nearly everyone recognizes that the foods they eat affect the appearance
of their bodies, however most people fail to realize that what they
consume also has a considerable impact on how their brains work.
Your diet can affect your brain’s energy level, memory, and
the efficiency with which it handles its tasks.
The brain is
an exceptionally active metabolic organ, which means that it must
constantly consume energy to function. Still, the brain is a picky
eater. Research has consistently shown that foods with the right
neurochemicals – which will be outlined shortly – can
help you concentrate, tune sensorimotor skills, stay motivated,
magnify memory, increase reaction times, defuse stress, and, to
a certain extent, even prevent mental aging.
While a healthy
brain is determined in part by how much (or little) fat you eat,
the more important factor is the kind of fat consumed. Maximum intellectual
performance requires a specific type of fat known as omega-3 fatty
acids, found most commonly in fish. So to ensure that your diet
is rich in omega-3 fats, and that your brain is flush with this
powerful nutrient, it is recommended that you eat plenty of oily
fish like salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, herring, mackerel, and
raises the levels of an amino acid called tyrosine, which prompts
the brain to manufacture norepinephrine and dopamine, important
chemical messengers in the brain. Norepinephrine and dopamine serve
to keep you energized as they stimulate receptors in the brain specific
to alertness and activity. Poultry, seafood, soy products, and lean
meat are the richest sources of protein, and dairy products, legumes,
nuts, and seeds contain high concentrations as well.
carbohydrates provides the fuel your brain uses to produce energy.
Be careful, however, when choosing your sources of carbohydrates!
The key is to choose carbohydrates that are broken down by the body
gradually and provide a steady, long-term source of energy (typically
known as complex carbohydrates), as opposed to carbohydrates that
have an immediate impact on the body and cause a rapid burst of
energy that will fade quickly (simple carbohydrates). Whole grain
foods such as cereals, wheat bran, and whole wheat pasta are key
sources of complex carbohydrates. Fruits and vegetables are another
excellent source of carbohydrates that can provide long-lasting
energy. Refined sugars are the most common simple carbohydrates
and, as mentioned previously, only fuel the brain for a short period
of time and ultimately result in a demanding drop of energy or “crash.”
Avoid refined sugars whenever possible.
to the foods discussed above, it is also a good idea to consider
supplementing your diet with specific vitamins and minerals designed
to promote proper body function. The 'B' complex vitamins are particularly
important as they play a vital role in producing energy. Vitamins
A, C, and E are powerful antioxidants and promote and preserve memory.
Good sources of these vitamins include blueberries and other berries,
red grapes, tomatoes, broccoli, garlic, spinach, carrots, whole
grains, and soy.
also critical to mental functioning and performance. Magnesium and
manganese are crucial for sustained brain energy. Sodium, potassium,
and calcium are also important in the thinking process as they facilitate
the transmission of neurochemical messages in the brain. An easy
way to get most of your important vitamins and minerals is to simply
take a multivitamin each day.
The final key
component in maintaining a healthy and efficient brain is also the
most simplest and most readily available: water. Studies have shown
that the vast majority of adults do not consume enough water daily
and the consequences can be severe. Even mildly dehydration decreases
your mental energy significantly, impairing memory and cognitive
function. In fact, as little as a 2% drop in body water can cause
faulty short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty
focusing on a computer screen or on a printed page for more than
a few seconds at a time. To stay properly hydrated, try to drink
at least three liters of water per day.
With all of
this in mind, here are a few night-before-the test dinner, and before-the-test
– omega-3 fatty fish (or lean meat)
with spinach or broccoli, and potatoes or a few pieces of whole
grain bread. Remember to drink plenty of water!
Try to have
your dinner at least two to three hours before you go to bed to
ensure a good nights sleep without an overly full stomach.
– eggs, oatmeal (or whole grain
cereal, or a piece of wheat toast with peanut butter), and fresh
fruit or juice.
of coffee or other caffeinated drinks before the test as they tend
to have the same detrimental effects as sugar, with unpredictable
boosts of energy/jitters followed by crashes and fatigue.
disaster by eating for your brain for at least a few days leading
up to the test so you’re sure that you won’t have any
unpleasant reactions to foods that you may not normally consume.
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