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The ultimate bright brain guide

health-and-fitness Updated: Apr 21, 2011 00:55 IST
Hindustan Times
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It’s not a secret that poor diet can lead to depression and even trigger mental disorders, but recent findings in the UK stress that the link is more serious than you thought. In a recent study, the country’s Mental Health Foundation says it’s the change in diet over the last 50 years that has resulted in the growing number of mental disorders.

The food & brain link
Eating healthy triggers positive energy, whereas malnutrition can lead to a psychological imbalance, agree desi shrinks. “When you have a good hemoglobin level, your brain functions well. It translates into positive thinking. You will often find crash dieters battle depression. That’s because poor diet triggers depression and other psychological disorders,” says counselling psychologist Dr Deepali Kapoor. Statistics also show that the number of mentally challenged children is higher in the economically deprived sections. “It’s the outcome of the mother’s poor diet,” says Dr Kapoor.

So, here’s what to eat to keep your brain in the pink of health:

1 Omega-3 fatty acids: Fishes such as salmon, sardines, herring, and tuna are a great source of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid). For vegetarians, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds and soya been are good options. Our brain comprises 8% DHA and studies have proved that DHA supplements are important for optimal brain functioning.

2 Bright fruits and vegetables: Antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables help protect brain tissue from oxidation. Green leafy vegetables contain vitamins such as folate whereas antioxidant vitamins such as C and E are found in various fruit and vegetables. Antioxidants help in reducing inflammation and oxidative processes involved in damaging brain cells. So, watermelon, mangoes, citrus fruits, broccoli and spinach must feature on your diet list.

3 Red wine: If taken in moderation, it can boost your mental health. "Red wine contains resvertaol that can help enhance memory and cognition," says Nidhi Sareen, nutritionist at Fortis La Femme.

4 Phosphorous: Another essential mineral that is often ignored form the diet is phosphorous. "This mineral is found around as well as inside the cells of brain. Phosphorous helps maintain proper brain functions," says health expert Prachi Agarwal. Some of the sources are meat, nuts, legumes, sunflower seeds, potatoes, broccoli and dairy products.

5 Nuts: Nuts come loaded with minerals such as zinc, magnesium and iron. These minerals trigger brain stimulation. Declared as super nut by various medical associations, walnut tops the list brain-enhancing nuts.

6 Carbohydrates: Simple Carbohydrates provide a steady source of energy to the brain. "This can be explained through simple situations, like when you are studying or focussing hard, your need to munch would be higher," says health expert Prachi Agarwal. Some of the sources of simple carbohydrates are grapefruit, cherries, oatmeal, bran, rice, milk, yogurt, kidney beans, chick peas and lentils.

7 Exercise: We know that the brain keeps producing new cells, but as you grow old, the brain’s capability to keep reproducing them slows down. "Exercise helps in countering this effect by stimulating the growth of brain cells. Running outdoors is especially good when it comes to improving your brain response levels," says Agarwal. Exercise is also great for metabolism; it reduces stress and improves the mood by releasing the ‘happy hormone’ (endorphin) — all of which help the brain perform better.

8 What to avoid: Over-processed food is high on chemicals, preservatives and additives that may interfere with neurotransmitter (or brain chemical) formation.