“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are” said Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a French epicure and gastronome and that was reaffirmed by Ludwig Andreas Feuerback by quoting “ A man is what he eats” in his famous essay which came out in 1863. Now many years later, we know it’s truer than ever. The food we eat doesn’t just impact our body but the structure and function of our brain and ultimately even our mood.
Haven’t you all felt very calm after having a ‘veetile oonu’? Apart from having your mother’s love as a secret ingredient, there is another reason why you feel calm – it is the AMINO ACIDS. Amino acids contain the precursors to neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that carry signals between neurons, affecting things like mood, sleep, attentiveness, and weight.
The complex combinations of compounds in food can stimulate brain cells to release the mood-altering chemical – serotonin. Serotonin is sometimes called a happy chemical because it contributes to well-being and happiness. Ninety-five percent of serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, which is lined with millions of neurons, and that’s why you feel so happy after having a good meal.
Remember the last time you had a lot of sweets and sugar rush that followed? The sudden spike in your mood was due to the inrush of glucose into the bloodstream. Eating sugary food releases dopamine, the reward token of our brain. With every bite, more dopamine is released, and with time, the brain limits the number of dopamine receptors which makes it more difficult to reach the previous level of dopamine high HEALTH CORNER with the same amount of dopamine and thus forces us to intake more sugar. This behavioral pattern is similar to that exhibited by addicts – in short, we are becoming addicted to sugar.
Most of us try to turn around a really bad day we had by having some good food, this also works due to the release of the feel good hormone: dopamine. With every good meal our brain gets a healthy dose of dopamine, which increases when we try new and exciting food. The higher dose of dopamine released when we try a new kind of food is attributed to the fact that our brain favors a varied balanced diet than to have the same food with the same nutritional value every single day. Some food release more dopamine than others, bitter gourd is a very good example of a food that releases very low levels of dopamine. This is the reason why most of us were reluctant to have bitter-gourd when we were young (and even now).
A diet with a range of foods helps maintain a balanced combination of brain messengers and keeps your mood from getting skewed in one direction or the other. Like the other organs in our bodies, our brain also benefits from a steady supply of micro-nutrients. Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables strengthen the brain to fight off free radicals that destroy brain cells, enabling your brain to work well for a longer period of time. And without powerful micro-nutrients, like vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid, our brains would be more susceptible to brain diseases and mental decline. Trace amounts of the minerals like iron, copper, zinc, and sodium are also fundamental to brain health and early cognitive development. Make sure that every meal you have is a balanced meal to have a healthy mind and body.