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5 Ways Sugar Affects Your Mental Performance

5 Ways Sugar Affects Your Mental Performance

When we eat well, we feel better. Did you know that we also think and perform better?

A friend of mine would often give in to sugary snacks or processed foods to quiet her blood sugar dip – usually right after lunch. As a result, she went through a mid-afternoon slump – and it zapped her productivity. She couldn’t focus, she felt like her reaction time was delayed and she just wanted to take a nap. She would also feel more emotional and short-tempered when talking to other colleagues or her spouse. When she ate more healthfully, she felt more focus, less stress and was more in control of her emotions. She even had better memory!

It’s true – eating sugar can actually have a negative biological impact on your mind and emotions. Here are 5 ways sugar affects your focus, mood, memory, emotional and mental balance, and stress (and recommended foods to feel and perform better!).

1. Focus

According to a recent UCLA study, sugar “forms free radicals in the brain’s membrane, compromising our nerve cells’ ability to communicate”. This causes a “foggy” or “out of it” feeling. The study drew strong connections between sugar intake and a diminishment in how well we remember instructions and process ideas.

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Another way sugar affects focus is through its addictive qualities.When we taste sugar, the brain lights up in the same regions as it does an alcoholic tasting gin. Dopamine, our “reward chemical” spikes and reinforces the desire to have more. When you’re battling an addiction-fueled craving, your train of thought is disrupted, and you can’t put your full mental energy into tasks at hand.

More high protein and high fiber foods give us focus throughout the day and help curb sugar cravings. Here are some great options:

2. Mood

When we’re feeling low, it’s hard to get anything done. Studies have shown links to sugar starting cycles of binge eating, dopamine spikes, a physical and emotional crash and then more craving and withdrawal. As a result, we have shorter tempers, lower patience and even depressed feelings.

The best way to combat these mood dips is to have steady, regular meals with protein and fiber to keep our insulin levels constant and help us stay satisfied for longer. Try adding these mood-boosting foods instead of sugar:

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  • Complex carbs (whole grains, legumes)
  • Oily fish (trout, sardines, mackerel)
  • Fruits and Veggies (supply vitamins and minerals, ease digestion)

3. Memory

A high sugar diet affects our cognitive function and performance – and it can ALSO block our memory receptors. According to this study, there are clear links between high fructose (sugar) consumption and memory and learning impairment. We will actually have a harder time remembering what others say and making connections between concepts as a result of sugar. Even more unsettling is the research suggesting high sugar consumption has long-term and more severe repercussions, such as links between sugar and Alzheimer’s, where memory is grossly impaired.

Foods to boost your memory are:

– Sources of Vitamin E

  •  Minimally processed oils (olive, coconut)
  •  Sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts

-Sources of Omega 3s

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  •  Fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna)
  •  Avocados (both Omega 3s and vitamin E)

-Dark Leafy Greens due to folate (Kale, spinach, broccoli, collards,)

-Low Sugar Berries (blueberries, strawberries, acai berries)

4. Emotional and Mental Balance

Too much sugar leaves us prone to mood swings as it zaps up our stores of vitamin B and blocks chromium receptors, both of which are natural emotionally balancing chemicals. This can lead to irritability, anxiety, aggressive behavior and dramatic mental peaks and valleys.

There is more and more evidence for connections between our gut health and brain health. Gut health is contingent on eating more plant based, low-glycemic index foods and avoiding sugar. Sugar feeds bad bacteria in the gut, while veggies and fermented food feeds healthy bacteria. Striking this homeostasis balances us both physically and mentally.

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Healthy foods to help you achieve this inner harmony are:

  • Green, non-starchy vegetables
  • Oily fish
  • Probiotic foods like fermented sauerkraut, kimchi and other vegetables

5. Stress

Stress and food are closely linked. When we feel stressed, our body is flooded with chemicals related to our fight or flight responses. Stress is linked to overeating, weight gain and even obesity. We feel guilty for overeating or not knowing what to eat to help us stay healthy. This causes more underlying stress in our lives.

The best way to curtail this is to eat healthier foods to help us get ahead of our body’s stress cycle. Here are some foods to combat stress and release serotonin without spiking blood sugar levels:

  • Walnuts
  • Avocados
  • Berries

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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