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Get Your Bird Some Brain Food

Power up your brain and your bird's.

Patricia Sund


The brain, while not taking up much space compared to the rest of your body, needs energy. A lot of energy. It’ll tear through calories while you are just sitting there thinking. Our birds are pretty smart little creatures as well. And those brains they are using need fuel.

As a matter of fact, the brain uses about twice the amount of energy as any other cells in the body. Your brain is comprised of 60 percent fat. This is why I don’t get upset if people call me a "fathead.” Because of these unusual cells in the brain, they require more calories. This is what makes omega-3 fatty acids a good brain food. Walnuts and flax seeds are wonderful sources of these omega-3 fatty acids.

Chemicals are chemicals. Brains are brains. It doesn’t matter who’s brain it is, yours or your bird's. And while we are able to eat foods we wouldn't give to our flocks, some of the basic requirements for a good diet remains the same. Many of these basic facts and information applies to birds as well as humans. And knowing these important concepts about the chemistry of food and how it affects many species will help us all learn how to better feed the birds in our lives. You've seen me mention omega-3 fatty acids in my previous articles. And I hate to yammer on about them, but they're pretty important. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids allow blood vessels in the brain to remain healthy and fluid. What makes omega-3 essential? Well, it means that it's an essential part of your diet because it cannot be manufactured by the body. Walnuts and flax seeds are an outstanding source of these fatty acids. You can read more about walnuts here.

But foods containing omega-3s are not the only good brain food. Egg yolks contain a substance called choline, which is an excellent brain food because it boosts brainpower. It does this by speeding up the signals to the nerve cells in the brain.

Don't go crazy with the eggs for your flock, but they do contain all of the essential amino acids as well as the choline.

Proteins are pretty important for good brain function as well. Proteins provide our brains with amino acids. From that, neurotransmitters are created. Neurotransmitters relay between neurons and allow parts of the brain to effectively communicate with one-another. In other words, this is essentially parts of the brain communicating with other parts.

When you feed the neurotransmitters with powerful food, they deliver messages to those neurons quicker, more accurately and with a bigger punch. I like to equate it to the ability of thinking fast on your feet. Neurotransmitters are created through the substances tyrosine and tryptophan. Tyrosine isn’t an essential amino acid, because the body can make it without any help from anything you eat. However, tryptophan is an essential amino acid. And it can only be obtained via your diet.

One food that is a serious brain food is the blueberry. Apparently, blueberries are said to be the No. 1 antioxidant fruit. Late Comedian George Carlin used to refer to blue food as "bestowing immortality” as there is very little blue food. But maybe he was onto something.

Antioxidants kill free radicals that attack your cells. They also help boost the amount of what your brain can retain and learn. They also improve fine motor skills and they help preserve memory. They also help with maintaining your eyesight and keep your eyes healthy.

Do you ever feel like you can't think? You just can't form the words you want to say? Have some brain food. And while you’re at it, feed some to that smart little critter on his play stand.

Examples of "Brain Food”:

  • Almonds
  • Bananas
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Brown rice
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cashews
  • Cauliflower
  • Cherries
  • Collard greens
  • Cranberries
  • Eggs
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Green tea
  • Legumes
  • Oatmeal
  • Peas
  • Plums
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Raspberries
  • Red cabbage
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Walnuts
  • Water
  • Wheat germ

Psittacine Cuisine

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Posted: January 22, 2015, 10:15 a.m. PDT

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Get Your Bird Some Brain Food

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Reader Comments
This is more like it! MUCH better than the 'Feed 80% pellet' spiel.
Dana, Issaquah, WA
Posted: 1/27/2015 2:48:06 AM
Great article, Patricia! I love to see articles promoting healthy and natural alternatives for feeding birds. Just as with humans, natural foods have bio-available nutrients and are by design the best choice in a diet. One thing I should add - the brain needs glucose (sugar). I know I have heard from many bird owners that they don't feed fruits because they have "too much sugar". Natural sugars are the best fuel for the brain. And birds that live a healthy, active lifestyle - especially birds that have the ability and space to fly - have no problems with burning off those sugars.
Dee Hicks, Youngsville, NC
Posted: 1/26/2015 8:48:03 AM
Thank you for great articles like this. I hope to see more.
Liz, Santa Fe, TX
Posted: 1/26/2015 6:36:51 AM
Yes, yes, yes! Fresh food is good for people and birds!
Beth, Nashville, TN
Posted: 1/25/2015 3:01:19 PM
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