Reducing Cognitive Debt Series Part 4: The Power of Nutrition
Welcome to Part 4 of the Reducing Cognitive Debt Series in Honor of BIPOC Mental Health Month! Part 4 explores The Power of Nutrition as a tool to reduce Cognitive Debt. Are you new to the term Cognitive Debt? Checkout the introductory Reducing Cognitive Debt Post to learn more.
Nutrition is an important part of health and wellness. Eating a healthy diet promotes a healthy weight, boosts energy levels and can reduce your risk of cancer and chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Nutrition is also important to promoting mental health and reducing cognitive debt.
How does a healthy diet reduce cognitive debt?
The Gut as the “Second Brain”
The “second brain” nickname for our gut or intestinal tract comes from the ability of the gut to produce neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters carry a signal or message from one nerve cell to another in our brains. These messages affect our entire bodies. For example, dopamine and glutamate are neurotransmitters. Dopamine regulates mood, blood pressure and activates pleasure and reward sensations. Glutamate promotes learning and memory. Alzheimer’s disease has been associated with excessive glutamate production. Cognitive debt is a risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, therefore promoting the production of neurotransmitters linked to learning and memory and mood regulation help us reduce cognitive debt.
Consuming healthy bacteria found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir and Kombucha can help to balance our “second brain” and help regulate neurotransmitter production. Such healthy bacteria may help lower the stress response by stimulating production of the neurotransmitter GABA. GABA production promotes relaxation and lowers the stress response. Per previous posts in this series, a heightened stress response increases cognitive debt. A diet that promotes GABA production is important to reducing cognitive debt.
Key Nutrients and Foods:
1. Essential Fatty Acids
Essential to brain structure and functioning - 20% of our brain structure is made up of Omega-3 and Omega-6. Good Mood Food - Omega-3’s & 6’s help prevent depression. Important for memory and concentration.
2. Mediterranean Diet
Following a Mediterranean diet offers many health benefits to include reduced risk of chronic disease and cognitive decline. To follow a Mediterranean diet, include foods like fish, olive oil, leafy greens, avocados, nuts and red wine in moderation. (3) This diet is also associated with decreased risk of cognitive debt incurring depression and anxiety. (5 ,6, 7 )
Blueberries boast the highest antioxidant content of all fruits and veggies. They are also associated with improved memory. Blueberries also help fight cancer, diabetes and heart disease. (2)
4. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are rich in brain boosting folate. They also offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. (4)
Turmeric is a source of curcumin. Curcumin is a natural antioxidant and helps reduce inflammation. Curcumin helps increase the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which acts as a growth hormone in the brain. BDNF promotes the development of new connections in the brain. (1) Turmeric also helps soothe stress and anxiety. (7)
Interested in Learning More about the power of nutrition? Check out some of my other posts about nutrition!
Also, make sure to check out your local Clean Juice franchise! I am excited to announce that I have been selected as a Juice Booster at Clean Juice Lexington Square here in Columbia, SC. I am grateful for the opportunity to partner with a company that shares my personal and professional values regarding health and wellness. Their menu is packed with juices, smoothies, bowls and sandwiches to name a few that not only reduce cognitive debt but also promote a healthy body and strong spirit.
I recently enjoyed “The Hydrating One” and I can’t wait to try the Incredibowl which includes many of the foods and nutrients discussed in this post!
What is your favorite healthy meal to make? What is your favorite health food franchise? Comment below!
4. Luchsinger, J. A., Tang, M. X., Miller, J., Green, R., & Mayeux, R. (2008). Higher folate intake is related to lower risk of Alzheimer's disease in the elderly. The journal of nutrition, health & aging, 12(9), 648–650. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03008276