Your body is a dynamic, hyper-connected entity and everything you consume affects its functioning to some degree, including your brain function.
The brain controls cognitive functioning, which includes your attention span, memory, decision making, problem solving, language and multitasking. When these mental processes are in tiptop shape you can find yourself thriving in both your work and personal life. But, it’s all too easy for these processes to be impaired by your nutritional choices, especially as we age.
An underappreciated fact is that the primary raw materials for the synthesis of many neurotransmitters are nutrients, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and another natural biochemicals that we obtain from food. For instance, serotonin is produced from the amino acid tryptophan, a constituent of protein, and the final reaction step requires B6 as a co-factor. Norepinephrine is produced from dopamine, with copper (Cu) having a decisive role. Zinc (Zn) and B6 are required for the synthesis and regulation of GABA. These are just a few examples, but there are numerous others that show the decisive role of nutrients in neurotransmitter synthesis.
The primary repeat offenders in different mental disorders are:
- Copper overload
- B6 deficiency
- Zinc deficiency
- Methylation issues
- Oxidative stress overload
- Amino acid imbalances
The newest science suggests that a ketogenic diet — heavy on fat and very light on carbohydrates — could improve thinking in people with Alzheimer’s disease, and that it may even help reduce the risk of the deadly brain disorder in the first place.
A Ketogenic Diet
Below we give our top tips on eating for increasing your brain power and cognitive functioning, to help you stay focused, productive and clear minded.
Top brain foods are as follows:
- Dark chocolate
- Coconut oil
- Egg yolks
- In terms of supplements, the current evidence is that top nootropics can be useful such as adaptogenic herbs and medicinal mushrooms.
- Further supplements that can be of use are alpha GPC, Bacopa, Ginseng and Gingko.
Low Glycemic Carbs
The glycaemic index (GI) rates carbohydrates according to how quickly they raise the glucose level of the blood (1). The scale goes from 1-100, and foods are considered to be low when they are below 55 on this index.
These foods release glucose slowly, which can help stabalise your blood sugar levels, contribute to weight management and may help to prevent chronic conditions such as diabetes. This is also good news for your mental functioning as blood sugar spikes can contribute to brain fog, headaches and feelings of irritability.
Aim for 50% of your plate at each meal to be low glycemic, some foods include:
- Fruits: oranges, pears, grape, apples, pineapple, strawberries, peaches
- Not starchy vegetables: tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, cucumber, broccoli, asparagus
Adding a small amount of healthy fats to your daily food intake contributes to a balanced diet. Healthy fats help to stabalise blood sugar, sustain your energy levels, build and repair brain cells and help with populating the gut microbiome which connects to the gut-brain axis (the bidirectional communication network that links the enteric and central nervous systems (2).
It’s important to note that healthy fats are not saturated, processed foods such as sausages, milk chocolate or biscuits and cakes.
Some healthy fats to include in your diet:
- Nuts and seeds
- Fatty fish
- Dark chocolate
- Edamame beans
- Full-fat yogurt
Probiotics are full of live bacteria which support gut health through restoring the gut flora. A healthy gut microbiome can help boost mood and mental functioning through the gut-brain axis.
If you’re looking for personalised nutritional support, get in touch to be paired with one of our clinicians. They can support you with a tailored dietary and lifestyle protocol suited to your individual needs.