When you have a crappy day, what's your go-to way to turn things around? Maybe you go for a nice stroll, give your cat a belly rub, or order up a slice of your favorite pizza. If you can literally picture in your mind's eye that cheesy, gooey, sugary dish that is your favorite comfort food, it's probably not a coincidence. In fact, you might be shocked to learn how food affects your brain, because it's a lot. The magic, it seems, is all in one specific equation.
A 2018 study published in the physiology/biology journal Cell Metabolism found that foods containing a 1:2 ratio of fat to carbohydrates can have a dramatic effect on the reward center of your brain, meaning they make you feel especially happy after you eat them. And get this: Per HuffPost, foods with this combination of nutrients apparently mimic the fat-to-carbs ratio found in breast milk, which might explain why you crave these types of foods (such as pizza, chocolate, and ice cream) and find them so comforting. This combination of fat and carbs can be so powerful, in fact, that the study found it can even lead you to be willing to pay three times more money for foods containing both fat and carbs than for something with just carbs or just fat.
Besides boosting your mood, though, eating certain combinations of nutrients can affect your brain in a number of other ways. "The food you eat 100 percent affects your cognitive function," Beth Shaw, CEO and founder of YogaFit and registered nutritional counselor, tells Elite Daily. For optimal brain health, she suggests keeping things like sugar, carbs, and alcohol in moderation.
Of course, each person's body is very different, and therefore responds to food in different ways, so you might feel better eating a different combination of nutrients. Don't be afraid to experiment until you find what works for you, says Lauren Cadillac, a registered dietitian and personal trainer based in New York City. "There is no one-size-fits-all ratio for protein to carbs [for example]," she tells Elite Daily. "Many factors come into play, such as activity level, disease status, age, sex, and personal goals." If you ever want individualized guidance, Cadillac recommends you check in with your primary care doctor, or even a nutritionist.
That being said, holistic nutritionist Miriam Amselem points to the Mediterranean diet as one way of eating that has been found to lead to a healthy brain. "There is a direct link of brain health to heart health, and one of the best ways to achieve that is through the Mediterranean diet," she tells Elite Daily. To follow this plan, she suggests eating 15 percent of your nutrition in protein (think things like fish, yogurt, eggs), 35 percent in healthy fats (olive oil, nuts, and salmon), and 60 percent in carbohydrates (vegetables, fruits, and healthy grains).
For a mega brain boost, try to eat whole-foods sources of omega 3s, such as fish, as opposed to taking any supplements, suggests licensed dietitian and nutritionist Rima Kleiner. "The maximum amount of brain-protective benefits come from omega 3s plus other nutrients in fish, like antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals (particularly selenium)," she tells Elite Daily.
If meat isn't really your thing, consider reaching for bananas. "Bananas are rich in potassium, vitamin C, and B-vitamins, which work together to recharge your brain’s positive energy levels," Samantha Morrison, a health and wellness expert for Glacier Wellness, tells Elite Daily. "Similarly, bananas trigger the release of serotonin, the brain's happiness hormone, effectively giving you that much-needed boost to your motivation, energy, mood, and happiness."
Plus, if you want to replicate the comfort-food ratio yourself, try adding some nut butter or dark chocolate to your snack to round out the treat.