Some might think that intelligence is something that is set when you are born, and that there is nothing that can be done to affect this. While there is clearly an inherent component to intelligence, it is worth remembering that we use less than 1% of our intellectual capacity. That leaves a huge reserve of untapped potential.
The activity, or signals, in our brains involve neurotransmitters - chemical 'messengers' in the brain. When we think or experience emotions, we change the activity of these neurotransmitters. Now consider that both the brain and neurotransmitters are derived from nutrients, which means that it is therefore possible to affect both through what you eat and drink!
Healthy Diet & Neurotransmitters
- Acetylcholine (memory)
- Serotonin (mood)
- Adrenalin (motivation)
However, the production of neurotransmitters depends on more than just protein; vitamins and minerals are also involved. These micro-nutrients help to turn:
- Glucose into energy
- Amino Acids into neurotransmitters
- Simple essential fats into more complex fats like GLA or DHA and prostaglandins
- Choline and Serine into phospholipids (another important family of brain nutrients).
These combined nutrients play an essential role in helping to build and rebuild the brain and nervous system, keeping everything running smoothly.
Your Brain Essentials
The sooner you start nourishing your brain, the better it is - even as early as pregnancy and during breastfeeding.
The truth is drinking red wine in moderation can be good for you. One of the main reasons for this is the presence of a micronutrient called resveratrol - a flavonoid and an antioxidant. According to research from Oxford University, half a glass of wine a day can actually improve cognitive ability and memory! Of course, if you are health-conscious, you may not want to drink wine everyday. Instead, opt for fresh grapes and berries, which are also good sources.
Particularly important for brain development are the essential fatty acids and phospholipids that form part of the structure of brain cell membranes. More and more evidence indicates that Omega 3 fatty acids are particularly beneficial for brain health and function. Fish is a rich source of these healthy fats, particularly cold-water fatty fish (like mackerel, sardines, herrings, salmon and tuna) and krill. Other foods that provide Omega oils include flax-seed, walnuts, soybeans, tofu and squash.
Fruit And Green Leafy Vegetables
Eating high levels of fresh (preferably organic) on a regular basis is crucial. Fruit, vegetables and other whole foods is a great way of supplying your brain with a broad spectrum of essential and alkalizing nutrients, including: plant protein, essential fatty acids, enzymes and, most notably, antioxidants (which can help to protect your brain from the damage caused by harmful free radicals). Colorful fruits and vegetables (such as super-foods), are excellent sources of brain-supporting nutrients!
In fact, the latest 'buzzword' in brain nourishment is "nootropics" - substances derived from an amino acid called pyroglutamate, which is found in fruit and vegetables. The discovery that the brain and cerebro-spinal fluid contain large amounts of it have led to its investigation as an essential brain nutrient.
Aim to eat at least 9 portions of fruit and veg every day to boost your memory and brain power.
Your Brain's Killers
Just as a healthy diet can support brain function, eating the wrong things on a regular basis can adversely affect the brain.
For instance, recent research has shown that when we eat a diet high in saturated fat, it increases the risk of dementia, poor concentration and memory loss. Most saturated fat in the average Western diet comes from meat, dairy and refined foods. If you reduce your intake of these high-fat, acid-forming foods, you can actively help to support your brain.
Sugar, alcohol and coffee (ironically) are other prime examples of food and drinks that can inhibit mental function. While heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium and aluminium, accumulate in the brain and have been clearly demonstrated to have an adverse effect on brain function (including concentration, memory and impulse control). As such, keeping pollution and toxin exposure to a minimum (which includes not smoking), is another prerequisite for boosting your brainpower!