How Food Affects Your Brain


By Nancy Smorch

The content of this talk should really come as no surprise: basically, you should eat whole, nutrient-dense foods, and you’ll have a healthier brain!  Common sense, right?

But some of the specifics were surprising to me, and some of his stories of dealing with people with mental issues really put things in perspective for me.  Here’s what I mean:

Our diet has changed drastically over the past 100 years, and our brains are actually shrinking, partly because of this change in diet.  There are key nutrients that are essential for the proper functioning and growth of the brain, and a majority of Americans are deficient in these nutrients.

Take Zinc, for example.  Zinc is fundamental to over 300 chemical reactions in the brain, and over 70% of us are deficient in it.

Magnesium, which tells the brain to grow more and connect more is deficient in 60% of Americans.

Omega 3 fatty acids which are essential to the proper function of the brain as well, are seriously deficient in the American diet.

There are over 2 billion people on the planet who are iron deficient, and scientists predict that the global IQ would go up 13 points if we gave them all enough iron - thus we would have a smarter planet.  Think about that one for a minute.

Also, did you know that the top causes of disability in the world are mental health disorders (depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc.), and that 12% of American adults take antidepressants?  They are the number one prescribed drug.

What if rather than always turning to drugs, we looked to food to address mental disorders?  Dr. Drew Ramsey talks about how he looks at various mental issues differently now - especially when the woman who comes into his office who just had a panic attack that morning, didn’t eat breakfast or lunch.  He is also connecting the dots between those who complain of lack of cognitive function and then noticing that they haven’t had any B12 for the last 5 years.

Also interesting was the fact that we have over 100 billion cells in our brain and that the brain, which is 2% of our body weight, consumes 20% of our calories we take in.  And, the brain is totally electric - it contains about 62,000 miles of electric "wiring" and is mainly made of fat and cholesterol (another reason to eat good fats!).

Dr. Ramsey also talks about BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor), which coaxes the brain to "give birth" to new brain cells.  BDNF goes up when we eat a diet of whole, minimally processed foods, and goes down when we eat the typical American diet.

So what are the foods that are good for the brain?

Omega 3 fatty acids, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, eggs, and better quality meat, to name a few!

I’m sure this will be a new area of research and more information will be flooding the Internet about what foods and nutrients are good for your brain (there’s already quite a bit of information out there).  But when you look at what is good for your brain, you can get a glimpse at why so many people have mental health issues - because they aren’t getting any of these foods and nutrients.

Probably the most important thing you could take away from this post is to check out Dr. Ramsey’s website and this page in particular.  I am soooo excited about this page.  I’ve been talking about a “Farmacy,” and here, he has done a ton of research and put together a list of nutrients that are good for the brain, a little bit about them, and then what foods to find them in.  I seriously about teared up when I saw this page.  I love it!!!!  Thank you Dr. Ramsey for doing this!!!

I’ll let you watch the video to get the rest of the details, but I’ll leave you with this.  The next time you are feeling a little anxiety, depression, fogginess, or other emotional challenges, take a look at what you have eaten that day, and take a little extra time and feed your brain the food it needs.