Does eating dark chocolate reduces stress, eating fish stimulates the brain?  But, what is the truth behind such popular beliefs? Scientists around the world are trying to find out. As a result, a new interdisciplinary research field named neuro-nutrition has evolved to investigate the impact of nutrition on brain health.


What you eat has a direct effect on your mental performance. In this article, let’s explore the relationship between nutrition and brain health.


Nutrition and Brain Health


We know that certain foods tend to expand your waistline, but did you know that they can shrink your mental capacity as well? Food science has taken a cerebral turn as more theories have concluded that food can impact the function and vitality of the human brain.


In fact, food plays an integral role even before your birth in the form of nourishment that you receive in the womb. In one study of 23,000 pregnant women, it was discovered that the prenatal consumption of large amounts of sweet, sugary foods resulted in higher incidents of stress, anti-social behaviors, and other cognitive issues later in the child’s life. Dietary deficiencies have produced similar consequences in laboratory mice.


It has also been shown that the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids enhances the electrical properties of nerve cells in the brain. The brain cannot synthesize omega-3 on its own and it needs to obtain it from food. But, few consumers actually receive the nutritional benefits of these foods.


Heavily processed food items rich in sugar and carbohydrates are detrimental to the health of your brain. Research indicates that these foods produce imbalances in the brain, which can translate to aggression, listlessness, and agitation. In one animal study, hamsters put on a corn-based diet even started eating its own offsprings.


Can Nutrition Play a Role in Crime?


Nutrition can go as far as determining the actions of the individual and the propensity to commit crimes. In-depth research was undertaken in a prison in the Netherlands to explore this connection. It found that eating a diet with healthy food vs. unhealthy food played a role in regulating mood, impulse control, and decision-making of the individuals.


In other words, what we eat within hours can subtly alter the chemistry of the brain and communication between neurons. It is enough to guide some of your decisions as claimed by the research and the implications are wide-ranging.


Since we eat three times a day, food has enormous power in modifying and shaping your mind. So, it’s essential to think about how to use food to promote well-being and optimize your mental state.


All You Can Eat


What would happen if you eat more junk food dripping with sugar and unhealthy fat? Notable research in Australia at the University of Sydney studied this aspect on mice and fed them junk food. As a first consequence of this unhealthy diet, the rat doubled its food rations and it never seems satiated.


Another surprising outcome was that the deteriration of rats’ spatial memory. The hippocampus nestled in the center of the brain was also subject to malfunctions. Recent studies show that an energy-rich diet in humans damages the hippocampus region responsible for the consolidation of memory and learning.


Eating too much sugar, carbohydrates, and bad fats trigger an inflammatory response that spreads to the neurons in the brain. Typically, the blood-brain barrier protects the inflow of inflammatory molecules. On unhealthy diets, this blood-brain barrier gets impaired  and becomes leaky allowing traffic of inflammatory particles into the brain.


The micro-glial cells that only devour dead neurons begin to eat neurons that are alive. This results in neural network miscommunication and weakens mental performance.


Using Diet to Serve the Brain


The right food choice has the power to pamper the brain and maintain mental health. The Mediterranean diet rich in diverse plant foods (greens and different colored vegetables), fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, fatty fish and olive oil is the most preferred choice that scientists advocate.


Eating a diverse, well-balanced diet promotes diversity in the gut microbiome as well. The gut is directly linked with the brain and good health outcomes. The ideal menu for our little grey cells is still largely unknown. However, a balanced, diverse diet which does not have processed food and sugar and favors fruits and vegetables is the best recipe to preserve your brain:


  • Spices – Indian spices that add lots of flavor to food
  • Red Fruits and Berries – Their polyphenols can be able to rejuvenate neurons on the decline
  • Leafy Greens – Promote healthy cell growth and reduce inflammation
  • Nuts – Prime nutrient to protect against cognitive decline
  • Beans and Whole Grains – Fuel your brain the right way with controlled release of glucose as opposed to spikes in neuron activity that tend to happen with the high-glucose release of certain foods
  • Fatty Fish and Lean White Meat – Great source of Omega-3 and Protein
  • Olive Oil – Contains Vitamin E, a brain-boosting nutrient


What you put in your mouth is essential to the health of your brain and that of your children. Therefore, make wise dietary choices to optimize your mental function.