The hungry brain

The hungry brain

An organ that perceives, thinks and acts, the brain regulates all vital functions. It is therefore responsible for the cardiac and respiratory rhythms, of which we are not aware, fortunately!

Not only the receiver of information from throughout the body and the environment but also an emitter and regulator, it can be classified as an expert in rapid and effective communication.

Integrating, interpreting and processing information, performing cognitive functions (memory, learning), controlling motor skills, taking decisions... nothing escapes it. This relentless and highly versatile worker both by day and by night needs specific nutrients and energy in order to function.

The hungry brain

If it does not get the fill of its immense needs, the brain becomes disturbed and no longer coordinates thoughts and other activities correctly…

Like all organs, in order to grow, subsist and function it must get the necessary nutrients via the diet. Another vital element: oxygen, consuming some 20% to 30% of the body's requirement. In fact the brain stores practically no energy reserves, and to operate the nerve cells it needs large quantities of energy provided via the combustion of food (including glucose, the favourite foodstuff) in the presence of oxygen (a bit like in a boiler). To optimise the whole process the brain has an extensive network of blood vessels: oxygen and nutrients are therefore rapidly channelled via the blood.

Nutrients for the cells and their connections

The preferred nutrients of the brain are a function of its highly singular composition, its innumerable cells of which the best known are the neurones.

  • These cells are contained within a membrane rich in fats, the phospholipids and DHA, the fatty acid of the family omega 3. For their construction, repletion, proper functioning and protection, these cells need multiple vitamins (B, E and C) and specific minerals and trace elements (zinc, iron, selenium, potassium, calcium, copper and manganese).
  • The work performed by these cells requires both enzymes (protein in nature) and proteins. Proteins are composed of amino acids, some of which are vital to the formation of chemical messengers or neurotransmitters (the agents of communication between neurones and other cells). Not to forget that our moods depend on them: motivation, drive initiated by dopamine; peace of mind, calmness caused by serotonin, which itself is central to the synthesis of melatonin, or the sleep hormone. Finally, there is no synthesis of these elements and no cell function without vitamins (C, B6, B9, B12 and D) minerals/trace elements (iron, magnesium and copper).

The neurones and other cells of the brain are constructed of permanently self-renewing building blocks. Thinking, analysing, memorising and creating… just some of the communications between the neurones or the creation of new cabling networks that require adequate nutritional intake.

The daily menu for the hungry brain

Practical advice from getting up in the morning

For everyone and especially during periods of high intellectual demands.

On waking I rehydrate the brain. With freshly-pressed orange juice, I also fill up on vitamin C, the booster of the nerve endings and neurone protector.

For breakfast I put protein on the menu, like the English tradition. To promote the formation of messengers, egg, ham, goat or ewe dairy products.

I do not skip any meals. Otherwise you are guaranteed low energy and performance! Complete meal: meat or fish with carbohydrate (bread, rice…) or pulses + cereals for vegetarians and vegans.

Yes to whole foods or semi-whole foods rich in vitamin B and trace elements, offering slower digestion.

I mix my oils: combinations of walnut, rapeseed, linseed high in omega 3 and vitamin E with olive oil. And I eat small fatty fish (herring, sardines) at least twice a week: intake of iodine as well, vital for brain function.

I ration my intake of coffee and tea. They may well get you awake, but they do not improve cognition and they disrupt sleep, which is vital for memory function and cell regeneration.

I drink mineral water throughout the day: Hydration is essential for cognitive function, minerals too.