How To Feed Our Brain And Improving IQ Along With It

Everyone understands that eating junk food persistently and avoiding vegetables and fruits will eventually show up on our faces and waistlines: that lack of physical exercise can lead to fatigue, weight gain and muscle weakness. But what about our brains?

When it comes to the brain, we do not seem to be that aware of how to best nourish or exercise it. Many think that the brain is a fixed entity, with a set intelligence and that what we do, or don’t do and what we eat (or not) is not affecting our brains dramatically.

But our brain, the most marvellous part of us, is often being seriously neglected. And although the brain is a brilliant and resilient organ, it is not some permanent structure that can be abused at will without consequences. The brain needs as much TLC as the body in sleep, nutrition and exercise. Physical and mental-cognitive health are intimately linked to one another. So, can we ‘eat’ and ‘exercise’ towards a better IQ? Absolutely.

Brain food: literal food

When people speak of brain food, there really is such a thing. Good food does not only benefit the body, but the brain is also a happy and important recipient. Our brains are only 2-3% of our body weight but use 20-25% of our daily energy consumption (How to Build a Healthy Brain. Kimberly Wilson). What we feed it, is highly relevant. The brain uses vitamins and minerals for all its cellular activity and running low on those will impair healthy brain function. Simple as that. To keep things sharp, eat plenty of leafy greens (all green vegetables basically) as well as nuts & seeds and every type of berry (including pomegranate) as these are brain superfoods.

Many of everyone’s favourite junk foods, big on sugar and highly processed, such as French fries, burgers, ice-cream, hotdogs and crisps are negatively affecting cognitive ability, executive function and memory. These foods are not only BAD for us, they are also hyper addictive. It is claimed that the sugar content of these foods takes only half a second to connect from the taste on the tongue to the reward-circuit in our brains. That is the most instant gratification one can get and difficult to resist, but consuming these foods is truly eating yourself fat and dumb (to put it bluntly).

Brain food: exercise, input and well-being

Long hours spent scrolling through our social media feeds looking at what others are up to and watching a lot of rubbish on our streaming platforms or on YouTube (so addictive), topped off by a night of drinking tequila shots with minimal conversation over loud music, is turning our brain into a fat coach potato. There is no challenge, no learning, no switching on neurons, just lots of things to numb the brain and sedate it.

The brain needs physical activity. Exercise in all its forms, be it serious sports or just plain walking, cycling or swimming, stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps existing ones survive better. Other key brain ‘foods’ are reading – really anything -, having a meaningful conversation, having a laugh and seeking out the creative in yourself and in others. Culture, both art, drama and music are another key brain food as listening to music, looking at paintings and/or watching a play are all ‘brain-on’ activities, making (new) connections between neurons and creating an incredible sense of wellbeing.

The long and short of it is that feeding our brain properly is hugely important. Better food, more exercise, reading, more culture and less time spent on social media, will set up the brain nicely and improve cognitive function. That feeling of being sharp and awake (and less anxious) is, after all, the best feeling ever. And your friends who are at the top of the class will undoubtedly do all or some of the above. Just saying….

References and links:

“Hooked. How we became addicted to processed food”. By Michael Moss. Published 2022.

“How to Build a healthy Brain”. By Kimberly Wilson. Published 2020.