Food & Mind
Can intelligent nutrition affect brain performance and our psychological well-being?
Elisabetta Farneti - 04/01/2021

We are what we eat

Our nervous system is activated thanks to particular biochemical events. For this to happen, specific nutrients are needed (proteins, mineral salts, vitamins, sugars, phyto-molecules, etc.) responsible for the creation and restructuring of some brain structures, and for the passage of electrical signals between neurons, at the basis of neuropsychological functioning.

Many principles contained in foods therefore have the ability to influence the functioning of the nervous system, slowing it down or stimulating it, and are able to maintain or compromise the good health of some psycho-physical dynamics.

The food we ingest determines the biochemical composition of our body, even at the level of the central system. A bad, unbalanced diet can cause physical exhaustion, decreased cognitive performance, psychological imbalances such as anxiety, mood swings, apathy, disturbed sleep.

Super food for the mind

The book "Super food for the mind" (2013) by Neal D. Barnard delves into the subject.

To function, the nervous system uses glucose in particular, which is found in sugars from which it obtains the right functional energy. But better recharge your energy with complex carbohydrates or the starch of cereals and legumes.

The consumption of lipids is also important, especially polyunsaturated fatty acids (Omega 3 and Omega 6 of which fish and dried fruit are rich), given their great importance in maintaining the health of the nervous system and the cardiovascular system. Even the consumption of proteins is closely linked to the psycho-physical well-being of the person because they even function as precursors and mediators of neurotransmitters. A correct intake of Vitamins is important because, while not providing energy, they are essential for the use of the nutritional principles taken. Most of them are not synthesized by the body independently, so they must be taken through a varied diet. Other fundamental nutritional principles are the Mineral Salts (Calcium, Iron, Phosphorus, Iodine, Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium as well as trace elements such as Selenium and Zinc, important in many physiological and mental functions).

Nutrients allies of the brain

According to this perspective, the introduction of correct foods is essential, obviously combined with physical activity and little stress. In short, a wellness approach. A great ally of our brain is water. Strange? Yet the negative effects of dehydration on the brain are now known. A liter of water a day is essential! Other allied nutrients: Fish, Olive oil, Walnuts, Turmeric, Broccoli, Tomatoes, Citrus fruits, Berries, Green tea. According to some studies, a diet that combines these foods would in fact be able to provide an adequate supply of fatty acids (omega 3), vitamins (E, B and C), antioxidants (lycopene, flavonoids) useful for the proper functioning brain.

Better not to overdo it ...

In addition to foods that are good for the mood and remove anxiety and stress, there are substances containing psychoactive principles that excite and disturb the normal activity of the neuropsychological system. For example: alcohol, coffee, tea, white sugar, red meat.

Let's enjoy food time

Times and places are also very important for good nutrition, useful for psycho-physical well-being. It is good to distribute nutrients throughout the day with at least 4-5 meals, consume food slowly, taking the time it takes to sit at the table in a relaxed atmosphere.

Reprogramming the mind on healthy foods is possible

Why reprogram the mind? Because healthy food can also be good! There are coaching paths and food solutions that guide you in eradicating the idea of ​​pleasure linked to eating only elaborate pastry products or a plate of French fries, learning to appreciate other types of foods, including sweets, "tastier" in all respects . Once the brain has established new connections of pleasure related to healthy and nutritious food, we will come to no longer desire to enter a fast food restaurant as in the past. And we will be happy to do it! This aspect of happiness linked to conscious eating habits and a healthy lifestyle is considered a kind of revolution. When we reach this goal we have reached the highest well-being: on a physical, mental and social level. We are satisfied, we feel good, we love each other.

In conclusion, food helps provide energy, well-being and tranquility on a psycho-physical level. The food-psyche relationship is a solid circular relationship. Even within the SPA it is possible to act on habits and mind-body dynamics, working on the sensory and experiential sphere related to food, experimenting with expressive, movement and relational modes, promoting well-being methods based on naturalness.

Elisabetta Farneti