Does what you eat and drink affect how your neurons fire and wire together?


Recent discoveries in neuroscience are illuminating. It doesn’t matter what age you may be, your brain continues to grow and enhance! In fact brain health can actually improve as we age. When your brain cells die they can be replaced. In addition your brain reorganizes itself by forming new neural connections, and this process happens throughout your life. This is called neuroplasticity. Hence the term “when neurons fire together, they wire together”, as they begin to form new neural networks.

The exciting news is that you can focus your efforts and daily choices to ensure the growth of new neurons (neurogenesis), as well as strengthening the connections between neurons (synaptic plasticity).

Knowledge is power. Knowing what daily habits are beneficial for you is empowering, which in this case translates into your mental strength and agility. Here are ways to change your brain physically, functionally and chemically. Having this knowledge is what we call awareness. But the next step is imperative: we call it “awareness to action”.

1. Let’s start with the what’s in arm’s reach for each of us and therefore the easiest to change …with immediate effect. After all life is all about choices!

When we talk about brain health, the good ole saying: “You are what you eat (and drink)” is spot on. What to eat and what not to eat is terribly confusing and nutritional advice can be very overwhelming.

Let’s simplify this in one word to summarise clearly and simply …the optimal food “choice” , and this is a Mediterranean style of eating. Abundance of fresh produce, plant oils and not too much red meat, refined carbohydrates or sugar.

Coupled with the Mediterranean-style range and variety of foods, there are two other “Ms” … mindful eating and moderation. Your brain relishes: quality and quantity. That is, not too much food at a time. From a quality perspective, be more aware of what you choose to put on the end of your fork. Make sure that much of what you eat is natural. As close to nature as possible as opposed to manufactured in a factory.

Let’s get specific now. If you’re more worried about boosting your brain’s performance then eat food rich in B12 such as red meat, liver, fish, shellfish, eggs, cheese and especially blueberries (rich in antioxidants). Foods rich in antioxidants and may even improve memory in older adults.

There are a number of supplements you can take to boost brain health, here’s one that you may not know about: Turmeric.

Turmeric, with the important curcurmin compound is being heralded as one of the most effective nutritional substances in existence. The research is showing brain health benefits of boosting Brain-derived Neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is like fertilizer for your brain. It may even be useful in preventing and treating Alzheimers disease, and fighting depression. Keep in mind (pun intended!) that no single food makes a super diet. Include a variety of good-for-you foods at most meals for the best overall physical and mental impact.

We seldom link food to the onset of depression. Research does show that fruit and vegetables, nuts and omega 3 fatty acids help with the prevention of the onset of depression.

Lastly, don’t forget to rehydrate your brain, given that the brain is 73% water. Just 2% dehydration impairs performance in tasks that require attention and immediate memory skills. The next question people ask is “how much water to drink per day”. This answer is not standard for all of us. It is clearly weight related. One glass (+/- 250 ml ) of water / herbal tea for every 10kg that you weigh.

If you’re fascinated by Neuroscience and the pragmatic applications for your day-to-day life, then attend Dr Tara Swart’s  one day workshop. She is a phenomenal Neuroscientist, who is also an Exec Coach. We are thrilled to be attending. Thank you to Business Results Group and GIBS (Gordon Institute of Business Science) for bringing her to SA. To book go to

Leadership for Neuroscience presented by Dr Tara Swart is brought to South Africa by Business Results Group and the Gordon Institute of Business Science.

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