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Food for Thought – what to eat for optimal intellectual output

You are what you eat. Your brain uses 20% of all the calories you consume through food and drink, everyday. You will be shocked to learn just how quickly what you eat directly impacts your brains ability to function. A chocolate bar can cause your blood sugar to spike just 15 minutes after eating it – with cognitive impairments starting soon after. Before a presentation – would you ever consider digesting something to make you feel exhausted and decline in intellectual ability? I’m sure the answer would be no. However, people unconsciously do this to themselves every working day because they are unaware of how different foods react with their brain. Admit it: its not uncommon to find yourself exhausted and unproductive well before the working day is over – this lethargy has a lot to do with what your eating.

Why should I fuel my brain?

Brain cells require 2 x more energy than any other cells in our body. This means keeping your brain properly fuelled can be the difference between mental clarity and total mental fog. Being mindful of what you eat, not only helps you stay mentally awake during the work day, but it also protects you from future neurological dysfunction – which can be largely attributed to a super-fatty diet.

The 4 cardinal rules of the brain food diet 

Instead of overwhelming you with a huge list of brain “super food” ingredients, because in reality who is going to eat wild Atlantic salmon and walnuts everyday? I have prepared the 4 cardinal rules of brain food  – which if you apply to your daily diet – should set you on the path to ultimate brain health….You’re welcome.

1) Must. Eat. Breakfast – no if’s no but’s

If you skip breakfast, you end up with a huge spike in blood sugar and than an equally huge crash in the afternoon. However, when you eat breakfast, you are kick-starting your metabolism – i.e converting your food to energy at exactly the right time of day – this process than remains stable throughout the day – crucially preventing the, all too familiar, afternoon slump at work.

2)Avoid sugary foods 

High blood sugar temporarily impairs your memory, making it very hard to focus. The optimal amount of glucose for our brain, at any one time, is 25 grams (one banana’s worth). Anymore than this and you are risking temporary cognitive impairments. Frequent smaller meals are a great way to help you keep your glucose levels constant.

3)Avoid high saturated fats 

Foods high in saturated fats increase your chances of memory impairments – this will not only impact your immediate workday, but also increases your chance of developing a serious neurological disease in the future. Stick to foods such as lean protein, low fat dairy, whole grains and fruits and vegetables which all form part of a low-fat diet.

4)Constant hydration

Your brain needs constant fluid to function. Period. Dehydration can cause numerous symptoms including problems with focus, memory, brain fatigue and brain fog, as well as headaches, sleep issues, anger, depression and much more. So, just keep hydrated – OK?!

Nothing beats drinking pure water – your body is 60% water overall, but your brain is a huge 80% waterIt is generally recommended that adults drink 2.5 litres per day. However before you get ready to chug down your water bottle, you already receive a lot of this hydration through food. Fruits, vegetables, juice, tea and coffee all hydrate you. Yes thats right – contrary to popular belief coffee doesn’t actually dehydrate you!

Coffee addiction warning..!

Following a recent study – if you drink coffee at moderate to high volumes (around 4 – 8 ounce coffee cups with of caffeine) you must keep drinking those high levels or risk impairing brain function. In short – your brain becomes so used to working on high doses of caffine that it starts to under-perform without it! Look here for the caffeine content of your favourite drinks. It is advised that moderate – high coffee users slowly reduce their dose of coffee – otherwise they risk facing cognitive impairment consequences if they try to go “cold turkey”.

Read more about this topic on Trello’s blog, here