The nervous system is like your cell phone's wireless network. It sends signals to your brain, allowing for all kinds of important functions, including the ability to chitchat, warm up in the cold, avoid bothersome moods and keep a steady, strong heartbeat. The central nervous system contains your brain and spinal cord. All other nerves make up your peripheral nervous system. A balanced diet, rich in super-foods for nerves, can help keep your nervous system strong.
Meat and Seafood
Meat and seafood are vitamin B-12 powerhouses. The water-soluble nutrient plays a vital role in nerve function, says the Office of Dietary Supplements, and women need 2.4 micrograms daily. Vitamin B-12 deficiency, which can stem from following a strict vegetarian or otherwise restrictive diet, can damage your nerves permanently. Nerve-related deficiency symptoms include tingling and numbness in your hands and feet, confusion, memory problems and depression. Meat and seafood that are particularly rich in vitamin B-12 include clams, which supply 84.1 micrograms per 3-ounce serving, and beef liver, which provides 70.7 micrograms per serving. Other valuable sources include tuna, trout, salmon and ground beef. The omega-3 fatty acids in cold-water fish, such as salmon and halibut, promote positive blood pressure levels and heart rhythms.
Whole Grains and Enriched-Grain Products
Fiber-rich whole grains aren't just good for heart-health and digestion. Because they hang on to all nutritious parts during processing, they supply more nutrients, including B vitamins, than refined grains. Oats, whole wheat and brown rice, for example, are far more nutritious than grits, white bread, pretzels and instant rice. The B-vitamin folate may help heal spinal cord damage, according to the National Institutes of Health. If you're planning to become pregnant, folate can help prevent nervous system disorders in your infant. Women need 0.4 milligrams of folate per day and 0.6 milligrams during pregnancy. One serving of fortified whole-grain cereal fulfills up to 100 percent of your daily needs. Enriched-grain products contain refined grains, but some of the nutrients lost during processing are added back in. Enriched cereals, oatmeal and rice supply 20 to 25 percent of women's daily recommended folate intake.
Many women drink milk for bone strength, but your nerves rely on calcium-rich foods for prime function, too. Calcium helps regulate nerve impulses throughout your body. Women need 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, which can be met by consuming about 3.5 servings of milk, yogurt or cheese. One cup of low-fat milk or yogurt also fulfills 19 percent of adults' daily recommended vitamin B-12 intake. To stave off inflammation, which can damage nervous system health, choose primarily low-fat dairy products. If cow's milk does your body bad because of an intolerance, swap out dairy products for fortified soy alternatives.
Fruits and Vegetables
Coloring your plates with fresh produce can also enhance nerve health. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants, such as vitamin C, which strengthen your nervous system's ability to resist and heal from illness. Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables may also reduce symptoms of fibromyalgia, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, a nervous system disease that affects more women than men, causing a broad range of symptoms, such as fatigue, headaches and depression. Fruits and vegetables that are particularly antioxidant-rich include tomatoes, berries, bell peppers, dark leafy greens and broccoli. Add fresh fruit to your cereal and smoothies and fresh or cooked veggies to your lunches and dinners. Fresh, dried and cooked fruits and vegetables also make nutritious between-meal snack options. To save money, stock up on frozen and fresh, in-season fruits and veggies.
- American Medical Association: Groups of Nerves
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin B-12 Fact Sheet
- American Heart Association: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- National Institutes of Health: Researchers Discover How Folate Promotes Healing in Spinal Cord Injuries
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Folate
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Fibromyalgia
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Calcium
August McLaughlin is a health and sexuality writer, podcast host and author of “Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment” (Amberjack Publishing, 2018). Her articles appear in DAME Magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, the Huffington Post and more, and she loves connecting with readers through her blog and social media. augustmclaughlin.com