You Are What You Eat (Part 1)

brain food

Is the body just a composition of all the food that you eat?  YES! To convince you, let’s talk!

I will walk you through your brain and show you how what you eat makes up every intricate part of your cells affecting how you act, sleep, feel and move. Making the connection between food and the body will allow you to take back control of your mental health. Here is how it works!

What is the Brain?

Your brain is made up of food – 80% water, mostly fat, some protein, amino acids, micro-nutrients and glucose. So when you feel sluggish, tired, foggy brain, irritable, moody, sleepy, angry, anxious, forgetful, it is all related to food! Food can be healing or can be toxic leading to cellular breakdown, malfunction and harmful disease. What you feel is just a symptom of an injured brain, signaling you to find out what substances you need to REMOVE or what you need to ADD.

  1. Water- Believe it or not, water makes up 80% of the brain. Every single chemical reaction needs water. Dehydration causes neurological dysfunction and causes the brain to physically contract and shrink. Even mild dehydration affects memory, cognition and focus. Drinking a warm glass of water before a test has been shown to increase reaction time dramatically. The next time you feel fatigued and need a boost, reach for a full glass of spring or filtered water and aim for 2 liters or 8 glasses of water a day. What not to drink? Soda, water in plastic bottles, sugary drinks, juice, sports drinks with artificial dyes, colors and sweeteners, because they poison the brain cells causing glycation end products corrupting your neurons leading to neuropathy, damaging cellular signaling and causing brain inflammation. How does this translate to how you feel? Your brain function declines, memory fails, mood swings, sleep is disrupted and you feel sick and tired. Bottom Line: Water = Energy Production
  2. Good Fats– The cell membrane is like the walls of your home. It keeps the outside from coming in. Just as your front door stays closed, until you invite someone in, receptors on the surface of the cell membrane decides what gets in and what stays out. As long as your walls and doors are in good condition, you and your family are safe inside from bad elements. Right? Your cell membrane also protects your precious belongings (DNA, Mitochondria, organelles) from bad toxins and influences outside the cell. It screens and allows only approved items into the cell. This cell membrane is entirely made up of fat. On nerve cells, there is a special insulation, called a myelin sheath, also made out of fat to help the nerve cell conduct electricity. Breakdown of the myelin sheath causes poor nerve conduction and conditions like Multiple Sclerosis.  The cell membrane and myelin sheath need good fats like Omega 3 from fresh sources of wild caught fatty fish (SMASH) Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines, Herring, grass fed animals and fats from plant sources, olives, avocados, hemp, chia, flax seeds, almonds, walnuts and other tree nuts. These fats make up a robust cell membrane that can seal the inside and send the right signals for proper brain function. Like in the story of the three little pigs, if you build your cell membrane with straw or sticks, your home will not last long and will break down quickly when taxed by bad influences. What not to eat? Transfats, hydrogenated oils, fried goods, processed vegetable oils, fats from industrial animals, pastries, french fries, potato chips, processed meats like cold cuts, sausage, bacon, hot dogs, icing, fast food, cookies, donuts, crackers, muffins, pies, corn chips, tortillas, movie or microwave popcorn, ready to use dough and margarine. These fats, when incorporated into the nerve cell membrane, causes the membrane to send inflammatory and distress signals to the interior of the cell. This signaling leads to abnormal protein production, demylenization, glial cell activation, cellular and mitochondrial destruction and poor cell to cell communication. How does this affect you? Memory loss, movement disorders, behavioral disorders like ADHD, neuropathy, weakness and dementia. Bottom Line: Good Fats = Cellular Integrity & Anti-inflammation
  3. Amino Acids & Protein– What makes up your emotions? They are made of amino acids from protein. When you are happy, calm, satisfied, relaxed, you are releasing serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, GABA, all produced from amino acids like tryptophan, tyrosine and glutamine. In addition to neurotransmitter production, proteins also conduct intra-cellular communication and DNA translation to produce essential enzymes, messenger, structure and transport proteins. So, good sources of protein from plant sources like beans, lentils, legumes, vegetables, seeds, nuts and grass fed animal and fish sources support good brain function. What not to eat? A high refined sugar, processed carbohydrate diet. Diets rich in crackers, cereal, rice, bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, pretzels, chips, donuts, muffins, candy, soda, factory animal proteins and pre-packaged processed foods rich in preservatives, dyes, chemicals, pesticides and additives poison the brain’s physical and chemical functions. This destruction in nerve cell function and communication leads to mood disorders like depression, anxiety, insomnia, anger, irritability and fatigue. Bottom Line: Good Proteins = Good Mood
  4. Vitamins, Minerals & Phytonutrients-  What makes up memory?  When you remember your childhood sweetheart or where you left your car keys, it is all due to the magic of vitamins and minerals. Acetylcholine, made from choline from the B Vitamin family, is the major neurotransmitter involved in memory, movement and cognition. Other B vitamins like B1, B6, folate and B12 also play an essential role in the production and protection of neurotransmitters for memory and mood. Deficiencies in B vitamins has been long associated with neurocognitive decline, brain atrophy, dementia and memory loss. In addition to vitamins, minerals like magnesium, iron, calcium and zinc are an integral part in making the magic of memory happen. Replacing these vitamins and minerals through leafy greens, vegetables, lentils, oats, grass fed liver and meats, wild caught fish, organic eggs, nuts, seeds, whole grains can help restore brain function. Phytonutrients found in colorful vegetables and fruit like blue berries and spices like tumeric have powerful antioxidants that act like superheros to protect the nerve cells from oxidative stress from pollution, toxins, infections and chemicals in our soil, air, water and food. What not to eat? Foods like fish and shellfish contaminated with mercury, nitrates from processed meats (cold cuts, hot dogs, bacon, sausages), artificial sweeteners like aspartame in diet soda, sugar-free ice cream, jams, cookies, pudding, ketchup, jello, gum, pies, candy and yogurt, and high sugar foods listed above including alcohol. Bottom Line: Vitamins, Minerals, Phytonutrients = Memory

So, wellness seekers if what you are looking for is better cognition, mood and memory, look no further than your plate. You are what you eat. Your daily choices have a direct impact on the health of your organs. Using nutrition to improve function, longevity and resiliency is the path to restoring vitality and living a healthy life.


The light in me, bows to the light in you~ Namaste
Dr. Patel was named one of the TOP DOCS in Phoenix Magazine 2009, 2016, Healthcare Provider of the Year 2017 by the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce and Internist of the Year 2011 by the American College of Physicians Arizona Chapter. She is uniquely trained, board-certified and practices both Pediatrics and Internal Medicine in Fountain Hills, Arizona. She is additionally fellowship trained and board certified in Integrative Medicine.
She has a passion for teaching medicine and acts as a preceptor for both medical residents and providers in training. Dr. Patel has a special interest in Integrative Medicine, Women’s health, Pediatric & Adolescent care, Nutrition and Medical Cosmetics.

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