Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Foods that make your brain function optimally

12 March 2016, 11:32

Neurotransmitters are chemical substances that are used to transmit signals between the cells or neurons of the brain and central nervous system (CNS). 

To work properly, our bodies need to transmit signals and messages through the CNS by means of the following neurotransmitters: Serotonin, dopamine, acetylcholine, and norepinephrine. 

a) Serotonin

This ‘happy’ neurochemical serotonin makes us feel positive and able to take on the world with confidence. Serotonin is manufactured from an amino acid called tryptophan which is found in the following foods:

chicken, turkey breast, cheese, milk, turnips greens, seaweed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cacao and potatoes -

Vegetables such as turnip greens contain a compound known as 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HT), which is the precursor for serotonin which our bodies manufacture in the presence of vitamin B6 (this vitamin is found in beans and other legumes, nuts, eggs, meats, fish, breads and cereals) (Escott-Stump, 2014).

The reason why people eat chocolate and sugary carbohydrates to ‘get a lift’ is that chocolate contains serotonin, whereas sugar and other carbohydrates boost the uptake of tryptophan by brain tissue.

Read Also: A healthy body equals a healthy brain

b) Dopamine

The following foods are good sources of dopamine, the neurotransmitter involved in pleasure and reward:

eggs, milk, cheese, yoghurt, beef, pork, turkey and soy foods.

Folic acid and vitamin B12 are also important for dopamine to work properly. (Escott-Stump, 2014)

Read: Is there any difference between male and female brains? 

c) Acetylcholine

To stock up on acetylcholine - which plays a role in attention and arousal - eat the following foods:

milk, nuts, fish, egg yolks, organ meats and legumes.

Although we are able to synthesise choline, which is nowadays recognised as an essential nutrient, humans tend not to make enough choline to meet our needs and have to obtain most of our choline from foods including eggs yolk, beef and chicken liver, soy flour, salmon, eggs, quinoa, chicken, wheat germ and milk.

(Escott-Stump, 2014; Zeisel & Da Costa, 2009)

Read: Exercise in early childhood makes for healthier brains in adults

d) Norepinephrine

This neurotransmitter is involved with impulse control and is found in:

nuts such as almonds, pistachios and peanuts, as well as pumpkin seeds, chicken, eggs, milk, cheese, yoghurt, soy foods, turkey and goose. (Escott-Stump, 2014)

It is evident from the above, that if we want to keep our neurotransmitters working well, we need to eat a varied diet containing many different types of food.

Eating only one or two kinds of food or food groups (e.g. only proteins and fats), may lead to the malfunction of neurotransmitters and damage our brains and nervous systems.

References: (Escott-Stump S (2014). No-Nonsense Nutrition for a Healthy Brain. Paper presented at: Nutritional Solutions CNE Event, Johannesburg, 11 April 2014; Zeisel SH, Da Costa K-A (2009). Choline: An essential nutrient for public health. Nutrition Reviews, Vol 67(11):615-623.)

Image: brain from Shutterstock

- Health24

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Cyril Mike Odhiz
Kenyans furious on young lady aft...

A young Kenyan woman is the talk of town after she posted a photo with her elderly lover after a round of steamy sex, or so the photo suggested.  Read more...

Submitted by
Kiplangat langat
Uhuru could be a one term Presid...

Bomet governor Isaac Ruto has said that President Uhuru Kenyatta could be a one term President if he fails to increase allocations to the counties. Read more...

Submitted by
Mody Sammy
35 year old farmer a new milliona...

A 35 year old farmer from Mpeketoni Lamu county has become the latest millionaire in town as she became winner in the ongoing ‘Shinda Mamili na Story Ibambe’. Read more...

Submitted by
Shakila Alivitsa
Leave your past relationship bagg...

Leave your past relationship baggage at the door when you start a new relationship. Read more...

Submitted by
Shakila Alivitsa
Advice from a young married Kenya...

I was just going to get water in the office kitchen and thought a simple hi was fine until I ended up in an hour long conversation with someone. Read more...

Submitted by
Shakila Alivitsa
Helping you find the type of man ...

To put it simply, you can’t go looking for fish in a meat market; you have to go to a fish market. Read more...