When we think about health, we mostly think about our body. We know much less about how our brain functions, let alone how to care for it. By keeping our brain in good shape we directly impact our mental wellbeing, focus, happiness, productivity, creativity, memory, attention, etc. And our food plays a crucial role.
What are neurotransmitters?
Neurotransmitters are the communicating elements in our brain constantly sending signals and make up a big deal of our mental wellbeing, motivation and happiness. Some sound probably familiar to you like serotonin and dopamine, but there are many more. The reality is of course much more complex than the image below, but it gives a good overview.
Feed your brain
Just like the rest of our body, our brain and neurotransmitters need building blocks -> food! The most valuable you can do is to try to get all nutrients from whole food sources: vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, protein, brown rice, etc. If you want to find more specific information about which neurotransmitters need which food sources you can check out this Natuur Diëtisten website (it’s in Dutch). This is also why all our cacao products are whole food unlike cocoa powder (pressed, defatted and alkalized cacao) or other derivatives, but as little processed as possible to provide the highest nutritional value. For example magnesium is a very important mineral for brain function and neurotransmitters, the highest concentration is found in cacao. Your body can uptake it much better as a whole food source than from supplements.
*If you’re on a vegan diet it might be worthwhile checking alternative sources like nuts to feed your brain. Many amino acids and vitamins that are important for your brain and neurotransmitters can be found in animal products.
Sugar and alcohol are a no-go if you want to feed your brain and neurotransmitters well. Or at least in a healthy moderation.
Help your body to absorb nutrients
It’s not only important that we eat healthy food, but at least as important that our body can absorb the nutrients from it. Many nutrients and vitamins need fats as a carrier.
For example curcumin (an important nutrient in turmeric) needs black pepper to increase the absorption in your body by 2000%! Or blueberries and proteins. And fats and fat soluble vitamins.
We’re not only what we eat, but what we can absorb.
Interesting about cacao is that it helps our body in absorbing valuable nutrients. The healthy fats present in cacao (not cocoa powder) together with the protein are a good energy source for your brain as well as they enable your body to uptake nutrients that depend on fats. Also cacao increases your blood flow through your body and your brain. This helps supplying your cells with nutrients and increase brain power.
Supplements, smart drugs and adaptogens
Smarts drugs or nootropics are gaining popularity. They are supplements or substances that may improve cognitive functioning. They are mostly used for performance enhancing functions (focus, memory, motivation, creativity). Although we are mostly interested in whole food solutions there are interesting supplements to our diet like medicinal mushrooms or maca powder for example.
Adaptogens are plants that support our body in balancing stress (short term or long term) and our immune system. Famous adaptogens are ashwagandha, ginseng, rhodiola and reishi. Many are used for a long time in herbal medicine, Ayurveda and Chinese medicine. You can use these in teas, as tinctures, powders to mix in you drink and more will appear in supplement form with the increasing focus on health.
Brain power cacao drink: 20gr cacao + lions mane extract + coconut oil + turmeric = a very focused start of the day.
Cacao helps to uptake the active components from many supplements and smart drugs. For example the combination with medicinal mushrooms like reishi, lion’s mane, chaga and cordyceps increases the effect and benefits of these mushrooms. A beautiful natural health boost combination.
Finding out the best diet for ourselves is complex. What works for one might not work for others. We can also have different goals and health challenges. Food just plays a very important role on many levels and it pays off to stay curious in what works best for you.
Do you follow a healthy diet? And do you take in mind to feed your brain as well?