It may seem obvious to state that our brains need proper fuel to function effectively. We prove this to ourselves when we miss breakfast and find it hard to think clearly until we ingest some protein.
Protein is absorbed by our bodies and used by our brains, among other things, to make neurotransmitters, the chemicals released by our brain cells to communicate with each other. We make new neurotransmitters all the time so that we can pay attention, learn new skills, remember details, control our emotional reactions, and regulate mood.
At INDY Neurofeedback, we know that a well-balanced diet for our bodies will also significantly aid cognitive function and brain health.
Here’s how you can eat right for your brain:
When your stomach is empty, so is your brain. Starting off the day without eating protein sets the stage for impaired attention and concentration.
20 grams of protein must be consumed by lunch for effective brain function — with at least 10 grams ingested first thing in the morning.
A protein shake, a hard-boiled egg, Greek yogurt, bacon and cheese omelet, or organic peanut butter on whole wheat toast, all qualify.
If you eat a breakfast with no fat, little protein and a high glycemic index – such as sweetened cereal and milk or a bagel with fat free cream cheese — your blood sugar will skyrocket and you’ll get an energy boost. But – all too soon, your blood sugar level will crash, which triggers the release of stress hormones like adrenaline, that leave you feeling jittery, moody, and having difficulty concentrating.
When this is your child’s breakfast, no amount of medication, parenting, school intervention, or counseling will correct an attention problem that is caused by this nutritional deficiency. In a school classroom, this looks like ADHD to the teacher.
Proper nutrition is key to brain health as well as your family’s brain health. That’s why, at INDY Neurofeedback, we stress that healthy diets provide the building blocks for the brain to create and maintain neural connections.
Fad diets that dramatically reduce good and bad fats and carbs can actually be harmful to your brain! The best way to diet is to eat a balanced diet rather than completely cutting out (or dramatically reducing) important fats and carbs that your brain craves to function optimally.
Your brain needs lots of water to function effectively, too. Those eight, 8-ounce glasses of water you should consume daily help your brain think clearly every bit as much as it helps your digestion, circulation, elimination, and muscle health.
“Eat and drink wisely, for the sake of your entire body’s wellbeing,” says Leanne O’Neil of INDY Neurofeedback. “Eating healthily is as important to your brain’s effective performance as it is for your body’s. Make sure your diet is balanced with weekly servings of fish (the Omega-3 in fish is especially good for your brain health) and daily servings of brightly or darkly colored fruits and leafy vegetables.”