This isn’t science class, but you should really know the basics here. Diet also has a major impact on how your brain functions. The effects that things like sugar, simple carbs rather than complex ones, and lack of omega 3 fatty acids have on you is significant. Diet can have a major impact on your ability to concentrate and focus. This means that a poor diet could, and likely will, have a negative impact on your test score. This is by no means an exhaustive list of what you should be putting in your body, but maybe gets you started on knowing how nutrition impacts your brain function.

Nutrition and Brain Function

The impact of nutrition on normal brain function can be demonstrated by the performance of neurotransmitter activity (chemical messengers that carry information from brain cell to brain cell). The brain, like many other vital organs, is affected by nutritional intake. Amino acids found in proteins, and essential nutrients like choline are responsible for the normal production and use of neurotransmitters in the brain (serotonin, acetylcholine, dopamine, and norepinephrine). We obtain these substances in the food we eat, so it is no surprise that what we choose to eat directly influences how our brain functions.

What You Need and What It Does

There are five vital components for proper brain development and function and they are all found in food.

▪ Proteins (meat, fish, milk, cheese) are used to make most neurotransmitting substances. Lack of protein causes fatigue and withdrawal and has been associated with poor school performance.

▪ Calories are the measure of the amount of energy delivered by food. They get a bad rap but we all need calories.

▪ Carbohydrates, such as grains, fruits, and vegetables, are used to produce the body and brain’s main fuel. Complex carbs, such as green vegetables, whole grain foods (oatmeal, pasta, and bread), starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and pumpkin) provide sustained energy along with fiber and assorted nutrients. Many nutritionists suggest that complex carbs make up 50-60% of your caloric intact. Simple carbs offer only sweetness and short bursts of energy.

▪ Fat makes up more than 60% of the brain and assists the body in absorbing fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). Omega-3 fatty acids (fish and nuts) are especially important to brain function Fat should not make up more than 30% of the diet.

▪ Vitamins (A, C, E, and B complex) and minerals (magnesium, folic acid, potassium, manganese, and fiber ) are also essential for brain function. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, says that since most Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables each day, they miss out on these essential vitamins and minerals. Many females do not meet their daily calcium needs, which might increase their risk of poor bone health later in life.

▪ Make small changes to your usual diet and dump those power drinks as a replacement for water — they are nothing more than salted sugar water.

▪ Start reading food labels. If you eat a lot of packaged and processed foods, you may be surprised to see how much fat, and sugar and sodium, is in the foods you eat every day.