Healthy Brain Function and Nutrition

Although food has classically been perceived as a means to provide energy and building material to the body, its ability to prevent and protect against diseases is starting to be recognized. In particular, research over the past 5 years has provided exciting evidence for the influence of dietary factors on specific systems and mechanisms that maintain mental function.

Your brain is a nutrition hog; it needs a lot of different nutrients in order to develop and function properly. Nutrients like choline (which is found in egg yolks, liver, and wheat germ) and DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish and breast milk) are particularly important for proper brain development early in life.

Throughout life, you need tyrosine —which is found in protein foods—and vitamin C to produce the neurotransmitters that carry signals between brain cells.  Antioxidants and essential fatty acids also help to protect your brain cells from everyday damage and age-related decline.  Your brain requires a high degree of energy.  Of all the energy it takes to power your body’s many functions and activities, your brain sucks up about 20%. B vitamins and iron are critical for the cellular energy metabolism that keeps the lights on up there.  In other words, healthy brain function and development require overall good nutrition.  Conversely, serious nutrient deficiencies can definitely impair your cognitive abilities.