How fit bodies should feed their brains

If you think about food as fuel, it only makes sense to focus on the brain, which has about one quart of nutrient-rich blood circulating through it at any given moment. In the latest installment of 3 Questions For a Doctor, Furthermore talked to Bonnie Kaplan, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, who studies how nutrition impacts mental function. Here, she explains how well-balanced eating optimizes brain health.

How important is diet for a strong mind?

Every bite that we take is a choice to feed our brain cells and optimize brain function. There are chemical transformations happening at all times to synthesize neurotransmitters so that our brain cells can talk to each other, take away waste, and break down a zillion little chemicals. Every single step of that metabolism requires what’s called cofactors, which are minerals and vitamins. There are at least 30 of them. Without these vitamins and minerals, those neurotransmitters don’t work at their optimal levels.

Are some supplements more important than others?

Everyone is saying, ‘you have to take your vitamin this today,’ or ‘you have to take that mineral.’ Of course, some nutrients are more important for different functions, like the essential fatty acids DHA and EPA, which are really important for cell structure and mitochondrial function. But all of the minerals and vitamins found in a well-rounded diet are important for all of the metabolic steps.

What’s the most overlooked brain superfood?

Opt for dry beans and legumes such as lentils, peas, and beans, [which contain several vitamins and minerals that help the neurotransmitters pass signals between the brain and the nervous system]. Learn how to soak them overnight, since that yields a better flavor and less preservatives than canned versions.