What you eat is what you are
Have you ever wondered why every human being is unique in spite of having the same anatomy? The answer without doubt is the brain. The brain is the single most entity solely responsible for you going about your daily activities to the thing that makes you who you are. Although part of your brain function is due to genetics, your diet affects your brain in either a nourishing or degenerative manner. A large part of your diet plays a major role in decreasing risk of mental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases.
Functions of the brain derive energy from your diet and so there is an entire branch of science dedicated to it known as Nutritional Psychiatry. Your brain works 24/7 all 365 days of the year even while you are sleeping. When your diet consists of the necessary vitamins, proteins and minerals, your brain is nourished and hence risk of brain diseases is reduced.
What happens when your brain is starved of nutrients?
When you start skipping meals or your diet lacks healthy food, then your brain cells are affected adversely in the following way.
- If your diet is high in refined sugars and processed food then apart from disturbing insulin production, there is an increase in oxidative stress, produced after your brain uses the oxygen. These “waste” cells may also impede blood flow in the brain resulting in inflammation.
- There is a connection between food and mood. Natural and healthy food provides wholesome nutrition and hence improves overall brain health.
- Recent research shows that the biological processes of the brain may play a serious role in leading health concerns like obesity, diabetes and binge eating.
The 3 types of brain-affecting foods
There are 3 categories of food that affect your brain either directly or indirectly.
Fast acting: Drugs, marijuana, caffeine, sugar and certain psychoactive plants come under this category. When these items are consumed their effect is almost instant, affecting a part of your brain; either giving a high or getting you less sleepy.
Pre-cursor loading: Foods like potatoes, rice, bagels, donuts, eggs, cakes, minerals like iron & magnesium, amino acids like lysine and tryptophan. Foods of this category take several weeks to make you feel the effects. Rather than discussing its effects, the better thing to do is to analyze what would happen to the brain if lesser doses of tryptophan or lysine were given. A deficiency in water soluble vitamins (B &C) will result in fatigue, irritability and depression.
Slow-acting: This category includes healthy food like anti-oxidants (colorful fruits and leafy vegetables), anti-inflammatory edibles like fish, nuts, legumes, cereals etc. These items are slow-acting and require lifetime doses in order to keep your brain and your body happy. The speciality lies in the fact that these foods do not appear to affect the brain or one’s mood drastically even after being consumed for a long time.
Experts can now conclude that the dietary factors influence certain processes and mechanisms in the body that maintain mental function. So you can say that ‘As you eat, so are you’.