Are you eating foods that promote brain health? Read on to find out.
The diet-brain connection
The diet-brain connection is a subject also referred to as nutritional psychiatry, the gut-brain connection,
or "food and mood." It means that what we eat directly impacts our brains, and ultimately, our moods. The
brain functions best when it is given high quality foods that nourish it, such as those containing vitamins,
minerals, and antioxidants. Certain foods act as an aid in the "prevention and treatment of mental disorders,"
Our diet's impact on mental health might also impact appetite control and gut health.1 Researchers have
discovered that gut hormones are involved in the diet-brain connection.2
These hormones are sent from the gut to the brain and contribute to cognitive functioning.
The diet-brain connection is also crucial for the prevention of chronic illnesses. Most Americans' diets
consist of high amounts of sugar, carbohydrates, calories, and fats, leading to diabetes, Alzheimer's disease,
heart disease, and obesity.1
Diet's contribution to cognition goes beyond memory and processing speed and significantly impacts brain
development. "During the development of brain structures in prenatal and perinatal phases, it is important
that all the necessary energy and nutrients can be absorbed from the diet."1
This means that diet's influence on the brain begins before birth, as the infant is nourished by the mother's
nutrients, and this impact on brain development continues throughout childhood.
Foods beneficial to mood are considered "feel-good foods" or "brain foods."1 Below you will find foods
that promote excellent brain health.
Fruits & vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are essential supplements for optimum health. They not only nourish the body but the brain
as well. Their properties contribute to psychological well-being,3 cognitive processing, and emotional regulation.2 Some
carry more psychological benefits than others, which can be challenging to remember. So, experts found it fit to
establish a memorable way to ensure that children and adults consume a balanced intake of different fruits and vegetables.
Tip: "Eat the Rainbow" method
A dietary term referred to as "eat the rainbow" or "eat by color" is based on the concept that fruits and vegetables
offer nutritional benefits depending on their color.3
For instance, purple and blue fruits and vegetables significantly benefit cognition and mood. The National Health and
Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that 8 out of 10 Americans do not meet their daily requirements for all
colors of vegetables and fruits.3 Purple and blue colors are the most neglected; 88% of people do not meet the appropriate
Blueberries are a particular fruit that receives recognition as brain food. They exhibit cognitive benefits, especially
throughout aging, during the stages of child development and cognitive decline.4 Their benefits are present even in small
amounts. There are many other fruits, and veggies experts identify as brain foods.
Examples of purple and blue fruits and veggies are below:3
- Purple grapes
- Purple passion fruit
- Black currants
- Ube (purple yam)
- Purple cabbage
- Purple carrots
- Purple potatoes
- Purple radish
Nuts carry nutrients that are beneficial for brain health. They also have anti-aging properties and
help preserve cognition in older age.5 Researchers examined the influence of "long-term intake of nuts"
on older women's cognition.
Interviews were conducted over the telephone to assess cognition (memory, verbal recall, attention,
and fluency). The study included 15,467 women globally who were 70 or older between 1995 and 2001.
Researchers found that those who consumed "at least five servings of nuts" a week had better cognition
than those with lower nut intake.5
Walnuts are probably the most well-known brain-boosting nut because walnuts contain a lot
of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) which are identified as "good fat." PUFAs are pertinent
for heart health, as well as the functioning of the autoimmune system and nervous system—which operates
the brain. Walnuts are also full of other phytochemicals (plant compounds), vitamins, and other
nutrients that positively influence neurons in the brain.5
Fruits, vegetables, and nuts "are neuroprotective," "can improve cognitive ability," and "[the]
intake [of these foods] may forestall cognitive dysfunction."6
The foods mentioned above are scientifically recommended for the general public. These foods may not suit you,
possibly due to allergies, health concerns, or dietary restrictions. If you are concerned about
implementing any food into your diet, speak with your physician before doing so. Also, remember that
every diet isn't for everyone.
Find what is best for you and offers the benefits that you are searching for. It is equally important that
you try not to judge yourself during transitioning into different dietary habits. Developing a new lifestyle
habit is a process that takes time to establish. These foods can offer many benefits for your mental,
cognitive and physical health, but it is difficult to incorporate every brain and mood-boosting food into
your daily diet.
Therefore, it is essential to be practical when attempting to have a more well-balanced diet. Not
every day will be fully packed with "feel-good foods," and you do not have to feel bad about that.
Start slowly—try adding one feel-good food to one of your meals today. Maybe tomorrow, you try out a
different feel-good food and see how that goes. Try to stay curious about what foods taste good, feel
good, and work for you.