We’ve all heard the saying ‘you are what you eat.’ Ever wondered what it all means, and where the phrase even comes from? Well the phrase actually rings true in many ways. The food you consume can affect you in more ways than one, from your physical health to your mental health. This blog will go through what actually happens inside your brain when you eat and what changes can occur.
If you got rid of all the moisture in your brain and categorised the nutritional makeup of it, you'll find there's a variety of content. The most heaviest would be fats aka lipids, though protein, amino acids, glucose and other micronutrients would be found in there too.
Now, here’s where it gets juicy because all these components are derived from the foods we eat and they also have very distinct roles which can affect development, mood and energy levels. Ever felt lazy or sleepy after lunch? How about feeling really strangely attentive during the night? Well that could be due to what you ate.
Omega 3 & 6 + other fats
Omega 3 and 6 are essential fatty acids, they are essential to maintain and create the health of your cell membranes and can only be found in one's diet. Omege 3 & 6 can be found in oily fish, nuts and seeds.
Although omega 3 & 6 are excellent for your brain, unhealthy fats such as saturated and trans fats may have the opposite effect for your health if eaten for long periods of time.
These play a large role in how we feel and behave.
Many different types of neurotransmitters contain amino acids. Neurotransmitters act like messengers which send signals to other neurons. This means that they can affect sleep, mood and other behaviours such as alertness.
What we eat has a huge effect on how our brain functions as the complex chemical compounds found in foods may cause releases of different neurotransmitters, these may even be mood-altering. For example dark chocolate has been said to lift your spirits because it has tryptophan, an amino acid that your brain tells to produce serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone which stablises your mood and is responsible for feelings of well being.
It’s important to maintain a balanced diet as amino acids have a limited access to your brain cells. This means you should have a range of different foods which contain a variety of different nutrients, lessening the chance of having your mood swing from one place to the next.
These are crucial for longevity of your brain cells. A steady supply of nutrients will help to fight off free radicals that destroy brain cells. Such micronutrients may include powerful vitamins like B6, B12 and folic acid. Minerals also play a huge part as they aid with cognitive development and a lack of this may cause fatigue.
Glucose is another important part in your brain. Glucose helps store energy which mostly comes from carbohydrates like sugars.
Is sugar a carbohydrate?
Well yes! Carbohydrates come in 3 forms, starch, sugar and fibre. Although they may or may not be lumped together, they vary slightly on how the body and brain respond. For example a high sugar diet releases a lot of energy all at once and then dips rapidly, your blood sugar levels drop, affecting your mood and attention span.
Foods with a slower energy release are foods like oats and grains.
The bottom line
The food you eat directly affects your brain and therefore your mood. It’s important to have a varied diet so you can get a good mixture of hormones, and not too much of anything. Everyone loves a good sugar rush until the crash!
Check out this video for a great explanation and cool animation!