger immune system, safer pregnancy and childbirth, as well as longevity. On the contrary, poor nutrition and malnutrition are a threat to human health. For instance, it can cause a lack of energy, digestive issues, food allergies, weight gain or weight loss, depression, anxiety, coronary heart disease, and cancer.

Like mentioned earlier, cells in the body convert food into energy to function. This means that every part of the body, including the brain, requires food as fuel. Here are some of the best brain foods:

  1. Green, Leafy Vegetables (i.e. spinach, kale, collards, and broccoli) → These vegetables provide vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene to the brain. Research also suggests that these foods help slow cognitive decline

  2. Fatty Fish (i.e. salmon, cod, canned light tuna, pollack) → This has abundant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are healthy, unsaturated fats reduce the chances of Alzheimer’s disease. This is because it has been found to be linked to lower blood levels of beta-amyloid, a protein that forms damaging clumps in the brain in people with the disease.

  3. BerriesAccording to some research, berries have been found to help improve memory.

  4. Tea and Coffee → It has been shown that higher caffeine consumption improves mental functions and solidifies new memories.

  5. Walnuts → Walnuts are a source of protein and healthy fats for the body and the brain. They are high in a type of omega-3 fatty acids known as alphas-linolenic acid. As a result, walnuts are known to improve memory, lower blood pressure, and clean arteries.

Our feeding habits are influenced by many different factors, including culture, religion, and society. Our diet can influence both our physical and mental health. This means a lot of brain health is associated with our gut health. For starters, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate moods, and inhibit pain. 95% of this neurotransmitter is produced by the nerve cells in the gastrointestinal tract. The function of these nerve cells is determined by the amount of good bacteria in the intestines. This is because good bacteria helps activate neural pathways between the gut and the brain. Hence, studies have shown that those who eat “traditional” diets, such as Mediterranean or Japanese diets, rather than “western” diets, have a 25-35% lower risk of depression.

A person’s diet has also been seen to affect the structure and function of their brain and their mood. For example, eating high quality foods that contain a lot of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants has been found to nourish the brain. It also protects the brain from oxidative stress, which is the waste, in the form of free radicals, produced when the body uses oxygen that damages cells. Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids are said to support cognitive processes. They also upregulate genes that are important for maintaining synaptic function and plasticity in the brain, especially in rodents.

On the other hand, diets heavy with refined sugars have been found to be harmful to the brain and body. They worsen the body’s regulation of insulin and prompt inflammation and oxidative stress. In addition, these diets have been associated with impaired brain function and the worsening of symptoms of mood and mental health disorders such as depression. Similarly, diets that include a lot of saturated fats reduce molecular substrates related to cognitive processes, as well as the increased risk of neurological dysfunction.

To conclude, food is known to have many benefits to the body and brain, from providing nutrients to allow for optimum functioning to keeping it healthy and preventing disease. The science of nutrition indicates that it may be possible for people to use dietary manipulations as a method of enhancing cognitive ability, protecting the brain from damage, promoting repair in the body, and counteracting the effects of aging.

As always, we recommend that you continue to read more about nutrition and the effects it has on the brain. Here are some links that provide more information:

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