The more foods in your diet increase blood sugar, the more weight you gain, and the faster the hippocampus shrinks. A smart diet can fix this.
The hippocampus is a part of the brain that helps to resist stress efficiently and manages your mood by controlling the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
Also, in the hippocampus, a large part of neurogenesis occurs (the formation of new brain cells).
Note: Refined sugar, processed foods, baked goods with margarine, and other foods that increase blood sugar can cause damage to the hippocampus, similar to trauma or severe stress.
As a result, the growth of new neurons slows down, the level of serotonin (the bliss molecule) decreases, and the level of cortisol (the stress hormone) increases.
In 2015, a study showed the relationship between diet and the hippocampus volume in humans. It was discovered that a healthy balanced diet promotes cognitive function and supports new nerve cells to grow in the brain.
The study also noted that a “reasonable” diet linked to a bigger hippocampus, and a western diet correlated to a smaller one.
These relationships continued even when other variables, such as educational level or level of physical activity, were taken into account.
Additionally, fruit and vegetable antioxidants help protect the hippocampus from oxidative stress, which contributes to brain cell death.
Plant foods sources are rich in co-factors — the particular vitamins and minerals the brain requires to produce two critical anti-stress agents — serotonin and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid).
This is important because healthy levels of serotonin and GABA make us more optimistic about the world and contribute to peace.
What Substances Can Contribute To A Smart Diet?
Tryptophan is the amino acid that the body converts to 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), and then serotonin is manufactured from 5-HTP.
Serotonin is a hormone that positively influences brain activity, energizes us, and also controls the operation of other neurotransmitters. When tryptophan levels are low, brain receptors become more susceptible to stress hormones. As a result, a small trigger is enough to produce a negative hj stress response.
Importantly, serotonin can help you fall asleep faster because it can turn to melatonin when it is regulated by the enzyme N-acetyltransferase – Melatonin is a hormone that can help us fall asleep quicker and to get quality sleep.
Tryptophan Food Sources: Chia seeds, flaxseed, pistachios, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, cashew nuts, soybeans, tofu, fish (cod, salmon, perch), buckwheat, Bran, sprouted cereals, cheese, quinoa, bananas, avocados, meat, eggs, milk, yogurt, dark chocolate.
Glutamine is one of the 20 essential amino acids (conditionally essential) that is the building block for protein. It is a smart diet necessity.
Glutamine is essential for the synthesis of GABA – the most significant inhibitory neurotransmitter of the central nervous system, which has a soothing and nootropic effect (cognitive enhancement).
GABA nourishes the brain, stimulates energy metabolism in nerve cells, and increases mental performance.
Glutamine Food Sources: Meat, eggs, beans, fish, quinoa, parsley, beets, cabbage, sprouted cereals, milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, pistachios, peanut butter, almonds.
Tyrosine can increase energy, motivation, and focus. Tyrosine is known to trigger dopamine “the motivation molecule.“
Basically, all motivation is derived from dopamine. It is the chemical that gives you that drive to repeat a behavior. Positive behaviors that result in rewards will keep the motivation going.
Tyrosine is the master precursor for dopamine, thus it will assist you in being focused and motivated. This is a must in your smart diet.
Tyrosine Sources: Chicken, tofu, milk, white beans, sweet potatoes, avocado, salmon, beef, eggs, wheat germ, tuna.
Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
Thiamine Food Sources: Brown rice, soybeans, corn, oatmeal, buckwheat, wheat bran, sprouted cereals, nuts.
Under stressful situations, the level of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) in the body decreases, so it is especially important to replenish its reserves when you are nervous.
Pyridoxine not only calms the nervous system but also acts as a co-factor for two important brain neurotransmitters – serotonin and GABA: it helps the body convert 5-HTP to serotonin and the amino acid glutamine to GABA.
Thanks to pyridoxine, metabolic processes in the brain are stimulated, memory and attention improve, and overall mental performance increases.
Pyridoxine is involved in the production of melatonin (which is why some melatonin supplements usually contain B vitamins). Vitamin B6 also helps support healthy adrenal function, on which proper brain function depends.
Vitamin B6 Food Sources. Chicken, millet, beef liver, milk, eggs, barley, beef, corn, carrots, beets, cabbage, peas, bran.
Folate (Vitamin B9)
Folate helps in the formation of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, regulate blood formation and, consequently, plays an essential role in preventing anemia.
Most importantly, folic acid is beneficial for expectant mothers: it plays a crucial role in the fetus’s mental and physical development.
Like Vitamin B6, folate helps the brain convert tryptophan from food, first into 5-HTP, then converted into serotonin.
Natural folate found in vegetables and legumes is more efficient and beneficial for us than the synthetic folic acid, frequently added to foods.
Folate Food Sources: Brussels sprouts, leafy vegetables, broccoli, kale, asparagus, legumes, sunflower seeds, cabbage, pineapples, bananas, avocados, lemons, peanuts, oranges.
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) plays a vital role in the normal functioning of the nervous system, the operation of specific proteins, and blood cells.
Its deficiency can cause depression, fatigue, and weakness, which directly affects the brain. This vitamin is not synthesized in the human body and can only be obtained through food of animal origin.
Vitamin B12 Food Sources: Meat, offal (primarily liver), fish, dairy products, eggs.
Note: If you are a vegan, add foods enriched with this vitamin (soy, cereals, soy, nutritional yeast).
Approximately 48% of Americans lack this mineral in their smart diets; furthermore, their magnesium levels severely drops during stress. Magnesium is a vital mineral that is included in hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body.
Without it, the calcium that bones need is not absorbed; it is also necessary for the exchange of glucose, amino acids, fats, and the transport of nutrients that are required for energy production.
Magnesium Food Sources: Fish (particularly salmon and halibut), zucchini cabbage, beet greens, spinach, chard, cashew nuts, sesame seeds, almonds, dark chocolate.
This nutrient helps keep optimal brain function. It is metabolized to acetylcholine, the main balancer of the parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces stress hormones in the event of an arousing situation.
Choline also helps maintain a healthy level of GABA, which is important for normal brain function.
Choline Food Sources: Shrimp, cod, egg yolk, beef, wild salmon, broccoli, cucumber, brussels sprouts, flaxseed, zucchini, soy, almonds, peanut butter, dark chocolate, avocados.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) helps the body turn 5-HTP obtained from tryptophan into serotonin.
In one study, more than 120 people were exposed to a stress factor. Those who took vitamin C at the same time, the level of blood pressure and cortisol in the blood quickly returned to normal compared with those who took placebo tablets.
The most substantial amount of vitamin C in the body is stored in the adrenal glands. But during stress, the reserves of this valuable vitamin are quickly depleted – this is because ascorbic acid is required for the production of cortisol.
The problem is that if the adrenal glands don’t have enough vitamin C, they activate the production of cortisol, which further intensifies anxiety.
At the same time, high doses of vitamin C help to balance the level of stress hormones in the body, and relax the brain exhausted by stress.
Vitamin C Food Sources: Tomatoes, bell pepper, chili pepper, cabbage, parsley, spinach, lemon, oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, strawberries, melon, raspberries, papaya, black currants, apricots, kiwi, pineapple.
Calcium is not only essential for bone health, but our mood also depends on it. Furthermore, the lack of this mineral can lead to increased anxiety.
Deficiency in calcium is a common occurrence among men and women. Often the reason for this is an insufficient level of vitamin D, which is necessary for the adequate absorption of calcium.
Another problem is that phytic and oxalic acids found in some foods (spinach, rhubarb, seeds, legumes) can inhibit calcium absorption.
Vegans, as a rule, eat much more plant foods that contain both of these acids, which is why they are more likely to run into bone fractures than those who regularly have meat and dairy products in their smart diets.
Calcium Food Sources: Milk, yogurt, cheese, sardines, salmon, tofu, turnip greens, broccoli, white cabbage, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds.
Zinc acts as a co-factor that helps the body turn 5-HTP into serotonin. It was discovered that an adequate level of this mineral stimulates memory and improves better absorption of new information, and is also able to prevent loss of cognitive function in old age.
The highest density of zinc in the body is in the hippocampus – the part of the brain where new neurons (brain cells) are formed.
Zinc Food Sources: Beef, oysters, halibut, crab meat, turkey, flounder, lamb, pork, chicken, tofu, yogurt, soy, lentils, beans, peas, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, oatmeal, pine nuts, cashew nuts, peanut butter.
Want to increase brain power? Adding the 12 smart diet food sources mentioned here will surely get you on the road for a healthier and stronger brain.
Smart dieting for better focus, motivation, and mental energy will make life so much easier to live.
Help your brain by eating the right foods. Support the hippocampus to continue to form brain cells by eating a smart diet. You will not regret this later in life.