The brain is our most important organ. It is what makes us who we are. It is our own true personal computer – molded by thousands of years of evolution. How we use it and take care of it determines how well our minds function. If we keep it healthy and fit, we will be sharp and smart. If we abuse it and make it dull, then there won’t be much of intelligence coming from us. The question is, how can we manage to keep our brains healthy? What are the things that harm it? The guide follows the article I published on Psychologium in May.
Food and the brain
The human brain uses around 20% of the energy we provide to our bodies. This means that the fifth of the food we eat goes to support the brain’s activities. Considering how small the brain is compared to the entire body, it indeed consumes a lot. Can you imagine the importance of what we eat for the well functioning brain and mental abilities? We all have heard about foods that are good for your brain like omega-3 fatty acids and blueberries. The internet is full of such lists and they are right. But what is more important is that we avoid the food that harms our brains.
One of the first things any neuroscientist would put on the list of worst foods for the brain would be sugary foods and drinks. Eating lots of sugar is not only bad for maintaining a healthy weight, but for many other things. Including for the proper functioning of the brain. Sugary foods such as candy bars, cereals, and sodas provide an excess amount of sugar. This has a negative effect on our cognitive skills. Not only it is addictive and literally forces your body to want more, but it also worsens your memory and attention.
Sugar has an indirect effect on the brain that is often overlooked. Because the taste of it is so rewarding, it forces the brain to have a high threshold for the excitement. More we consume sugar, more we crave it. That happens, because the brain is trying to experience the same enjoyment it had before. Once we are used to it such pleasure, other things seem dull – including healthy food that is good for the brain. With eating sugar, we force or brain to seek the instantly rewarding pleasures. This makes difficult to do the tasks that are not super exciting, but important for mental development.
The second dangerous food type for the brain is full of trans fats. You probably have heard it before. It is simply one of the kinds of unsaturated fat and it really is bad for your health. Yes, not only for your brain but for the overall body. The consumption of trans fats is linked to heart disease, immune problems, diabetes, and even cancer. Trans fat molecules disrupt hormone production, harming memory and other cognitive abilities. It also affects the production of serotonin – a neurotransmitter that is essential for complex mental functions such as learning and memory.
The third food on the list, while might be unusual, is tuna. Why on earth is tuna bad for your brain? isn’t fish good for you? After all, everyone is saying that you should take fish oil to have a healthy brain. The problem is that tuna has mercury in it. It is a neurological poison found in animal tissues. Tuna is not the only fish that contains mercury, but it is the most common one consumed in the United States. Mercury is toxic and is deadly in high doses. Eating tuna once in a while won’t give you enough mercury to make any significant difference in the brain’s health. However, do not make it a part of your regular diet.
If only food was the only problem for maintaining a healthy brain. While diet has a big influence on our mental fitness, there are other important factors as well.
Move Your Body
The human brain has been molded by evolution. If you know even a bit of the history of our species, you know that the modern lifestyle of humans has been around only a fraction of humanity’s time on this planet. Our ancestors were constantly moving their bodies – hunting, seeking for shelter, migrating for thousands of miles and quite often running away from the predators. Our internal organs are used to the movement and our brain needs it the most. That’s why it is important to avoid inactivity and sedentary lifestyle.
Don’t think that you need to become an athlete in order to get the benefits of exercise for the brain. You do not have to lift heavy weights or run marathons. It is okay if you can not go to the gym regularly. Try to walk after work or take the stairs instead of an elevator.
Do not get lost in the routine
It is a common occurrence that a person stops doing new things and acquires repetitive lifestyle. How many people do you know who wake up, go to work, come home to watch some TV shows, sleep and repeat the same routine over and over again? The brain is not getting anything new. The entire mental process has become a habit. This is especially bad for people who do repetitive things at work. Do not make the same mistake and develop a habit of learning and doing something new. If it is not possible to do it every day, try to do it at least a few times a week.
Do not overwork
Again, your brain is a computer. If you overwork your computer, it will crash. The same thing will happen to your brain. When you put it under too much pressure, it will get weaker and won’t recover until you rest it. Take it easy and know your limits when it comes to doing mental tasks. In the long run, you will accomplish more if you take a break once in a while.
Hopefully, the guide was helpful and you know a little bit more about things that harm the brain. Avoid them to keep it healthy.