The Power of Protein to Optimize Brain Health

The brain and body require protein for optimal function and good health.

Posted Jun 09, 2015

With so many different diets out there, how do you know which is best for you?  Whichever diet you choose to follow, make sure it packs the power of protein. Protein plays an important role in any nutrition program and is especially beneficial for optimizing brain health. Whether you are recovering from a brain injury, including concussion or Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS), or want to maximize your brain function and/or overall health, it is essential to include the right amount of protein in your diet.

with permission from Pixabay.com
Source: with permission from Pixabay.com

Protein is one of the three major macronutrients required by the human body in order to function and maintain good health.  Protein is used to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals, and needed to build and repair tissue. In addition, the antibodies our immune system needs to protect us from illness are made up of proteins. 

Protein comes from many different sources, including meat, fish, eggs, soy, milk, beans, legumes, and nuts. When proteins are broken down or digested, amino acids are left behind. Amino acids are used to make protein to perform essential body functions. A complete protein (or whole protein) is a source of protein that contains an adequate proportion of all of the essential amino acids required for our dietary needs.

There are eight essential amino acids that are the components of the proteins mandatory in a healthy diet: 

  • Valine
  • Lysine
  • Threonine
  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Tryptophan
  • Phenylalanine
  • Methionine

The body does not store essential amino acids. If we do not get all eight essential amino acids together in the same meal the body will just break them down for energy instead of building proteins for repair and growth. Getting all eight together is most easily accomplished by eating animal meat, fish and animal products (eggs, milk, cheese).

How much Protein do we Need?

Martha Lindsay MS, CNE, Certified GAPS practitioner, uses the following formula to determine how much complete protein you require each day:

  • Divide your body weight in pounds by 2.2.    
  • Then multiply that number by 0.8.

The resulting number gives you the number of grams of protein you need each day for proper overall body health maintenance and brain optimization.  

Lindsay makes it clear that in some cases, a person may need more protein. These situations include illness, recovering from injury, pregnancy, and body building.

Recommended Sources of Protein

Some suggested sources of protein are listed below with the grams of protein contained in a serving size.  *Indicates foods rich in Omega 3s

  • Yogurt, 1 cup =14g
  • Lentils, 1 cup =18g
  • Shrimp*, 4 ounces =30g
  • Salmon* (Wild, Sockeye), 4 ounces =30g
  • Tuna*, 4 ounces =34g
  • Chicken, 4 ounces =34g
  • Turkey, 4 ounces =33g
  • Walnuts*, 1/4 cup =4g
  • Cashews, 1/4 cup =5g
  • Sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup =8.5g
  • Almonds, 1/4 cup =7.5g
  • Avocado, 1 cup =3g

Protein Facts

  • All cell activity is supported by enzymes that are made up of proteins.
  • Hormones are proteins and therefore hormone balance is dependent upon proper protein balance.
  • Proteins help reduce: fatigue, blood pressure, triglycerides, the risk of ischemic heart disease, the local deficiency of blood supply produced by vasoconstriction or local obstacles to the arterial flow.

Protein for Brain Health

Proteins optimize brain function and are essential for getting nutrients to your brain cells in order to maintain a healthy heart/brain balance, and also brain regulation. With the right diet, you can increase healing, combat illness and disease, improve mental clarity, fight fatigue, boost your memory, reduce inflammation and so much more. Nourish your body and boost your brain with the right amount of complete protein to feel your best and optimize your health.

Copyright © 2015 Dr. Diane Roberts Stoler, Ed.D.