Feed your brain and get smarter!
Many of us have made resolutions to eat better in order to be healthier and/or lose weight. However, these aren’t the only benefits a healthier diet can provide. The affect of food on the ability to learn, remember, and increase overall intelligence is increasingly being explored and understood. This research is even making it to the popular psychology press . Becoming more knowledgeable about how foods affect your body is as important as knowing what effect a drug will have. The problem is that we tend to overlook the fact that foods are very much like drugs in that they can have widespread impacts on our bodies, and we are only starting to understand the true effect they have on our body, mind, and even spirit.
One of your bodies most important organs, your brain, only accounts for 2% of your weight, but it consumes a whopping 20% of your calorie intake. It stands to reason then that feeding your brain is essential to keep it working at optimal performance. But what does your brain eat? Feeding your brain the right foods will keep you on your toes and ready to ace your mid-terms. First of all, your brain requires a constant supply of glucose, or you will experience a lack of concentration and memory loss. Healthy glucose can be found in grains, fruits, and vegetables. Too much glucose (the kind you find in candy, cakes, and refined sugar products) negatively impacts memory. Studying while snacking on cakes, candy, or soda will impair your ability to remember what you are studying.
The most important foods to feed your brain are fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins. Brains particularly enjoy iron which can be found in red meats, grains, and dark-leaf vegetables such as spinach. Healthy brains also like vitamins from the B family which can be found in grains, wheat germ, eggs, and nuts. If you think you are too busy studying to make proper meals, don’t think vitamin supplements are a substitute for food. You need to eat to keep your blood sugar up. If you wait too long before meals, you blood sugar will drop and you will be asleep, drooling on your desk rather than studying. Keeping your blood sugar level is key; it’s better to eat six small meals than three big ones.
Take the time to have a good breakfast. This will help wake you up while also providing your brain with the fuel it needs to jump start your day. Choose healthy cereals, eggs, whole-wheat bread products, and fruit. For lunches, have a healthy sandwich, soup, or yogurt with a piece of fruit or some veggies. Avoid fatty meals that will leave you feeling tired and lethargic. For dinner, enjoy lots of protein (fish if you can) and vegetables. If you get hungry, snack on nuts, fruit and rice cakes.
The top five foods to feed your brain:
- 1) Wild salmon contains tons of essential fatty acids (most notably Omega-3) and is a good source of protein.
- 2) Acai berries and blueberries are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and protein. Acai berries even have omega-3 fatty acids. While you can find many juices that claim to offer these benefits, try eating these berries whole for maximum efficacy.
- 3) Whole grains, including bran, whole wheat, oatmeal, brown rice, and wheat germ all contain lots of vitamin B6 and folate which increases the flow of blood to the brain.
- 4) Green leafy veggies like spinach, kale, and cabbage are packed with vitamins B6, B12, iron and folate.
- 5) Seeds and nuts provide Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids which lift your mood while their thiamine and magnesium improve your memory.
Best drink: Green tea, especially if you can get the super-potent macha. This healthy tea contains anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Bottom line is remembering a few key points about food. The first is that food is like a drug and should be treated with respect. The next thing to remember is to moderate your intake. Keep educating yourself about food and its effect on your body both through your own observations and published reports by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Remember your body changes as you age and food’s effects change as we age. Those six slices of bacon you had when you were 16 should now be reduced to two slices: or, better yet, substitute your pork bacon with turkey bacon or a slice of ham. Finally, mix it up! Eat a variety of foods to cover all your nutritional bases.
So with all of that said, we may not be what we eat exactly, but our daily performance can certainly be helped (or harmed) by what we choose to consume. What are some of your favorite brain-healthy meals?