Brain food is food that is beneficial to the brain. Like our skin and our stomachs, certain foods contribute to the nourishment and treating of these areas of the body. The brain also needs certain foods to help boost its power so that we are functioning at our best daily. We should be stocking up on brain food!
The brain, the complex machine that controls our entire being, is actually easy to feed and nourish. Certain foods feed us nutrients and provide benefits that many of us are unaware of. For instance, Barbara Shukitt- Hale, USDA Nutrition Research Facility at Tufts University states the following about the nutrients we consume:
“Plants have developed mechanisms to deal with stresses in the environment. Because of sunlight, smog, and temperature they have developed antioxidant or anti- inflammatory capabilities. When we ingest them they are protective in our bodies as well.”
In this article, we’ll talk about the importance of healthy brain foods and will recommend to you the best 9 healthy snack foods to boost your brainpower!
Table of Contents
The Importance of Brain Food and How it Helps The Brain
Our brains control everything that we do. Certain chemicals impact the way it works in good and bad ways. Brian food helps increase your intellectual power! According to an article published by Fernando Gomez- Pinilla, Departments of Neurosurgery and Physiological Science at UCLA:
“Research over the past 5 years has provided exciting evidence for the influence of dietary factors on specific molecular systems and mechanisms that maintain mental function. For instance, a diet that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids is garnering appreciation for supporting cognitive processes in humans and upregulating genes that are important for maintaining synaptic function and plasticity in rodents.”
The classical saying “you are what you eat” holds a lot of value and truth as proven by research. Here’s some insight:
- Amino Acids are derived from protein and help support and connect your neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters help keep the brain sharp — dopamine for nervous system function, serotonin for mood, memory, and learning, norepinephrine for alertness and concentration, and acetylcholine for storage and recollection of memory.
- Glucose is what gives the brain energy. Brains get almost all of their energy from glucose.
- Fatty Acids such as polyunsaturated, omega-3, and omega 6 help strengthen nerve cells which help strengthen memory.
- Antioxidants inhibit oxidization. Antioxidants remove damaging oxidizing agents in living organism.
Lack of Brain Food and Its Effect on The Brain
I discussed the great impacts of brain food consumption for the brain. Lack of brain food will have a reverse impact. Lack of brain food can cause memory, cognitive, blood sugar imbalance, brain fog, nutrient deficiencies, and mood difficulty.
Serotonin, the neurotransmitter that regulates sleep, appetite, and mood is produced in the gastrointestinal tract (the digestive track that takes food, digests, extracts, and absorbs the energy and nutrients from food consumption).
Simply put, proper brain food is essential to your everyday health. Brain food is essential for a healthy digestive tract which is needed for healthy serotonin levels. Healthy serotonin levels are essential for healthy sleep, appetite, and mood.
Other physical difficulties can result from lack of brain foods: blood pressure, increased acuteness, and irritability to name a few.
Brain food is essential to our lives because they feed the machine that keep us going. Lack of brain food means lack of proper care for ourselves.
What Foods Harm The Brain?
It’s no secret that certain types of foods are bad for us in multiple ways. Healthy brain food consumption can be looked at and handled just like consuming food for weight loss. There are some foods that feed your entire being for overall health and many that you should stay away from in high quantities because they negatively impact your entire being, here are a few:
- Sugary foods and beverages– higher sugar levels in the blood can increase the risk of dementia.
- Trans and saturated fat– this one has been a known fact for weight; however, linked to the brain, observational studies have found an association between saturated fat intake and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Refined Carbohydrates– this also includes sugar. Please note that refined carbs turn into sugar. This means that they turn into high glycemic food. Foods high in GL (glycemic load) have been found to impair brain function.
- Aspartame– “but I’ve been told it’s a sweetener, a sugar substitute, and better than consuming sugar”. Aspartame is used as a sugar substitute more so for weight loss because it has 0 calories. It may be effective for weight loss; however, it is a food that can be harmful to the brain. Aspartame is a product made up of phenylalanine, methanol, and aspartic acid.
- Phenylalanine– can cross the blood-brain barrier and might disrupt the production of neurotransmitters- serotonin.
- Methanol– can cause metabolic acidosis causing central nervous system disturbances.
- Processed foods– generally the foods found in the middle of the grocery store, these foods tend to be high in fats, sugar, and salt. Not only do these foods cause weight gain, that gain is harmful to the brain.
A study of 243 people found increased fat around the organs, or visceral fat, to be associated with brain tissue damage.
9 Healthy Foods to Boost Your Brainpower
These amazing, green, circles/ovals of joy are packed with nutrients! If you like guacamole, then you like avocadoes! Avocado is a fruit consisting of healthy carbs, fat, and vitamins:
- Vitamin K– synthesizes certain proteins that are prerequisites for blood coagulation.
- Folate– one of the B-vitamins that is needed to make red and white blood cells in bone marrow, convert carbs to energy, and produce DNA.
- Vitamin C– cannot be produced in the body therefore awareness on consumption is essential. Vitamin C is a necessary antioxidant for strengthening the body’s natural defenses, also known as immune system.
- Potassium– a mineral and electrolyte, that produces electrical impulses around the body and assist with: blood pressure, muscle contractions, nerve impulses, digestion, and heart rhythm.
- Vitamin B5– essential for the production of energy and breaking down fats and carbohydrates.
- Vitamin B6– necessary for normal brain development and for keeping the nervous and immune system healthy.
- Vitamin E– dissolves fat and supports vision, reproduction, and healthy blood, brain, and skin.
Understandably, those with nut allergies cannot consume walnuts.
For those that can, walnuts provide amazing benefits, like having twice as many antioxidants than almonds and peanuts. These small nuts are packed with DHA (omega’s), protein and minerals.
A study conducted by Rush University showed that people that 1-2 servings of greens, like spinach, for 5 years, had the cognitive abilities of someone 11 years younger.
Spinach is loaded with vitamin K, folate, beta carotene (an antioxidant), and lutein (an antioxidant).
4. Dark Chocolate
This is a win. chocolate for brain food!
Chocolate has high levels of flavanols. Dr. Bret S. Stetka, MD, states the following about flavanols:
“These abundant phenolic plant compounds have marked antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and are thought to be responsible for much of the health benefit ascribed to chocolate consumption”.
Studies like the Swedish Mammography Cohort study found the following results:
Increasing chocolate consumption by 50 g per week reduced
- Cerebral infarction risk by 12%
- Hemorrhagic stroke risk by 27%,
- Total stroke risk by 14%
5. Green Tea
Green tea is known to be a powerful antioxidant beverage that helps improve brain function, contributes to fat loss, and reduces risk of cancer.
Additionally, loaded with L-theanine (an amino acid), it increases dopamine.
Kale has so much of what we need in one bunch. Loaded with iron, folate, vitamin B6, and protein, it has everything that the brain needs to produce serotonin and dopamine.
Tomatoes are packed with antioxidants; however, have an added benefit- lycopene. Lycopene regulates the genes in the brain that influence inflammation and contribute to brain growth.
Besides adding amazing flavor, sage is makes for great brain food. It’s an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Not only is it used for pain relief, but it also contributes to the enhancement of memory and cognitive abilities.
A little seed packed with huge benefits. Chia seeds are rich in DHA (omega)and a complete protein.
This means that they carry 9 of the essential amino acids necessary to keep moods sable and brains functioning at their best.
Eating mindfully is essential for our well beings. Our brain control everything. We feed it knowledge, we also need to feed it proper nutrients. Stock up on these brain foods to keep that machine running at its best!
At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.
Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.
One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.
When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.
So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.
Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day
This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.
Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.
When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.
Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity
One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.
Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.
An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.
When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.
Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day
Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.
We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.
By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.
Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment
While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.
I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.
You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.
Con #1: We Move a Lot Less
When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.
Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.
Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.
Con #2: Less Human Interaction
One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.
Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.
Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.
This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.
While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.
Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment
Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.
This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.
For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.
Con #4: Unique Distractions
Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.
For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.
To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.
Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.
We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.