This is your brain on healthy foods
If you are questioning whether there is any truth that lies within the age-old saying, “You are what you eat,” then consider how a sugar-filled doughnut packed with empty calories makes you feel. Sure, you’re flying high as a kite during the first few moments of tossing back a “breakfast” smothered in sugary confection, but shortly thereafter there’s a downward plunge – and it’s not pretty.
Well, it’s time to pick your head up off your desk and wipe the drool from your face. Whether you are prepping for a big work presentation or cramming for midterm exams, one of the most important steps you can take toward success is fueling your body with foods that provide lasting energy. Check out these suggestions for brainpower noshes and start munching!
Nuts and seeds
Walnuts, almonds, flaxseed and pumpkin seeds are just a few of the key players that provide the body with essential Omega-3 fatty acids. These powerful foods are key to improving cognitive function and can help prevent fatigue, poor memory and a host of other symptoms. The human body doesn’t make Omega-3s, so you have to get them from food sources, like nuts, seeds, salmon, sardines and albacore tuna at least two times a week. Make homemade trail mix by tossing dried fruit, various nuts and seeds, and a bit of dried cereal into plastic baggies for a healthy on-the-go snack.
This popular spice has been known to increase brain function. “Even just the scent can increase memory and processing,” said Sheila Viers, Emotional Eating Coach and Co-founder of Live Well 360 (livewell360.com). Viers points to a 2004 study that found chewing cinnamon-flavored gum or inhaling the scent of cinnamon improved participants’ scores on tasks related to working memory and visual-motor speed. Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon over a warm bowl of oatmeal or sip on cinnamon tea for a quick pick-me-up.
Studies show these tasty little fruits are placing in the top percentile of the smart food class. Anthocyanin – a powerful phytonutrient that is found in blueberries – is a tough-as-nails antioxidant that works to protect the brain by improving balance and coordination, in addition to short-term memory and spatial learning. In fact, results show a cup of blueberries per day can help people score five to six percent higher on tests involving motor skills, according to a report in Psychology Today. Toss some blueberries over yogurt for a brain-boosting midday snack.
Whether you enjoy them scrambled or whipped into an omelette, eggs are fundamental in the brain food equation if you want to perform like a pro. Packed with choline, a key supporter of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, eggs are champions when it comes to improving overall memory function.
If you don’t eat eggs, be sure to at least heed the advice of health experts around the globe – eat your breakfast! A solid morning meal is crucial to stimulating your brain not only for big-time events, but every day.
It might sound simple enough, but when you are functioning on too-busy-to-blink mode, it’s easy for three hours to pass without you so much as glancing up at the clock. But dehydration can lead to a foggy brain, so be sure to hydrate and lay off the caffeine. Fill a reusable water bottle to carry on the go, and ensure you stay alert.
Remember that a little bit of sugar isn’t the worst thing ever, but be sure to use it in moderation. Balance a slice of chocolate cake with a well-rounded meal of grilled salmon and fresh veggies. And don’t skimp on carbohydrates: Whole grain choices, like brown rice, oats and potatoes can be mentally soothing after a long day at the office or memorizing the fundamental theorem of calculus.
Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the upcoming author of a gluten-free healthy lifestyle book, set to be released in January 2014. She is the author of the popular gluten-free blog, sincerelycaroline.com and is currently training to become a certified health coach. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.