Brain Foods Week 3
"Food is an important part of a balanced diet" - Fran Lebowitz
This week’s focus is on a brain food that the majority of people have probably never even heard of: choline. While you may not be consciously aware of what choline is, your body is most definitely dependent on this nutrient. Keep reading and you will hopefully learn why you might want to add this to your vocabulary.
Choline is responsible for increasing levels of one of the most important neurotransmitters in our bodies: acetylcholine. In other words, choline enhances the release of a critical message chemical in the brain. We need acetylcholine for basic bodily functions such as muscle contractions, controlling pain levels and regulating metabolism. While we naturally produce some levels of acetylcholine, we need to eat foods with choline to get the adequate levels that our body requires; we cannot naturally produce the levels that we need. Even more, our bodies use choline for basic essential needs such as maintaining our cell’s structures.
Ok enough with the boring science, and onto the practical reasons why you should make sure to get foods with choline.
Choline is certainly something you want to regularly get in your diet because it plays a role in both physical and mental activities. When choline increases the releases acetylcholine, this neurotransmitter (or messenger) enhances memory and overall brain health. This should be no surprise since today is week 3 about brain foods. And to continue with the theme, choline levels can play a factor in Alzheimer’s disease – there is a correlation between lower levels of choline and Alzheimer’s. If you haven’t noticed by now, this seems to be a general trend of all of the brain foods thus far – without adequate levels, our brains cannot perform at the high levels that we demand. And as a result, things start to deteriorate sooner than we would like. When it comes to physical exercise, choline levels are also important to monitor. When we exercise, we use up large levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and we cannot naturally replenish these levels without getting choline in our diets regularly.
Essentially, to perform at maximum levels – both physically and mentally – we need to ensure that we are replenishing our bodies with the proper amounts of nutrients like choline.
Some of the best foods to eat for choline levels are eggs and liver… a random duo for sure. If you are anything like me and not particularly open to eating liver regularly, a great way to start would be eating eggs in the morning as part of breakfast – they are also an excellent source of protein and iron, which are incredibly beneficial for our brains in the mornings! Beyond this, you can find choline mostly in beef, chicken, fishes, and dairy products. For the vegans out there, this may be an issue, so you can get choline regularly through plant-based sources, such as nuts and vegetables like broccoli or Brussel sprouts. However, these plant-based foods don’t tend to carry the same amounts of choline as the preferred sources.
The bottom line is that whether you are seeking to improve memory and brain health, wanting to prevent Alzheimers, a frequently active individual, or looking to improve your metabolism, choline is something you want in your diet. Start each day by eating eggs for breakfast, or eat meats and fishes regularly, and you will be helping your body immensely! And since choline helps regulate metabolism, this brings up the larger theme here that eating the right foods may actually help you maintain or lose weight! So yes, you can get that spring break body without starving yourself. See you next week for our last week on brain foods!
Betsy Blitch, 3/11/2020