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How Healthy Food Affects the Brain

How Healthy Food Affects the Brain

Aug. 10th, 2020

The brain is magnificent – it powers our thoughts, senses, heartbeat, and natural biological functions.

Even when we’re asleep, our brains are always working. That means what feed our brains can determine our mood and overall energy levels.

The brain is something scientists continuously study because it’s the center that powers us through the day.

Healthy food can provide nutrients that fuels our brain’s cognitive capabilities. Here’s how healthy food affects the brain.

Food and your Mood

The foods you eat can determine how much energy you have, thus influencing your overall mood.

Have you ever eaten a fast food burger only to feel bloated a few hours later? That’s because the nutrients you’re receiving from the burger are designed to reward you in the short term but not the long.

But why does fast food taste so good? Well, that’s because there’s plenty of additives and artificial sugars manufactured into those meals.

However, these factory-produced goodies aren’t exactly doing your body or brain any long-time favors.

Here’s a breakdown of how healthy food affects the brain, which then influences your entire body.

Probiotics and Your Gut

Probiotics are the bacteria that live in your gut and keep your body healthy. Probiotics are key to maintaining your body’s balance between good and bad bacteria.1

Our brains consistently communicate with our stomach to aid us in our natural functions. For example, our stomach sends a signal to the brain to help us know when to eat. The stomach also communicates with your brain when you’re sick and need to go to the doctor.2

It’s important to maintain your levels of probiotics to help your keep your body healthy. The good bacteria will help fight disease and keep you feeling healthy all day long.

Think about it: when your body undergoes stress, your brain sends messages to your gut. This explains why you might end up with an upset stomach or have digestive problems when you’re feeling ill.

Many of same chemicals (dopamine, serotonin, and gamma-aminobutyric acid) are also found in your stomach.1  These chemicals influence how you feel and can impact your overall mood.

For this reason, many experts see the enteric nervous system (ENS) as a “second brain” that communicates with our head. The ENS system is a lining of nerves that controls our digestive system and talks to our brain whenever we’re bloating or have an upset stomach.2

It’s important to understand the relationship between your gut and brain to maintain a healthy body. After all, the way food affects the brain determines your health and mood.

Probiotics and Healthy Food

Probiotics are vital to your digestive system because they help process the food you eat.3 This bacteria comes in contact with anything you intake, so it’s important to send food that gives a positive reaction.

Here’s some ways the Cleveland Clinic outlines on how probiotics help your body4:

  • Supports your digestive system
  • Assists in preventing disease-causing bacteria
  • Maintains your intestinal lining
  • Helps you take medication

It’s important to ensure your body is filled with probiotics and that you understand how healthy food affects the brain in this capacity.

Having a good lining of healthy, positive bacteria will prevent disease and help you maintain your body.

Here’s some healthy foods that can help build your probiotic levels: yogurt, pickles, kimchi, kefir, miso, apple cider vinegar, and cheeses.5


Serotonin is a chemical produced from our nerve cells that regulates our mood and fuels our motor skills. Serotonin is found mostly in our stomach and intestines, but it can also be found in the nervous system’s blood platelets.6

Serotonin helps the brain:6

  • Have a good night’s sleep
  • Digest the food we eat
  • Reduce and regulate depression/anxiety
  • Maintain our bones
  • Heal our cuts and wounds
  • Keep us from getting sick

Because serotonin is a neurotransmitter that resides throughout our digestive system, our serotonin levels are partly dependent upon the foods we eat. That means when we eat foods that bring our serotonin levels up, our body will perform at optimal levels.

MedicalNewstoday lists some great foods that increase serotonin levels: eggs, salmon, spinach, seeds, turkey, and milk.7

Try incorporating some of these items into your diet to raise your serotonin levels and improve your mood.

Food For Memory

Your brain naturally responds to food, since you processes the texture and taste as soon as you eat something. Every piece of food has its own unique flavor your brain processes whenever you eat something.

But that’s not exclusively the only way healthy food affects the brain. John S. Allen believes food is interconnected with our memory, and that’s why we remember certain events when we eat something that reminds us of the past.8 This is because the hippocampus influences our memories and can link taste to certain memories.

Since food and our mind are distinctly linked together, then it’s important to feed your brain nutrients that help improve your memory and cognitive processes.

Here’s a few reasons you should choose foods for your memory.

The Hippocampus

The Hippocampus is the region of the brain responsible for helping us remember things. Short term and long term memories are formed, organized, and stored in this part of the brain. The hippocampus is also responsible for helping us express different emotions and recalling spatial memories.9

Because the hippocampus plays a key role in controlling our memories and emotions, it’s important to eat foods that strengthen this part of the brain. After all, eating foods that help boost our cognitive abilities will keep us healthy and able to learn new things in years to come. Understanding how healthy food affects the brain can help enhance your mind’s capabilities.

Your Diet and Memory

The food you eat has an impact on how your brain remembers things. Here’s a few foods and the ways in which they positively impact how your brain functions:10

  • Experts estimate that 60% of our brains are made of fat, and half of it is Omega-3 fatty acids. That means Omega-3 fatty acids are vital to restoring the matter that powers our brains. Sardines, trout, and salmon are good foods for memory because they build your brain and enhance your capabilities.
  • Blueberries are a great food for your brain because they contain antioxidants, which are compounds that improve communication between brain cells. Some benefits of antioxidants are improving your memory, reducing stress levels, and slowing brain aging.
  • Oranges. Oranges contain vitamin C, which is responsible for helping prevent mental decline. Vitamin C fights off radicals, which slow cognition and age your brain. Eating foods like oranges can help keep your brain healthy as you age.

Start Eating Healthier Today!

There’s no secret that the food we eat today will impact our memory and brain functionality in the years to come. It’s important to understand how healthy food affects the brain to help empower your body with nutrients that will keep you energized throughout the day.

Choose to feed your brain foods that will help you feel better and build long-lasting cognitive functioning.

Saber Healthcare Supports Good Memory Care!

Here at Saber Healthcare, we understand the importance of providing quality memory care. We know that it’s not easy watch someone’s brain change, and you might have questions as to how their condition might progress.

If you or a loved one is dealing with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or declining cognitive function, learn more about how our memory care services can help.

Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.


  1. “Probiotics may boost mood and cognitive function.” Harvard Health. Accessed August 3rd, 2020.
  2. “The Brain-Gut Connecton.” John Hopkins Medicine. Accessed August 4th, 2020.
  3. “8 Health Benefits of Probiotics.” Healthline. Accessed August 4th, 2020.
  4. “Probiotics.” Cleveland Clinic. Accessed August 4th, 2020.
  5. Josh Axe, DC, DMN, CNS. “17 Great Probiotic Foods for Better Gut Health.” April 26th, 2019. Accessed August 4th, 2020.
  6. “Serotonin: What You Need to Know.” Healthline. May 18, 2017. Accessed August 4th, 2020.
  7. “How to boost Serotonin and improve mood.” MedicalNewstoday. July 10, 2018. Accessed August 4th, 2020.
  8. John S. Allen. “Food and Memory.” Harvard University Press. May 18, 2012. Accessed August 4th, 2020.
  9. Kendra Cherry. “What is the Hippocampus?” July 22nd, 2020.
  10. “11 Foods to Boost Your Brain and Memory.” Accessed August 4th, 2020.