Brain Food - Eat For Productivity
The brain is a hungry organ, it’s cells requiring two times the amount of energy than that of other cells in the body. To work well and efficiently throughout the day, this energy level must be kept high enough so not to cause mental stress and exhaustion.
So we’ll look at simple ways to keep your brain working effectively throughout your day so your work doesn’t suffer. When the brain doesn’t become stressed it can work continuously so not to sabotage your daily workflow. For this discussion we will assume you work most of the day, morning to evening.
It’s no secret this is the most important meal of the day. We all know it, but how many of us take it to heart. We’re too busy right? It’s OK, there are shortcuts.
Coffee in the morning sounds like a good idea. The boost is fairly instantaneous for a few reasons. Firstly, the caffeine. Caffeine does increase the capacity for mental and physical labor. However, this is short lived, with a demanding drop of energy caused not long after. Do you drink a few cups before the morning’s end?
Sugar also plays a part in the morning coffee. However, this sugar is part of the simple carbohydrates family which does fuel the brain, but only for a short period of time. What we want to get early in the morning is some complex carbohydrates.
Fruit is an excellent source. Instead of a short burst of energy these carbohydrates have long chains of sugar molecules that the body breaks down gradually, releasing glucose to fuel the brain over time.
If you’re strapped for time in the morning, as we all tend to be, a bowl of fruit is a much better energy source that will start the brain working. Mental exercise drains glucose, so feeding your glucose level throughout the day, with fruit, is a great way to keep energy levels up all day. Watery and crunchy fruits are low in calories and can be eaten all day, any time. Berries and citruses are highest in complex carbohydrates and also antioxidents which reduce the risk of cognitive impairment.
Later on in the morning something with more protein, a cereal, will do the same to keep energy in the brain all day. A piece of toast or sandwich does the same, directly improving memory and attention.
A cereal with fruit is a very quick and easy breakfast to kick start your day. With productivity in mind, we want to spend little time preparing food at the beginning of our day, so we can enter work-mode as soon as possible.
As mentioned earlier, breads and fruits do well. Vegetables do much of the same good as fruit. Glucose levels alter during cooking so sticking to a salad may be better. Think about adding an egg to the mix. Egg yolk is a leading source for choline, a nutrient that, recently, has been proven to boost brainpower by speeding up the sending of signals to nerve cells in the brain.
If possible, a larger lunch is better than a big dinner; use your time after work to rest and eat lightly. Although you could prepare for the next 6-8 hours of fasting – otherwise known as sleep – by stocking up on food, this can disrupt your sleep. A lighter meal before bed will lead to an easier and deeper sleep. Stick to a good breakfast and lunch to get keep you fed.
Fish is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which builds gray matter and cell membranes. Reportedly, these fats can also help emotional balance and a positive attitude throughout life. And you already know, stay away from junk food.
Ending lunch with a yogurt helps produce neurotransmitters, improving signals amongst neurons. Complementing this with nuts [particularly walnuts] balance omega-3 acids with omega-6’s while neutralizing blood sugar levels.
While eating food for the brain, it is important to keep hydrated. At least 80 ounces of water every day reduce stress hormones. Drinking non-caffeinated tea, like green tea, relaxes the brain and induces mental alertness. A juice, such as grapefruit juice, has the same affects for the brain as fruits and vegetables along with the hydration benefits.
While softdrinks provide that quick boost of sugar, it won’t last and will lead to a noticeable decline in brain energy later in the day. After drinking [or eating] something high in sugar, your pancreas starts to secrete insulin which triggers cells throughout your body to pull the excess glucose out of your bloodstream and store it. This sucks glucose from the brain which leaves it without energy, known as hypoglycemia. As a result your ability to focus decreases, leaving you weak and confused, unable to think properly.
Moderate alcohol consumption enhances blood and oxygen flow to the brain. This isn’t an immediate improvement, so don’t try and convince your boss drinking before work will improve your workflow. However, at the end of the day, a glass or two can relax the brain and ease yourself into the end of the day. Gradually, and most importantly, moderately, alcohol consumption has various mental benefits.
Moderation is the key. They say nothing is bad for you if done in moderation, so there isn’t a need for a huge change in your diet. What you may realize is your diet lacks many foods that stimulate mental growth and productivity. If you’re sluggish in the morning, there is definitely room for improvement.
Enhance brain power with a an increase in these foods that keep your brain running on high, and slow down on the others. Fruit’s cheap, put a bowl next to the mouse.
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