Why the brain needs fats, car­bo­hy­drates & pro­tein

Great Health Guide - - CONTENTS - Delia McCabe

The im­por­tance of con­sum­ing the right fats and oils for op­ti­mal brain func­tion was dis­cussed in Feed­ing Your Brain Part 1 of GHG TM. The brain’s so­phis­ti­ca­tion and beau­ti­fully or­ches­trated func­tion­ing can be se­verely ham­pered by the poor choice of foods, in­clud­ing two other foun­da­tion foods, car­bo­hy­drates and pro­tein.


Car­bo­hy­drates are the brain’s pre­ferred source of en­ergy. Due to the size of the brain, it doesn’t have much stor­age ca­pac­ity. Its huge en­ergy re­quire­ments can use up to 50% of the car­bo­hy­drates that are eaten and the type of car­bo­hy­drates con­sumed can play a sig­nif­i­cant role in men­tal well-be­ing.

The right kinds of car­bo­hy­drates are nu­tri­ent­dense and con­tain fiber, al­low­ing blood glu­cose lev­els stay steady and con­sis­tent, which leads to sta­ble moods, mem­ory and good weight.

The wrong car­bo­hy­drates are nu­tri­ent poor and fiber de­fi­cient, which re­sult in un­sta­ble blood glu­cose lev­els that ac­com­pany mood swings, crav­ings, learn­ing chal­lenges and weight gain. These are all signs of a brain strug­gling to main­tain equi­lib­rium and sup­port the op­ti­mal men­tal well-be­ing. Un­for­tu­nately, stress leads to blood glu­cose lev­els be­com­ing un­sta­ble too, so ad­ding re­fined car­bo­hy­drates to the mix ham­pers the brain’s abil­ity to main­tain and sup­port op­ti­mal moods and cog­ni­tive ca­pac­ity.


The tiny chem­i­cals that neu­rons use to speak to or to mes­sage each other, are called neu­ro­trans­mit­ters and are cre­ated us­ing amino acids, which are the build­ing units of pro­teins. Al­though the liver pro­duces up to 60% of the amino acids we need, the other 40% must be ob­tained di­rectly from our diet. Amino acids are linked to­gether in spe­cific se­quences to make the dif­fer­ent neu­ro­trans­mit­ters that neu­rons need to func­tion ef­fi­ciently. Some of these im­por­tant mes­sen­gers cause feel­ings of stim­u­la­tion and mo­ti­va­tion in our brain, while oth­ers cause feel­ings of calm­ness and se­cu­rity.

Con­sider the dif­fer­ence be­tween feel­ing ex­cited and up­beat while you watch an ex­cit­ing and in­ter­est­ing en­ter­tainer com­pared to the feel­ing of be­ing safely set­tled in your bed be­fore fall­ing asleep.


These con­trast­ing feel­ings are cre­ated by dif­fer­ent neu­ro­trans­mit­ters re­lay­ing dif­fer­ent mes­sages de­pend­ing on the en­vi­ron­ment that you find your­self in. How­ever, if your liver or your di­ges­tive sys­tem is com­pro­mised in any way, the syn­the­sis of these neu­ro­trans­mit­ters will be ham­pered, lead­ing to chal­lenges with mo­ti­va­tion, learn­ing, mood man­age­ment and sleep.

These two foun­da­tional nu­tri­ents, along with the fats dis­cussed in Feed­ing Your Brain Part 1, sup­port brain com­mu­ni­ca­tion by:

• fa­cil­i­tat­ing neu­ronal mem­brane flex­i­bil­ity and elec­tri­cal po­ten­tial via the right fats

• pro­vid­ing en­ergy via the right car­bo­hy­drates for neu­ronal com­mu­ni­ca­tion

• en­abling neu­ro­trans­mit­ter pro­duc­tion and sig­nal­ing via pro­tein

Also the brain re­quires spe­cific vi­ta­mins and min­er­als and is ad­versely af­fected by spe­cific food ad­di­tives as well as food in­tol­er­ances.


Di­ges­tion of these nu­tri­ents is crit­i­cally im­por­tant. Al­though we are all aware of the say­ing that ‘you are what you eat,’ it would be more ac­cu­rate to say that ‘you are what you ab­sorb!’ When the di­ges­tion of our food is com­pro­mised, due to a va­ri­ety of fac­tors, the po­ten­tial value of the nu­tri­ents that we con­sume is se­verely ham­pered and in­flu­ences brain func­tion in fun­da­men­tal ways.



The struc­ture of your neu­ronal mem­branes can be im­proved by:

• con­sum­ing more nuts & seeds, flax & hemp seeds, high in omega-3 fats

• in­tro­duc­ing un­dam­aged forms of omega-6 fats, sun­flower & sesame seeds

• in­clud­ing or­ganic & un­re­fined EFA oil blends to your diet

• elim­i­nat­ing re­fined car­bo­hy­drates

• con­sum­ing more nu­tri­ent-dense, fiber­filled car­bo­hy­drates

• in­clud­ing plenty of green veg­eta­bles

• con­sum­ing clean forms of pro­tein

• im­prov­ing your di­ges­tion

These steps will sup­port sta­ble blood glu­cose lev­els, im­proved liver and di­ges­tive func­tion­ing and pro­vide pro­tein for neu­ro­trans­mit­ter syn­the­sis.

The im­pact of these sim­ple ad­just­ments will pro­vide your brain with flex­i­bil­ity, sus­tained en­ergy and the right build­ing blocks to sup­port im­proved men­tal health and well-be­ing. Re­mem­ber, your brain is your greed­i­est and most so­phis­ti­cated or­gan and it has the po­ten­tial to sup­port you won­der­fully, if you pro­vide it with the best brain food that you can find!

Delia McCabe, MPsy. is a PhD can­di­date in nu­tri­tional neu­ro­science, re­search­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween spe­cific nu­tri­ents and fe­male stress lev­els. Her book Feed Your Brain – 7 Steps to a Lighter, Brighter You! is avail­able be­low. Visit Delia at her web­site.

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