You are what you eat. Literally. How many times did you eat food and then felt better afterwards? Or maybe you felt a bit worse. You must’ve noticed that sometimes after you eat a certain food your mood changes; it might become better or worse. Different foods have different effects on us. They all directly or indirectly affect our brain in various ways.
More often than not your gut changes the way you think. Your gut is directly connected to your brain by the tenth cranial nerve (they are nerves that emerge directly from the brain) that runs from your brain stem to the abdomen. This connection allows gut bacteria to transmit information to your brain. This all means that food can affect your brain. But just how do certain foods affect our brains? Well, let’s find out!
Carbohydrates, tryptophans and serotonin:
Tryptophan is a non-essential amino acid that is used in the biosynthesis of proteins. Serotonin is a mood regulator. It is made naturally in the brain from tryptophan with some help from the B vitamins. The more tryptophan enters the brain, more serotonin is synthesized in the brain, and mood tends to improve. Almost all protein-rich food contain tryptophan; however, other amino acids are better at passing from the bloodstream into the brain. So you can actually boost your tryptophan levels by eating more carbohydrates which seem to help eliminate the competition for tryptophan, so more of it can enter the brain. That said, you shouldn’t just consume any type of carbohydrates as simple (candy, cookies, etc..) carbohydrates give you a quick burst of energy because they increase blood sugar. But that burst doesn’t last long while complex carbohydrates (whole grains, beans and vegetables) provide a longer-lasting effect.
Dopamine and norepineprhine:
Dopamine is a chemical released by nerve cells to send signals to other nerve cells and serves as a neurotransmitter. The brain includes several distinct dopamine pathways, one of which plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior. Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter and a hormone that affects stress. They are released after eating protein-rich foods and they work together to increase your energy level, enhance your concentration and make you more alert.
The timing of the food is also important:
The timing of the meals also plays a big part in affecting our mood. Blood glucose levels are affected by the timing of each meal and snack. Therefore, the time you eat your meat will affect the level of sugar in your blood. This is also why it’s generally advised to eat three meals and possibly one or two snacks at the same time every day as it will help keep your blood glucose levels consistent.
As you can see food does play a major part in affecting and controlling our mood; and in some cases, a bad diet could even cause depression. You are what you eat. So be careful before eating unhealthy food again who knows how it might affect your brain.
Written by: Osama Waheib