“Feed your head”, ordered the hippy hymn of the sixties White rabbit. Surely, the group that sang it, Jefferson Airplane, did not refer to conventional foods, but to other types of substances, but the motto continues to apply to all who want to improve their mental performance. As in the other organs of the body, diet influences the functioning of our brain, and although there are no magic foods that make us dumber or smarter, we can favor the activity of our neurons with certain ingredients.
Although the brain only accounts for 2% of our weight, it spends approximately 20% of the calories we put into the body. He is a big consumer of glucose and he likes that his levels of this sugar remain stable: that they do not drop too low due to fasting and leave him without energy, but that they do not rise excessively and end up causing damage in the long term. For this reason, some nutritionists recommend eating more frequently, but in less quantity, and, above all, betting on foods that produce glucose in a slow and progressive way once ingested. That is, vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains and other foods rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates. These are products that, unlike the sugars and refined flours typical of sweets or soft drinks, also favor a longer feeling of satiety, so if we consume them we help both the body and the head.
Another nutrient that must be taken care of to strengthen the mind is fats. In fact, 60% of the brain mass is made up of this material. This does not mean that to think better we have to eat the bacon sandwiches in pairs: the most beneficial fats for the brain are those from oily fish, seeds and nuts. Omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, present in these foods, seem crucial for the health of our nervous system, and their deficiency has been related to Alzheimer’s or memory loss. Also some vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbages or cabbage, combine a large supply of vitamin C with a high content of carotenoids – antioxidants that especially protect against free radicals – creating a powerful anti-aging combination for cognitive function.
At the opposite extreme, it is advisable to watch the excessive consumption of stimulants such as coffee or tea: although they activate the sensation of alertness and temporarily eliminate the feeling of sleep, they can cause anxiety and even nausea and headache if are consumed in excess. And while there is no diet that ensures that it can turn an MTV reality contestant into a light, we can point to the great thinkers of yesterday and today – including Albert Einstein, Thomas Alva Edison, Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato – practiced strict vegetarianism.