Skip to main content

The Three Essential Needs for Your Brain

The brain guides most of our behaviors. Author, Audrey Hunt, introduces us to the top three essential needs for the brain.

The things your brain needs in order to function properly (or at all!).

The things your brain needs in order to function properly (or at all!).

“It’s never too late to improve your brain health,”

Lainey Younkin, MS, RD, LDN

Your Brain Has Three Main Needs

When your brain works well, you work well. Your brain is the commander-in-chief of your body and is involved in everything you do. So, doesn't it make sense to be good to your brain?

One way to show your brain some much-needed love and attention is to provide it with the following three essential needs:

  1. Activity
  2. Nutrients
  3. Oxygen

Just like a high-performance car, your brain needs high-quality fuel to run on in the form of nutritious food. When your vehicle sits for long periods without running the engine, you may have a hard time starting it up again, and your brain needs regular exercise to keep its engine running well.

BPI Change as a Function of Games Played for Different Age Groups

BPI Change as a Function of Games Played for Different Age Groups

1. The Brain Needs Physical and Mental Activity

Your brain loves a challenge and requires a physical and mental workout daily. It is constantly changing. It grows and retracts; it strengthens and weakens, making it possible for you to learn from your experiences, adapt to new situations, and store unlimited memories.

This brain of yours is an energy hog with one hundred billion cells. Just imagine! Be generous with your exercise routine because regular exercise improves the brain's thinking ability.

Walking is highly beneficial, accessible, and can be done in short intervals and at your own pace. But do be regular and consistent. Exercising your body will help to keep your brain sharp, healthy, and functioning at its very best

Learning to play a musical instrument, speak a different language, paint or even work on a puzzle will supply your brain with mental challenges. Even humming reduces specific activity in the brain associated with depression.

Any brain training games will help to stimulate critical parts of the brain. Even games that seem simple and easy will bring significant effects.

Tai Chai and Me

I recently joined a Tai Chi class. Let me tell you it's not for the faint of heart. I tried my best to keep up with the rest of the class for one and a half hours. Even going at my own pace, I barely made it. But I'm looking forward to my next class and oxygenating the cells in my body, including my brain.

Tai chi, also called tai chi chuan, is a non-competitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching. Each posture flows into the next without pause, ensuring your body is in constant motion.

While giving your body a good workout, your brain is improving in the mental department. Exercise makes the brain's neurons stronger and healthier. Even simple stretching exercises help release stress, impacting your brain's memory centers.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Youmemindbody

2. Nutrition to Feed and Fuel Your Brain

In the same way, the body can't function without the nutrients it needs, and neither can the brain. Our brains need nourishment; like the body, they must have proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Don't forget to include antioxidant-rich fruits like berries and vegetables to fuel, support, and preserve its precious neurons.

  • Blueberries - Studies have confirmed that blueberries show increased motor skills in rats. And all berries contain high antioxidants that protect brain cells from damage. And do you know that a healthy dose of berries regularly can protect the brain from aging?
  • Avocados (my favorite) are almost as good as blueberries for the brain. Add a few slices to your favorite garden salad or burger. One-third of a medium avocado (50 g) only has 80 calories and contributes nearly 20 vitamins and minerals,
  • Foods rich in omega fatty acids like salmon, walnuts, and even kiwi fruit can boost your brain.
  • Whole grains such as oatmeal are lovely for the cardiovascular system as grains promote good flow to the heart and the brain. The brain needs fuel energy for better concentration and focus, and healthy grains supply this energy.
  • Vitamin K found in broccoli provides the cognitive function for your brain.
  • A handful of pumpkin seeds a day provides your daily amount of zinc, enhancing your memory and thinking skills.

I don't know about you, but I'm trading in my peanuts for pumpkin seeds.

3. Your Brain Needs Oxygen

The brain uses about three times as much oxygen as our muscles. Our brain cells are susceptible to decreases in oxygen levels and don’t survive or function well without it.

When the brain has low oxygen levels in the blood, it can be impaired, and a stroke can occur. Oxygenating the brain well is required to promote brain healing and brain use. A visit to the doctor includes a pulse oximeter reading which works this way:

During a routine visit to the doctor, a pulse oximeter measures how much oxygen is in our blood. It is so essential that it is often referred to as the fifth vital sign. (Vital signs are body temperature, heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation.) The pulse oximeter tells them how well the blood cells are saturated with oxygen

So, now that you realize how vital oxygen is to your brain, what are some ways to ensure you get enough of this good stuff?

For better brain function learn to breathe by using the diaphragmatic muscle ( the belly breath).

For better brain function learn to breathe by using the diaphragmatic muscle ( the belly breath).

Getting Enough Oxygen to the Brain

We need to do as much as possible to get the best blood circulation to our brains. Let's check out our breathing for starters:

  • If we breathe through our mouth, we don't rebreathe the stored carbon dioxide and nitric oxide that circulates blood to the brain. Our brain cells are not being oxygenated. It happened to me with my low oxygen levels during sleep. I learned that my "dry mouth," which caused me to reach for water during the night, was caused by my sleeping with my mouth open.
  • The carbon dioxide and nitric oxide open up blood vessels in the brain so we can get proper oxygen levels in our brains.
  • Breathe from the belly and not from the chest. Thankfully, our bodies automatically use the diaphragmatic muscle when we sleep. But most of us, upon awakening, begin what is called "chest breathing." Learning to breathe by using the diaphragm is the natural way to breathe.

The Brain Ages Faster Than the Body

A sharp, calm, high-performance mind needs a fit and healthy brain to sustain itself throughout the day and for the rest of your life. Brain performance data shows that the brain's information processing speed declines significantly faster than the body's physical reaction time or reflexes.

This suggests that our brains may indeed be aging faster than our bodies.

Another way of looking at this is how at age 60 or even 70, you might have tight abs and firm thighs yet not be able to remember the names of your loved ones. The late U.S. President Ronald Reagan broke his hip at age 89, and despite Alzheimer's disease, his hip mended like a much younger man's.

Do You Know?

The brain is made up of exceptional cells called neurons, and each can do the job of any other neurons in the brain.

That process allows us to relearn most functions using different brain parts. So if we have an injury or a sick amount of our brain, we can teach our brain to restructure and control body parts and function with other brain areas. That is called brain plasticity.

Photomicrograph of a neuron’s cell body (top, center) and its dendrites radiating out of it, obtained with a scanning electron microscope.

Photomicrograph of a neuron’s cell body (top, center) and its dendrites radiating out of it, obtained with a scanning electron microscope.

Fun Mind Games to Stimulate Your Brain

The internet is filled with enjoyable games to play. While you're having fun and taking a 'brain break,' why not include some of these games I've lined up for you with the following links:

An average human brain has about 100 billion nerve cells. Any brain training games will help stimulate critical brain parts. Even games that seem simple and easy will bring significant effects.

Summary

Important points to remember:

  • There are three essential needs of the brain
  • Activity
  • Nutrients
  • Oxygen
  • The brain ages faster than the body
  • Include salmon, blueberries, whole grains, and broccoli in your diet.
  • Take it easy with fatty foods and sugars.
  • Play internet brain games daily to exercise your brain
  • Walking, stretching, and working out is suitable for the brain.
  • Water is also crucial for your brain to prevent dehydration.
  • Learn to breathe from the belly and not the chest.

The brain is the boss of our body, and it loves to learn. It's designed for continual growth and education. Our brains develop high levels of comprehension well into our late years.

Make your life a social one and make sure your friends keep a positive attitude.

Humour is by far the most significant activity of the human brain.

Edward de Bono

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2013 Audrey Hunt

Comments

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on June 17, 2019:

Gupi

You are so welcome. Thank you for reading this article and leaving your comments. I'm glad these tips have been helpful. Take good care of your brain - it's the only one you will ever have.

Gupi on June 14, 2019:

Thank you for providing these wonderful tips.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on May 12, 2015:

Vellur - I too love playing brain games or just about any kind of game. Thanks for your comments.

Audrey

poetryman6969 - Laughing out loud at your opening sentence. Its great to see you and thanks a mil for stopping by.

Audrey

poetryman6969 on May 12, 2015:

I guess without a brain I would not be a hubber though some say that's debatable . Interesting hub. You are what you think? You are how you think? I am sure there is a proverb in there somewhere.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on May 12, 2015:

Interesting and informative. Our brain needs all the nourishment and oxygen and I love the playing games part to exercise brains. Sad that the brain ages faster than the body. Great hub.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on May 12, 2015:

Suzie - So glad to know you read this and found it interesting. And thanks for liking the photos. I think photos are especially necessary when referring to the brain. Thanks.

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on May 12, 2015:

Hi Audrey,

Sorry I missed this before and found it very interesting. I answered all 3 in the poll as I could do with improving nutrients, oxygen and be more active! Loved your photo selection now just need to get my brain re-energized!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on March 26, 2015:

Hi Suzanne - Ingesting hydrogen peroxide? Interesting. Haven't heard about this. Glad you liked the photos and thanks a million for voting useful.

Suzanne Day from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on March 26, 2015:

Some great photos in this hub, I really like the neuron's cell body image! Regarding oxygen in the brain, having oxygen therapy can help a lot - ingesting hydrogen peroxide (at a safe level) works wonders ;) Voted useful.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on March 17, 2015:

Hi Dee - I'm glad you liked this hub about the brain. I hope your mother has recovered from her stroke. This must have been scary for you. There is so much to learn about how the brain works. Take care my friend.

Dee Glass from Virginia on March 17, 2015:

This was a very good read - I add pumpkin seeds to my salads. My mother had a stroke a year ago, and her neurologist told me about continually learning new things. Very nice!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on August 07, 2014:

Hello Audrey -

How I wish I lived closer to you. We would be great friends. Stretching is something I, too manage to do several times every day. I am able to walk a little using my knee brace. I love living here in the forest. My short walks bring me a kind of inspiration from the trees and plants that Mother Nature provides so abundantly.

I love your comments Audrey. You are so kind and giving. I feel as though I've had a visit from an angel. May you be blessed with good health, glorious joy and peace. - Audrey too :)

Audrey Selig from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on August 07, 2014:

Hi Audrey - You put such great information in your hub. I especially like the pics of dynamics of the brain. Your resources add so much to the text and your words. The stretching is something I try to do when I cannot do much else, and I am so grateful that you brought out that point. Every time I read one of your hubs, I get so inspired to move and eat right and remember the words of Audrey, the smart hubber who teaches us to never give up. Sharing. Blessings, Audrey

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on April 15, 2014:

ptosis - Yes, learning a new skill is the best of all ways for keeping the brain young. I've taken up knitting and after I'm a 'master' at this I will learn another new skill.

I'm ordering the book you recommended and thanks so much!

ptosis from Arizona on April 13, 2014:

Recently read a book regarding the brain. First as a young child everything grows. Then it PRUNES itself. This pruning is essential. Then later on in life to keep the brain young it is NOT ENOUGH to do crossword puzzles or read books but get out of your comfort zone and learn a new skill (which is usually frustrating.) An old dog can learn tricks - it just has to be motivated to do so.

Currently reading "Touching a Nerve, The self as brain" by Patricia S. Churchland. recommend reading it.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on April 10, 2014:

Hi Ruby - I'm about to do the same thing. A walk can be so invigorating and lord knows my brain needs this. :) Thanks, dear lady.

Maree Michael Martin from Northwest Washington on an Island on April 10, 2014:

Oxygen therapy, that is what I need! Now time for a walk, to wake my brain up.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on December 05, 2013:

bravewarrior - Hello my friend. I had a feeling you were into eating healthy foods. And anyone that reads your brilliant hubs can easily see that your brain is one of the sharpest on the planet.

Keep munching those pumpkin seeds!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on November 30, 2013:

Audrey, this is a very informative and vital hub. I love all the foods you mention and like you, I think I'll start working on the pumpkin seeds. My brother and I used to eat them all the time as kids and he still does. My brain must be in pretty good shape because it's still sharp. Can't say so for my body, tho!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on November 29, 2013:

Dear Denise ~

You are really doing a great job of eating the right foods for your brain. Wonderful! I could have used this information 20 years ago:) Thanks for the great votes and for sharing. ~ Audrey

Alaphadogg16 - Hello. I appreciate your feedback on my hub. Thanks for being here and for the thumbs up!

Kevin W from Texas on November 29, 2013:

Nice & informative hub vocal coach, ironically the brain requires more fats to function correctly. Thumbs up on your hub.

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on November 29, 2013:

What an informative and interesting hub, Audrey! The food list includes much of what I already eat. Thanks for a great hub. U/U/I/ and shared.

Yvonne Spence from UK on November 29, 2013:

Being a vegetarian, I'm not about to start eating salmon, but apart from that I already eat most of the foods on your list and will do so more regularly now. Lots of great information here. BTW, other vegetarians might like to know that the best alternative to fish for providing Omega 3 is Spirulina or other algae. It's what the fish eat!

Great hub Audrey.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on November 29, 2013:

Audrey Howitt - Thanks so much. Very nice to see you here.

Sueswan - Sounds to me like you're doing everything right. Love your idea of having local organic fruit and veggies delivered. Great idea!

rasta1 - Wonderful to learn that bueberries get the 'seal of approval' by "world memory champions." I shall increase mine :) Thanks.

Marvin Parke from Jamaica on November 28, 2013:

My favorite organ indeed. Blueberry seems to be the best source of nutrients for the brain by common consensus. World memory champions swear by it.

Sueswan on October 26, 2013:

A great and informative hub!

I am trying to eat more healthier and have signed up with a company that delivers local organic fruit and vegetables.

I like to do Sudoku puzzles and play scrabble to exercise my brain and walk and go to boot camp to exercise my body.

Voted up+++ and sharing

Audrey Howitt from California on September 14, 2013:

Just an excellent hub!!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on September 07, 2013:

Anil and Honey - Now, I'm very glad I took the time to research and write about the brain. Thank you for sharing this with me:)

whonunuwho - This is great information! So glad you added this. Thanks so much.

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on September 06, 2013:

Barbara Kay - You have me laughing out loud! (I hope this was meant to be funny. If not - forgive my interpretation. It's just my brain :)

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on September 06, 2013:

Mhatter99 - You and I must have the same Doctor:)

drbj - Humor fixes just about everything. I believe that with all my heart. Thank you dear friend.

ChristyWrites - Smart mom! Eat you bluberries sweety:)

whonunuwho from United States on September 04, 2013:

Nice work. was surprised when I found out a short while back that the brain we are all born with does not increase in its size as long as we live. whonu

Anil from Kerala on September 04, 2013:

Very very impotent and essential hub, actually this was my question, how improve the capacity of brain. at last I discover the answer from your article, so this is very essential to me. thanks for sharing.

Barbara Badder from USA on September 03, 2013:

This was interesting, especially that fact that the brain ages faster than the body. What a shame though.

Christy Birmingham from British Columbia, Canada on September 03, 2013:

So interesting, Audrey! I didn't realize the brain ages faster than the body. What a light-bulb moment for me. I like whole-grains and now I see why my Mom encourages me to eat blueberries too. Vote up!

Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on September 03, 2013:

mckbirdbks - I imagine you are doing everything right Mike. You're just that kind of man :)

always exploring - What an example you are Ruby. You're fighting the 'aging angel' with all that you have. What a woman!

drbj and sherry from south Florida on September 02, 2013:

What an excellent summary this is, Audrey, of what we need to eat and do to exercise our brains. Delighted to have my outlook on life confirmed by both you and Edward de Bono. I refer to the quote you included: 'Humour is by far the most significant activity of the human brain.' Amen. Thanks for re