Superfoods: Nutrients Which Improve the Functioning of Our Brain

· June 7, 2017

We are what we eat. Nutrition is a crucial part of maintaining a good health. And your diet is something that must be taken seriously because of the power it has on the functions of your body and brain. Your organism requires different types of nutrients to function correctly. This is why it is so important to know the properties of the different foods we eat.

The brain is one of the most important parts of your anatomy. It is the “central command center” from which orders are sent to the rest of the body. We must make sure that our nutrition is healthy, because through it we are taking care of our brain.

In this article, we are going to introduce you to some of the nutrients and foods our brains need to function properly. Both the deficit of some of these nutrients and the excess of others might have negative repercussions.

children with vegetables

The vitamin B complex

Different vitamins within the B complex contribute to the production of energy, and to overall growth and cellular division. They also form part of the process of hormone, enzyme and protein production. They participate in the upkeep of the nervous system and the immune system, as well.

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) is in charge of transforming food into energy within the organism, so that the brain can absorb glucose. The deficit of thiamine can cause depression, fatigue, attention deficit, memory problems or can affect mental agility. Some foods rich in thiamine are:

  • Pork meat
  • Ham
  • Fish
  • Chicken
  • Beef liver
  • Eggs (specifically the yolk)
  • Raisins
  • Green peas
  • Flax seeds
  • Tomato
  • Potatoes

Vitamin B3 (Niacin) has energetic functions, along with the vitamins B2 and B1. Vitamin B3 nourishes the brain, improves anxiety and prevents insomnia. The foods which contain it include:


  • Milk and its derivatives
  • Blue fish
  • Peanuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Lentils

Antioxidants

They can help prevent or delay some types of cell damage. They are also involved in the processes of aging. Oxygen is very important, but the exposure to it causes oxidation. Thus, the chemical substances in our bodies are altered, producing free radicals. These free radicals contribute to our aging process and the development of diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart problems.

young woman aging

Antioxidants can fight against the effect of the free radicals in our body. Within the group of antioxidant foods, we can find:

  • Vitamin A: Milk, beef liver, butter and eggs
  • Vitamin E: hazelnuts, kale and spinach
  • Beta-carotene: carrots, apricot, peach and broccoli
  • Vitamin C: papaya, strawberries and oranges
  • Lutein: spinach and chard
  • Lycopene: watermelon
  • Selenium: corn, wheat and rice

Oxidative stress also contributes to neuro-degeneration. Therefore, it contributes to the appearance of Alzheimer’s type dementia. Although it is not the only cause of the appearance of the illness, a diet rich in antioxidants is a good preventive strategy. This, of course, in combination with an overall healthy lifestyle.

Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid in the synthesis of the neurotransmitter serotonin. It is related to emotions, depression, thermal control and regulation, hunger and sleep. Serotonin also regulates the secretion of Melatonin, which is linked to sleep and to the functioning of the immune system.

The deficit of tryptophan can cause varied repercussions in our organism such as a vulnerable immune system, stress, anxiety or depression. There are different moments in which it would be appropriate to increase the consumption of this nutrient. Moments such as when we are suffering from insomnia, having periods of high levels of stress or experiencing physical or mental exhaustion.

Tryptophan can be found in the following foods:

  • Cheese
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Soy
  • Tofu
  • Turkey meat

Phenylalanine

It is an amino acid which has the quality of blocking certain enzymes like enkephalinases. These are in charge of degrading enkephalins and natural endorphins. Endorphins are endogenous analgesics. This is why this nutrient acts like a kind of natural painkiller. It also favors our memory and learning processes.

back pain

It helps with the formation of some neurohormones which soften the symptomatology of certain neurological diseases. There is a congenital disease characterized by a lack of the enzyme which metabolizes phenylalanine, making it accumulate in the body. In this case, it is toxic for the nervous system and causes brain damage.

Foods rich in this nutrient are:

  • Salmon
  • Lentils
  • Almonds

Nowadays most of us have little time for eating and cooking. The decision of what to buy and what to eat is often based on impulse. This is without a doubt the best way to give your body so-called “empty calories.”

We should dedicate time during the week to planning our meals. And also, to including these essential nutrients into these meals. We only have one body. So, what better investment is there than dedicating some time to taking care of it?