The Natural Brain-Boosting Power of Food
The food you eat (or don’t eat) has a big impact on the way you look as well as how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally. Because believe it or not, everything’s connected. Your organs and systems don’t work independently of one another. For example, your gut is closely connected to your brain. In fact, did you know that your gut produces most of your body’s supply of serotonin.
You know, your feel good hormone! In addition, several gut hormones, such as leptin, ghrelin, and insulin, have been shown to influence your mood as well as your brain function. And since the foods you eat play a big role in the regulation of these hormones, it’s safe to say that certain foods can boost your brain power over time while others can squash it. Let’s take a closer look...
Gut Healing Foods
Since your brain relies so much on the health of your gut, any foods that are good for your gut are good for your brain. And my favorite gut healing foods are:
- Bone both
- Hydrolyzed collagen
- Fermented veggies (i.e., sauerkraut and kimchi)
Bone broth and hydrolyzed collagen are packed with the amino acids glycine and proline, which both nourish the cells of your digestive tract, help to reduce inflammation, and prevent oxidative stress. Fermented veggies are an excellent source of gut bacteria that play countless roles when it comes to many aspects of your health, including brain function.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to optimal brain health, especially DHA. It’s the most abundant fatty acid in the membranes of your brain cells–or at least it should be. However, since your body doesn’t efficiently make DHA, you must get it from your diet. And cold-water, wild fish is the best source.
In fact, it has been proposed that having access to and consuming fish is why humans evolved to have bigger brains with more complex abilities. Now, there are plant-based sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, such as nuts and seeds. However, they don’t actually contain DHA. They contain ALA, which your body must convert into DHA. And for many, this process may not efficient.
Which is why wild fish is really your best bet when it comes to boosting your brain power. And some tasty options highest in DHA include wild salmon, anchovies, sardines, caviar, and roe. Now, omega-3 fatty acids aren’t the only fats your brain needs. It actually needs a good mix of healthy fats, including coconut oil, grass-fed butter, avocado, and olive oil among others. The fatty acids within these foods are also used within the structure of your brain cell membranes. But healthy fats also play a role when it comes to protecting your nerve cells, satiation and the regulation of your gut hormones I mentioned earlier.
So what about Bulletproof coffee? Adding a source of saturated fat, like coconut oil or grass-fed butter, to your coffee in the morning. Many claim it helps sustain your energy as well as boosts your brain power. Is this true? Well, adding these fats to your coffee makes a wonderfully frothy and creamy beverage. But it also slows down the rate at which the caffeine is digested. This sustains your energy throughout the day, effectively avoiding both the blood sugar spike and the possibility of an afternoon caffeine crash.
So higher energy levels alone can sometimes make you feel more mentally alert and focused. In addition, coconut oil and grass-fed butter are made up of medium chain and short chain fatty acids. This means they’re easier to digest and more readily available to be used as fuel as compared to long chain fatty acids. But, as with most things, a lot depends on your diet and lifestyle. Drinking a bulletproof coffee along with eating a processed junk food diet probably won’t do you much good.
The truth is you may only experience the touted benefits when combined with a low-carb/high-fat diet. You see, when you start eating a low-carb/high-fat diet, your body begins to burn fat as fuel more efficiently. When this happens, which isn’t overnight, you may get even more sustained energy from both the caffeine and the fat in your coffee. Plus, the fat-burning process produces ketones, which are believed to be an excellent source of brain fuel. There is also evidence suggesting that the use of ketones to make energy, as opposed to glucose, reduces the risk of oxidative stress, which accelerates brain aging.
Antioxidants are molecules that protect your cells from oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Essentially, they slow down the aging process. Free radicals are formed by many external factors, such as a poor diet, lack of sleep, stress, and toxins, but they’re also a natural byproduct of energy metabolism. And since your brain cells are very active and made up mostly of unstable polyunsaturated fats (i.e., omega-3 fatty acids), they are even more susceptible to oxidative stress.
So, if you want to strengthen and protect your cognitive abilities, antioxidants are a must. And you can get them from eating an abundance of colorful fruits and veggies as well as nuts, seeds, wild fish, and pasture-raised meats. You may even be happy to know that chocolate and coffee are both packed with antioxidants. But, responsible consumption is required.
There may not be a food that will instantly boost your brain power, but eating a nutrient-rich diet will nourish and protect your brain cells as well as give them a healthy supply of energy to function at top speed. Plus, it will help improve how your brain operates over time and help keep your mind sharp as you get older. On the other hand, it’s equally important to avoid processed carbs and sugar. These foods provide zero nutrition. And they negatively affect your gut health, blood sugar, and gut hormones. And when these are out of whack, your energy, mood, and cognitive abilities are bound to take a nasty hit.
Keep thinking Big and living BOLD!