VIDEO: What You Eat Changes How You Think

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By Gillie Houston Posted June 28, 2016

Watch to learn how diet affects the brain.

It's no secret that what you eat affects your body. But as a new video produced by TED-Ed points out, diet affects brain functioning more drastically than you might have thought. The short film highlights the variety of ways that food changes day-to-day cognitive functions.

The majority of the brain's weight—with the exception of the liquid contained inside—comes from fats. Glucose, proteins, micronutrients, and amino acids also make up brain matter, and in one way or another, all of these components originate in our food. In order to maintain a healthy balance of this brain material, the body requires an intake of essential fatty acids, and the nutrients we put in our bodies can ultimately have a strong effect on mood, alertness, sleep patterns and more.

As the video points out, actions and moods can be altered based on the brain's access to omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Consuming nuts, seeds, fatty fish, and other foods high in these nutrients are "crucial to the creation and maintenance of cell membranes" in the brain. On the flip side, consuming other forms of fat—like trans and saturated—could have a negative effect on cognitive health.

The proteins and amino acids in the brain tend to manipulate how we feel and behave, since they contain the precursors to neurotransmitters, the chemicals that carry signals between the brain's neurons. In simpler terms, they can affect things like attentiveness, weight, and sleep. This is why after eating a high-protein meal, the body will feel more alert than after gobbling down a plate of pasta. When it comes down to amino acids and the "messengers" they contain, the best way to ensure a balanced mood is with a balanced diet.

The same goes for a balance between carbohydrates and glucose. Because most of the body's energy comes from these two elements, a good balance between the varying forms of carbohydrates is pivotal for a balanced mind. Carbs come in three forms—starch, sugar, and fiber—and the balance between the sugar and fiber groups can have a stark affect on brain function. Too much sugar in the brain will drive the body's blood sugar—and correspondingly, its attention span—down. To counteract this spike of sugar, eating foods that release glucose more slowly, such as oats, grains, and legumes, will help boost attention.

In a nutshell, sudden shifts in your energy, mood, and general mental function is a signal of some kind of nutrient deficiency. Watch the TED-Ed video to learn more about how to craft the ideal diet for your brain.

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