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For Brain Food we mean any food product containing nutrients that promote brain function. The literal translation of the term Brain Food is “food for the mind”, even if many experts consider it a real concept, meaning by Brain Food “eating intelligently to have a healthier brain”.
Following a healthy and correct diet must not only have the goal of perfect physical shape, but above all to make the brain feel good and make it capable of performing to its full potential. Although the brain constitutes only 2% of our body weight, it consumes about 20% of the energy we assimilate through food. This energy is fuel for our brain, especially when we do a job that requires high concentration and cognitive skills throughout the day.
Mental energy does not consist only in the mere consumption of glucose, but it is much more. There are those who identify mental energy as attention span, those who associate it with memory, processing speed and so on. One of the leading scholars in the field, the psychologist and psychiatrist Lykken, defined mental energy as “the ability of an individual to perform cognitive tasks for a long time, maintaining attention and blocking distractions to achieve a certain task”.
Biographies of highly successful people in science and other disciplines suggest that, in addition to the intellectual gift, they are endowed with an extraordinary abundance of mental energy. According to Lykken, these people can focus their attention on certain tasks for long periods of time, without getting tired or distracted, which makes them different from others and super performing.
Mental energy is a limited resource, directly influenced by external factors such as the emotional state and the psycho-physical state, so it is good to support our brain in its activity with both nutrition and good habits.
What does our brain need to feel good and perform at its best?
A slight reduction in the oxygen supply to the brain is enough to compromise alertness and behavioral response. Oxygen deficiency, called hypoxia, characterizes various clinical disorders, such as asthma or brain injury, but can also affect healthy individuals who stay at high altitudes. Hypoxia in a more severe form can also have effects on memory or calculation ability. Limited oxygen flow to the brain can potentially compromise the speed of response to stimuli.
Water is essential for our health and also for our brain! In fact, over 80% of our brain is made up of water. Every chemical reaction that takes place in the brain needs it, including the production of energy. No water, no energy. Even a small 3-4% decrease in brain water can cause symptoms such as dull mind and fatigue.
Particular macronutrients and micronutrients
Consuming food is essential for nourishing our body and brain in the best possible way. Following a healthy and varied diet is the first step to physical and mental health, but there are fundamental macronutrients and micronutrients.
Some of these are Glucose, Sugars (quality carbohydrates), good fats, iron, iodine, and vitamins (mainly those of group B). The main one for our brain is undoubtedly glucose. When the brain needs energy, it relies solely on the fast energy type of carbohydrates and especially glucose.
99% of brain energy comes from glucose in normal physiological conditions, this is also the substrate of many neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers of our brain).
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