Meditation affects many areas of the brain, but the ones that most directly relate to nutrition-related issues are the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the hippocampus. The ACC is associated with self-regulation (a good example: going to the refrigerator when you know you just ate lunch and are totally 100 percent not even close to hungry, but oh my god the ice cream sounds so good right now—just a little bit, whoops, I ate the whole thing!) According to studies on the effects of mediation on the ACC, those who practice meditation regularly show greater activity in this area of the brain than those who don’t, allowing those who practice meditation to exhibit superior self-regulation, less impulsivity, and greater ability to learn from past experiences and adapt.
In addition to its effects on the brain, one of the most fascinating results of meditation is that it can actually change your DNA, just like certain foods can. In fact, daily meditation practice has been associated with an increase in gene expression for mitochondria, the energy powerhouse of the cell, where all metabolism happens, and insulin production, increasing processes that allow your body to maximize its intake of glucose. It has also been associated with the down-regulation of inflammatory cytokines like NF-kB, which has a clinically significant association with inflammation, cancer, and addiction. Therefore, meditating long-term has been shown to effectively change the DNA of the practitioner in a way that promotes energy metabolism efficiency and discourages systemic inflammation. And that is pretty darn cool for something that involves doing nothing for twenty minutes a day!