The brain is the most complex and important organ in the body. All our actions, movements, thought processes, emotions and nervous system are controlled by the brain. Scientists, scholars, and researchers have contributed their time and knowledge to understand the complex system in the brains, mechanisms and several other aspects that the brain exhibits. The brain cells are made of 100 billion neurons which control its functions and any damage to the brain can cause permanent brain injuries and memory loss.
Therefore, diet plays an important role in the brain health. Deficiency of certain elements in food can keep the brain cells from achieving their complete potential and damage the overall brain.
When it comes to diet we generally refer to meals and breakfast, what we forget is the importance of snacks. Today we will learn about the importance of healthy snacking for the overall growth of the organisms and how it can help fight brain injuries and memory loss.
The main difference between meals and snacks is snacks are small portions of food and/or drinks taken during the interval between meals, especially before and after lunch and dinner. Snacks fill the appetite and assist in supplying vital nutrients. Whether it’s a child, adult or an elderly person, healthy snacking is recommended for all.
The word “snack” is often misinterpreted by the commoners because most of us think snacks refer to fast food, junk food, soft drinks and sweet beverages. What we don’t know is that one can renounce unhealthy snacking and replace it with lip-smacking healthy snacks.
Benefits of healthy snacking are, but not limited to, regulating enzymes to improve digestive system, maintaining BMI and body mass index, controlling appetite, producing energy for the body and the brain and improving immunity.
How Does Healthy Snacking Improve Mental Health?
Our dietary pattern, directly and indirectly, influences the health of the brain. Healthy snacks are important to revamp memory and improve mental health. Wholesome meals are definitely helpful to nourish the body and mind but when do you know that the long interval between the meals is even more important to maintain good health?
Snacks do not have to be heavy but these should supply adequate vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats and water. You can include various types of fresh vegetables and fruits, such as tomatoes, cabbage, berries, dry fruits, lentils, legumes and wholegrain cereals, eggs, milk and fruit juices. Important substances present in food that promote mental health are:
- Potassium: In order to nurture neural health, the role of potassium is undeniable. The potassium ions act as electrolytes and boost the brain cells. The reason behind why we react to situations is because of the exchange of sodium and potassium in the cells.
- Zinc: Zinc is a mineral that is present in the choroid layers in the retina which are extensions of the brain, glial cells, and the neurons. Insufficient zinc can hamper the growth of the cells. Furthermore, deficiency of zinc in pregnant women may affect the nervous system in newborn.
- Iron: Domingo J. Piñero and James R. Connor have published a report on iron and its impact on the brain where they have stated that this mineral impacts the neurotransmitter synthesis.
- Iodine: Absence of iodine in diet not only affects the thyroid but overall mental health. The inadequacy of iodine in pregnant women permanently damages the neural health of children. It is one of the sole reasons for lower IQ level in children.
- Essential Fatty Acids: 60% of the brain is made of fat. Essential fatty acids refer t healthy fatty acids omega 3 and omega 6. The role of omega 3 is much more important in the development of the brain of a child. An absence of omega 3 during the early years of a child can hamper mental health and he/she may find difficulties to learn, communicate and suffer from neuropsychiatric disorders.
- Amino Acids: To restore the functions of the brain and central nervous system protein and amino acids are important. Amino acids that are crucial for the brain health are arginine, tyrosine, tryptophan, phenylalanine, and histidine. Glutamic acid and aspartic acid are well-known neurotransmitters.
- Phosphatidylserine: Phosphatidylserine is one type of chemical which is found in the brain cell membrane and basically in all types of cells. This phospholipid works as cell building blocks and contributes to the development of the nerve tissues.Natural sources of phosphatidylserine are chicken liver, meat, fish, carrot, unpolished rice, and potatoes. It is also found in the form of dietary supplements like Addium.
- Folate: Folate or vitamin B9 controls the mood in elderly and helps to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, depression and other diseases. Among children, the deficit of folate can cause psychiatric problems, late development of the brain and seizures.
- Thiamin: Vitamin B1 or thiamin is responsible for producing energy. It energizes and replenishes the brain cells and boosts memory.
How to Create Interesting and Power Punched Snacks?
‘Healthy and tasty’ may sound like an oxymoron but aren’t impossible. It is not necessary that healthy food can’t be tasty and we have a number of ideas to create mouthwatering and healthy snacks.
The first rule is to determine the portion and calorie intake. Snacks are a small and sizable portion of certain food items which you can eat when hungry but it should not exceed the caloric limits.
Always include fresh food items and get rid of processed and canned foods. Canned foods often have preservatives which can be harmful. Add varieties to your snacks and avoid monotony. If you want to make it interesting, add the type of fruits, vegetables, herbs, lentils you love to eat but it does not mean that you should avoid other food items.
So what should you eat to improve brain health?
- Salads: Tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, lettuce, alfalfa, carrot, avocado, cabbage, baby corn, broccoli, zucchini, apples, banana and herbs such as celery, leeks, parsley, basil, and kale are not only rich in dietary fibers but also act fulfill the daily requirement of vitamins and minerals. Now you can create different types of salads with these ingredients and enjoy the healthy snacks. Try to incorporate new ideas and add varieties of fresh vegetables to avoid repetition. You can also add slices of boiled or roasted chicken, season with olive or oregano oil and serve.
- Roasted Nuts: Cashew, almond, peanut, walnut, and hazelnuts are authentic sources of essential fatty acid- omega 3 and therefore, you can easily maintain your health and weight by consuming a handful of these nuts. Roasted nuts are just for added taste and flavor. You can buy these nuts and roast at home or purchase roasted products from a genuine brand. You will never miss snacks again once you start eating the roasted nuts.
- Dry Fruits and Berries: Dried prunes, berries, raisins, date palm, strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, and blueberry are delicious and easy to carry and therefore, these make a great combination to healthy snacking. You can also eat them normally if you love to. Dried fruits and berries supply essential nutrients to increase brain power.
- Milk: Milk and milk-based products like yogurt, cheese, butter and buttermilk get us protein, minerals, vitamins which are important for the brain health. Drink plain milk or prepare a milk-shake with your favorite fruits during snack-time to boost brain cells.
- Boiled Eggs: A whole boiled egg does not only make a great breakfast but also a healthy snack. We already know that eggs contain nearly all the elements essential for brain growth. In any case, do not overeat beyond the recommended level because eggs also contain cholesterol, and excess consumption will eventually increase other risk factors.
- Roasted seeds: Salty and nutty flavored roasted pumpkin seeds, sesame and sunflower seeds are punched with amino acids, fatty acids, zinc and other important nutritious substances. You can access these products from supermarket or online.
- Legume: Legumes are great sources of amino acids. Horse gram, green gram, chickpea supply protein, and fibers. Buy whole and unprocessed lentils. Take half cup green gram and chickpea, wash and soak in water for a few hours. Better if you can eat sprouted lentils. Rinse the lentils and put it in a bowl, add chopped onions, tomatoes, salt and mix them properly. If you do not like eating raw you can boil and try these legumes. Season with coriander leaves and fresh lemon juice and enjoy the snack break.
Describing the importance of healthy snacking to cure brain injuries and memory loss is impossible to describe in just one article. For now what we need to understand is skipping snacks isn’t healthy and should not be encouraged.
Healthy snacking ensures that the body and the brain are not deprived of the nutrients which might not be present in the meal. There are hundreds of innovative ideas to create healthy snacks that are not boring and we have tried to cover some in this article and we hope you liked it!