Many of the nutrients in food affect the emotional centres of our brain and that affects how we think, feel and behave.
Here is how diet affects your brain (based on research)
1. Food does give us pleasure
One of the reasons why we are drawn to food is attributed to its rewarding, pleasant properties that are triggered in our brain to release hormones that make us feel better and these patterns are normally set in utero and early childhood. After we experience pleasure, our brains learns to associate the pleasant experience with the cues and conditions that predict it.
One of the most famous experiments done in this area was by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov in 1902. Pavlov was looking at salivation in dogs in response to being fed, when he noticed that his dogs would begin to salivate whenever he entered the room, even when he was not bringing them food he wanted to discover what the reason behind it was.
In his experiment, Pavlov used a bell as his neutral stimulus. Whenever he gave food to his dogs, he also rang a bell. After a number of repeats of this procedure, he tried the bell on its own. As you might expect, the bell on its own now caused an increase in salivation.
So the dog had learned an association between the bell and the food and a new behaviour had been learned. Because this response was learned (or conditioned), it is called a conditioned response.
2. Skimping on calories or carbohydrates, which promote serotonin production, can cause depressive moods.
The chemicals in your brain that promote positive moods, such as serotonin and dopamine, rely on food and nutrients for proper function. Low-carb dieters have shown unusually high feelings of depression, tension and anger, says Judith Wurtman, psychologist and director of the Women’s Health Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. Overeating can also cause feelings of shame, guilt and depression and interfere with blood sugar control, which can disrupt positive moods.
3. Several studies show that phenylethylamine (PEA) found in chocolate,
the same chemical your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love, encourages your brain to release endorphins, which means eating dark chocolate will make you feel happier.
4. Even mild dehydration has a negative effect on the brain’s performance
Showed study by the researchers at the University of East London. The researchers found that providing a glass of water immediately before the participants took an assessment that measures a variety of mental abilities, including verbal skills, visual acuity, and learning boosted mental reflexes, specifically reaction time, by 14 percent.
5. Eating breakfast improves people’s mental performance
A study from the Sussex Innovation Centre, Brighton, UK found that 61% of test subjects showed improvements in English and mathematics tests after eating breakfast. Hand-eye coordination was also improved. Breakfast eaters also showed a reduction in anxiety levels when faced with stressful situations.
6. The most important nutrient for the brain is fat.
Omega-3 fatty acids — found in salmon, walnuts and kiwi fruit — provide many benefits, including improving learning and memory and helping to fight against such mental disorders as depression and mood disorders, schizophrenia, and dementia, said Gómez-Pinilla, a member of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute and Brain Injury Research Centre.
7. Fasting has a positive effect on your brain
Researchers at the National Institute of Aging in Baltimore have reviewed the literature and performed studies to indicate the positive effects of fasting on overall brain health. Fasting boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), levels, which govern the formation of new neurons and the development of synapses and various lines of communication within the brain. Higher levels of BDNF lead to healthier neurons and better communication processes between these neurological cells. Low levels of BDNF are linked to dementia, Alzheimer’s, memory loss and other brain processing problems.
8. Clear connection between Vitamin intake and cognitive function
A study done at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, that looked at biomarkers in the blood to correlate vitamins and brain function found very clear links between nutrition and brain health….The researchers found some striking connections between nutrition and brain health. People who had higher levels of B family vitamins, as well as vitamins C, D, and E had higher scores on cognitive tests than people with lower levels.
9. Energy levels and food are closely related!
Two amino acids, tryptophan and tyrosine, can get through the blood-brain barrier. Tryptophan has a calming effect, while Tyrosine makes you feel energized. When the body breaks down protein, it creates amino acids to help itself (and the brain) function. Fish, meat, eggs, cheese and yogurt are all great sources of this and working in one of these elements into each meal is a good way to ensure your brain gets what it needs.
10. Sugar does make you dumb!
A team of scientists from the University of California discovered that the brains of people who eat large amounts of sugar for as little as six weeks, could experience a sharp decline in learning and memory ability as a result.