It's real: Brain food, or maybe "brain fertilizer" is more accurate. Regardless, over the last five years we've learned that we can grow new brain cells. The technical term for the growth of new neurons is "neurogenesis", and it's kind of a big deal.
Lucky for us, fertilizing our brains is as eat as choosing the right foods to nosh on, and the best supplements to swallow.
Yup, that's right, we can fertilize our brains with food's micro- and macronutrients. Now, it's important to note that while we can improve our cognition with diet, we can also f*ck it up royally by eating the wrong foods for extended amounts of time.
In fact, according to 2013 journal article, “Poor dietary habits are likely contributors to the surge of neurological and psychiatric disorders in the last decade.” Bet you were't ready for that truth bomb.
Guys, girls, ladies, gentlemen, and everyone in between: WHAT WE EAT MATTERS. A LOT.
Let's take a look at what you need to pack your plate with in order to achieve Einstein-caliber thoughts. [And yes, this is all straight from the scientific literature.]
1. Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
WHY: First off, the body can't make omega-3s. We must eat them. They are essential to brain sturuture. Most scientific literature notes that DHA, one of the two subclasses of omega-3s (O-3), makes up about 1/3 of our brain. That's incredible. Our brain is made up of a 1/3 of a fat that we can only get from our DIET. Let that sink in.
What are the implications? It means we better be eating our seafood, fish, and fully grass-fed bison, lamb, and beef. Sure, there are some omega-3s in seeds and nuts, but the body is terrible at converting those types of O-3s to the utilizable form of DHA.
This graph (to the right - link for article at the bottom of this post) comparing consumption of fish to rates of "major" depression explains a lot. The relationship is inverse; those who ate less fish were more depressed.
Check it: "Over the past 100 years, the intake ... linoleic acid and trans fatty acids has increased dramatically in Western civilizations, whereas the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids has decreased. This might explain the elevated incidence of major depression in countries such as the United States". Another example of food as medicine.
O-3s also play a significant roll in increases BDNF, a brain chemical that increases "synaptic plasticity" aka the ability for us to comprehend, to grow new brain cells, to learn, etc. Low levels of BDNF have been correlated (which doesn't mean causation) with Alzheimers Disease, poor neural development, and accelerated neural aging.