If you were a top athlete training for the Olympics, what would you put in your body? Only the best, because you want only the best out of your body. Why do you think your brain isn’t similarly affected by what you put into your mouth? Sudden sugar rushes and the following lows play havoc with your concentration and ability to access the key language areas that will bring out the best in your writing. Remember that you are training to be an expert in this field, trying to push your mind, and body as well to some extent, to the edge of human possibilities. You want your wit to be quick, your decision-making skills sharp and your fingertips flowing with just the right words. And yet you also expect to be able to shove any old food-stuff into this finely tuned system?
Brain food – not the diet for zombies. You will have heard that some foods are better than others in terms of your brain (perhaps tuna for instance). Considering your main asset in this adventure is going to be your brain, this is attending to. Anything you can do to improve your concentration and thought processes is a good idea.
The secret to eating for your brain is the chemicals the food supplies to the brain. These different chemicals can keep you motivated, help you concentrate, improve memory, help you deal with stress, and slow down the ageing process.
So, here are some of the top foods for brain function. See how creative you can get.
These are the top four chemicals your brain loves:
Glucose: Yes, it is otherwise known as sugar, and we all hear all the time that sugar is bad for you. Let me explain. Most of the brain’s energy comes from glucose, so you definitely need it. The problem is your brain needs a slow and constant stream of it, and gets rather upset by a sudden increase and then none at all. Dealing with this problem? Have more and smaller meals really helps with concentration.
Fatty Acids: Yes, your brain needs fat! But before you reach for that bag of potato chips, I’m sorry to have to tell you – it’s not that type of fat. The big winner is omega-3, which you should have heard about before. If you haven’t, you have been living under a rock. Where do you get this omega-3? One of the best sources is through fish. Fish are great. Particularly the fatty kinds like salmon and tuna. However, you can also get omega-3 goodness from walnuts, pumpkin and flax seeds, so you are not totally limited if you can’t have seafood. How much are we talking? Well, one serving a day is a great aim.
Amino Acids: These come from protein-rich foods and are essential for mental alertness. They affect your neurotransmitters (which carry the electrochemical messages through your brain) and so can improve a range of different mental aspects, including memory, your immune system and even your sleep. Mmmm, sleeeepppp…. So how do you get this good stuff? Amino acids come as the body breaks down protein, so fish, meat, eggs, cheese and yogurt are all good. The suggestion is to get one of these into each and every one of your meals. Are you up to the challenge?
Antioxidants: These help to regulate the oxidative stress that negatively affects brain cells. Tea is great for these goodies, as well as veggies or berries. For a tasty day’s worth, you only need a cup of antioxidant rich food like berries. Hmmm… do I hear berry smoothie? Make it with yogurt and a splash of flax seed oil and you are ready to go!
Finally, I know it’s not a food, but water mustn’t be forgotten. Get more water into you, as even mild dehydration has consequences for your mental performance. Make sure you are having a few glasses a day of the pure stuff, along with all your other drinks.
Sadly, eating well won’t make you super smart overnight. In most modern lives, change needs to be made just to get your brain functioning as it should. There are some short-term gains, but you should be focused on creating better brain function for the long term. And seriously, it will be worth it.
Avoiding the After Lunch Slump
1. Avoid eating too much. That ‘stuffed’ feeling is a bad sign. It means that more blood is going to be diverted to your digestive system to deal with the overload, and that you are going to feel sleepy and weak as a result.
2. Get some vitamins! Veggies at lunchtime are excellent, for many reasons.
3. Are you getting enough iron? One of the causes of fatigue, in women in particular, is lack of iron. Use your lunchtime as a chance to make sure you get enough. Chuck some spinach into your salad, or make it a Thai beef salad.
4. Think about your sleep. If you are feeling sleepy mid-afternoon, it is often a good indication that you aren’t get enough quality sleep at night. Spending an extra hour at night to prepare for a great sleep is better than three hours wasted due to tiredness in the afternoon.
5. An after-lunch meditation is great, but after the allocated 20 minutes, you need to kick your body back into gear, so try going for a walk to get the blood flowing again to the rest of your body. Also, getting out into the sunlight will let your body know it should be awake.
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