British nutritionist and writer Patrick Holford is a supporter of using food as medicine. He argues that foods can affect mood, behaviour and most importantly, brain functions. Thus, adopting healthy eating habits may contribute to an improvement in brain health and cognitive abilities.
As such, here are six healthy eating habits that can be adopted to boost one’s brain health for better concentration and focus at work.
1. Always have breakfast
Breakfast is often hailed as the most important meal of the day. An investigation by Otsuka Pharmaceutical revealed that upon consuming breakfast, feelings of fatigue were significantly lower, while concentration levels and mental arithmetic output increased throughout the day.
However, simple carbohydrates such as sugary cereals may result in blood sugar surges that cause a midday slump should be avoided. Consuming complex carbohydrates such as oatmeal, which are often rich in fibre, would ensure long-lasting energy.
Opting for wholegrain is also a great breakfast choice also because of its low glycaemic index. Such foods release glucose into the bloodstream slowly, allowing for a steady supply of energy throughout the day.
Rather than having to fuss over breakfast while being pressed for time in the morning, a great tip would be to prepare breakfast the night before. Overnight oats in mason jars can be stored in the refrigerator overnight and are portable for the journey to work.
2. Foods that are high in omega-3
Consuming foods that are rich in omega-3 is central in achieving a healthy diet as they are essential fats that our bodies require but cannot produce on its own.
In particular, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid, is crucial for cognitive development and functions. DHA may be widely recognised as essential for brain development in infants, but research suggests that consuming DHA sources improves memory and prevents cognitive decline in older adults.
Sources include fish such as salmon and sardine that are one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids while being low in mercury content, as well as seeds such as flax and chia.
3. Foods that are high in vitamin B
Vitamin B facilitates the body’s process of converting carbohydrates into glucose for energy. However, vitamin B is also known to slow brain shrinkage, specifically in regions of the brain most impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline.
More specifically, a lack of concentration or short-term memory loss can be a symptom of B6 vitamin deficiency, as the vitamin facilitates the production of several neurotransmitters within the body.
Vitamin B may be readily consumed via B-complex supplements, although it is also present in a wide range of foods which means that it can be easily incorporated into the everyday diet. Sources include poultry, fish, dairy and dark leafy greens.
4. Foods that are high in antioxidantsDue to its high metabolic load and high levels of oxidisable material, the brain is highly vulnerable to oxidative damage. Foods that are high in antioxidants, hence, have positive effects on brain function.
Research from Surrey University revealed that participants who consumed a blueberry smoothie helped maintain levels of concentration and performance five hours later. In comparison, those who consumed a smoothie with the same amount of sugars and calories without blueberries saw a decline in mental power.
Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries contain flavonoids that stimulate blood and oxygen flow to the brain. Consuming these foods as a midday snack is thereby a great way to prevent the afternoon slump.
5. Stay hydrated
Headaches experienced by working professionals may be attributed to fatigue or stress, but it may also be due to a lack of water consumption. Dehydration headaches occur as a result of the shrinkage in brain volume, triggering pain when the brain pulls away from the skull.
The impact of dehydration on mental performance was uncovered by researchers from the University of East London, where participants who quenched their thirst with a pint of water had reaction times 14% faster on mental tasks than those who did not have a drink.
However, drinking water is not the only way to address dehydration. Foods such as grapefruit, watermelon, lettuce and cucumber have over 90% water content, and also contain essential nutrients and electrolytes for optimal brain functioning.
A great way to combine the benefits of these foods and water would be to prepare flavour-packed infused water. MIMS
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