From the book Genius Foods by Max lugavere. How to eat for health and happiness.
Neurotransmitters have a big name. But they have even bigger responsibilities. The most important transmitters go by the names acetylcholine, serotonin and norepinephrine.
So what do these do?
Let’s start with acetylcholine: it’s in charge of learning and memory.
The best way to make sure you’re taking care of it properly is to cut out “anticholinergic” drugs and eat plenty of choline-rich foods.
These drugs are usually prescribed for maladies such as motion sickness, allergies, depression, heartburn and insomnia. As a study by the University of Washington highlights, they’ve been linked to the development of dementia in chronic users.
Choline is a dietary precursor to acetylcholine. You’ll find it in abundance in egg yolks, beef liver, shrimp, broccoli and scallops.
Your next step should be to optimize your intake of serotonin – your brain’s mood neurotransmitter. Natural sources include vitamin D and omega-3s.
That’s important because low serotonin levels have been linked to impaired learning and memory, poor impulse control and suboptimal long-term planning – all major traits of depression.
Optimizing your serotonin intake can be as simple as making sure you’re getting enough sun exposure or taking daily vitamin supplements. Do that and you’ll be sure to see big improvements in your mood.
Take it from the participants of a 2017 study at Deakin University Food and Mood Center: they found that their disposition improved greatly when they ate more eggs, olive oil, grass-fed beef and fish.
Finally, there’s norepinephrine – the neurotransmitter that helps you maintain focus. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and protects the parts of the brain first compromised in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
Avoiding stressful stimuli can help boost norepinephrine. Anxiety triggers chronic norepinephrine release, damaging your cognitive health and making the transmitter much less effective the next time you need it.
Exercise is equally important. A 2017 study published in PLOS ONE found that college-aged adults were much better at learning a new language when working out on a stationary bike than when sitting still!