You have an endless to-do list but are stuck in a midday energy slump? Energy drinks, performance shakes or the latest supplements, there are a multitude of products that promise to fuel your mental performance (usually for a substantial price tag). But surely there are naturally occurring foods that have a similar effect and can boost our performance? Correct! What foods are suitable you’ll find out below.
Contents of this article:
- Brain Food – What is it exactly?
- How does our brain work
- Which macro und micronutrients does our brain need?
- Brain Food = healthy eating?
- You should avoid these foods
- Brain Food — Our top 7 foods
Brain Food – What is it exactly?
Brain food is a marketing term, suggesting that certain foods will boost your mental performance and capacity. These could be shakes, pills or supplements that give you short term assistance, help you focus or improve your ability to process information faster. This works because these miracle substances contain nutrients that are optimal for brain function. However, these nutrients can also be found in everyday foods.
How does our brain work?
Did you know that our brain is responsible for about 20% of our energy expenditure? Thats quite a substantial amount and needs to be supplied to the body in the form of food. What foods do we typically select when we’re stressed or need a quick increase in energy? Sugar. Our favourite food to calm the nerves. After we consume a sugary food like chocolate, our blood sugar levels spike. This supplies our brain with a lot of energy to improve performance. Unfortunately, this energy source is rather short lived, and soon we notice an energy crash. The consequence? We feel tired, fatigued and struggle to concentrate. A vicious cycle that we need to break. This can be done by eating balanced and nutritious meals, snacks and drinks. This helps manage your blood sugar levels and keep your brain performance at an optimal level.
Which macro and micronutrients does our brain need?
Our brain functions best if it is supplied with a good amount of liquids, nutrients and trace elements. A balanced diet plays a crucial role here. Complex carbohydrates (e.g. oats, whole grains, fruit and vegetables) are key energy providers. When carbohydrates are broken down, glucose is created which supplies our brain with energy. The amino acids found in protein (e.g. tofu) serve as important messengers; these hormones or neurotransmitters transport valuable information between nerve cells, the brain and the rest of the body. Omega-3 fatty acids are also very important for optimal mental performance, but since we cannot produce them ourselves, we have to consume them in the form of food (e.g. avocado, nuts).
What about micronutrients? There are important vitamins, minerals and trace elements that you need.
- Vitamin C protects you from free radicals and oxidative stress. Both can damage our brain cells.
- B-Vitamins are necessary for the metabolism of nerves, energy and the brain and for the formation of neurotransmitters and new nerve pathways.
- Magnesium not only expands our arteries, and therefore improves blood circulation, but it also prevents excessive formation of stress hormones and helps regulate nerve function
Last but not least, don’t forget to drink. Our brain cells require enough liquids and nutrients for optimal function. Did you know that every day we lose water through natural bodily processes (e.g. sweating) and even while we sleep? No wonder that we’re thirsty when we wake up or after a workout. The feeling of thirst is a warning signal from the body that we need more water. Only when we’re sufficiently hydrated, can our blood be circulated faster and therefore supply our body with the oxygen and nutrients that it needs. First things first: before you have breakfast, drink a glass of warm water. This helps transport the nutrients where they need to be. Read more about a balanced diet and start your healthier lifestyle today!
Brain Food = Healthy eating?
In short, yes. A balanced diet, involving a combination of complex carbohydrates, proteins and unsaturated fats, supplies not only your body but also your brain with what it needs. The different macro and micronutrients can be absorbed through different foods. The only exception being Vitamin B12, this can only be supplied through animal products or supplements. The foods you select should be as unprocessed as possible, otherwise they are high in salt, sugar, fat and chemicals.
You’re on the lookout for healthy recipes that get your brain going? You don’t need to overthink it, the right combination will suffice. Start your day with wholegrain bread, cream cheese, avocado and tomatoes. For lunch you can whip up a quick sweet potato curry or a colourful vegetable-rice mix. For dinner, a creamy broccoli soup or a salmon or tofu fillet with spinach and whole grains. Don’t feel like cooking at all? Every. has you covered it? Discover our entire range of nutritious, ready-made meals. Full of high quality, healthy ingredients to get you powered through the day.
You should avoid these foods
There are foods that boost brain performance and others that do the exact opposite? Unfortunately, yes. And it starts with your morning cup of coffee. Do you enjoy a regular coffee to keep you energised throughout the day? The occasional coffee is no problem, but overconsumption of coffee can cause an excessive amount of adrenaline in your system. This causes a higher heart rate and blood pressure. We also tend to be more agitated and our thought processes slow down. In other words, if we have too much adrenaline, then we struggle to concentrate. Did you know that adrenaline is classified as a stress hormone? Adrenaline is typically released to deal with life threatening situations, arguably less relevant for day-to-day work with excel sheets or drafting of PR texts.
Consuming too many carbohydrates such as white flour or refined sugar also isn't helpful. These simple carbohydrates cause a spike in blood sugar, followed by an energy slump. Simultaneously, the body releases insulin to absorb the sugar in your blood. This in turn causes feelings of fatigue and concentration problems So exactly what we're trying to avoid.
Brain Food – Our top 7 foods
We’ve outlined which foods are the best for optimal brain function, so that you’re well equipped for your next shopping trip:
- Nuts. Walnuts, cashews and co are full of b-Vitamins, Vitamin E, minerals and unsaturated fats.
- Dark Berries. Blackberries, blueberries and elderflower berries are high in Vitamin C which has antioxidant properties and protects against oxidative stress.
- Avocados. Are rich in B-Vitamins (including Vitamin B1, also known as the nerve vitamin), omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants.
- Plant-Based Foods. Vegetables, fruits and legumes are rich in Vitamins and minerals, which protect our cells. They are also important messengers which positively influence concentration.
- Complex Carbohydrates. Whole grains, oats and co are slowly absorbed by the blood and supply the brain with energy for longer periods.
- Fish. Salmon, Mackerel and Co contain healthy omega 3 fatty acids which are an important building block for brain structure and function.
- Bananas. We’ve already mentioned fruit, but bananas specifically are a real power fruit for the brain. They are rich in potassium and magnesium, which helps reduce stress and improves concentration abilities. In addition, they contain the amino acid tryptophan which helps form the happy hormone serotonin. Bananas therefore not only help you to think faster, but they also improve happiness.
In conclusion, the term ‘brain food’ refers to foods that positively influence our brain activity. Shakes, pills and supplements often contain natural substances that can be found in food and don't come with a hefty price tag. A balanced, nutritious diet and enough liquids are already a great start to guarantee optimal brain function.
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