Our brains use as much as 20 percent of our energy. Specific nutrients are necessary for proper development and functioning of the brain. By eating the right food you keep your brain in top condition.
Even before birth, the brain needs certain building materials for proper development: a shortage of building and nutrients causes the brain to develop less well. But a lack of energy also affects the brain. If you have less energy your brain will function less. For example, you become forgetful or have difficulty concentrating.
Much research is being done into the effect of specific foods on the brain. Not every connection is equally clear, in some cases there are only indications and for many foods the direct effect on the brain is still unknown.
Fatty acids are indispensable for the construction and functioning of the brains. Especially the unsaturated omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are important. The fatty acids are part of the walls of cells and ensure that cells transmit each other signal. A deficit thus leads to poorer communication between brain cells with reduced concentration and forgetfulness as a result. There are even indications that too few omega-3 fatty acids are associated with disorders such as depression,ADHD, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.
DHA and EPA are common in oily fish such as herring, mackerel, sardine, salmon and anchovies. So eat oily fish once or twice a week. This is not only healthy, but also good for the brain.
The body needs vitamins and minerals every day in order to function properly. This is also the brain. B vitamins (especially B1, B6, B11 / folic acid and B12) are necessary for the nerve cells. They help to produce signal substances between the cells and keep the greasy shell (myelin sheath) around the nerve cells intact. Swallowing vitamin B supplements can have a positive effect on cognition . It is unclear whether this effect will continue in the long term.
A vitamin B deficiency can cause problems to the nervous system. Korsakov’s syndrome is a well-known example. This syndrome is the result of a vitamin B 1 deficiency and excessive alcohol consumption. Pregnant women nowadays are advised to take folic acid (B11) to prevent an open spine (spina bifida) in the child.
American research has shown that vitamin C and E protect against dementia. These vitamins are antioxidants. Other antioxidants , including in broccoli, potatoes, spinach, oranges, apples and radishes, seem to limit damage to the brain.
Zinc, iodine and iron play a role in the development and functioning of the brain. Especially during growth, a shortage of one of these minerals can lead to disruptions. A child develops less well because of this.
Iodine is added to bread and sometimes to kitchen salt. It is naturally present in fish and (a bit) in eggs. Iron is found in meat, fish, grains, potatoes, legumes and beans. Zinc is found in meat, cheese, cereals, bread, nuts, shrimps and mussels.
Some foods have no beneficial effect on the brain at all. Alcohol, drugs and cigarettes give a lot of people a pleasant feeling, but also addictive and can be harmful to the brain. Especially when the brain is still under development. Smoking and drugs often have a negative effect on concentration. Soft drugs can also reduce short-term memory and logical thinking. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to unconsciousness and destruction of brain cells. In addition, alcohol has a negative effect on the sleep pattern.
Yet alcohol also seems to be positive for our brain. There are indications that moderate alcohol consumption reduces the risk of dementia or stroke . Alcohol has a relaxing effect on the blood vessels, resulting in better circulation of the brain.
The effect of caffeine in coffee , tea and cola is also twofold. Research shows that men who drank three cups of coffee a day had less deterioration of cognition. More coffee does not increase this effect. Too much coffee can even be harmful. There are indications of a link between coffee and migraine.
Extra intake of fatty acids, vitamins or minerals to improve cognition, in many cases makes little difference. Long-term high doses can even have a negative effect on health. A balanced diet is generally sufficient to get these nutrients. The Mediterranean diet is a good example of a healthy diet, also for the brain. Varied food is also recommended.