Best and Worst Brain Foods (Part B)
Eat This, Not That
If you want to make the right decisions in confusing times—Time to refinance? Explore a different career? Root for the singing spinster or the 12-year-old?—you need to pay special attention to what you eat. That’s right: Your grocery list can help with your to-do list. That’s because the right foods are a kind of clean-burning fuel for your body’s biggest energy hog: Your brain. A study in the Journal of Physiology makes the point that, though your brain represents only 2 percent of your body weight
, it makes 20 percent of the energy demands on your resting metabolism.
On our new Eat This, Not That! we rounded up the best foods to munch on when you need a mental boost—and found studies that show, in fact, that you can be up to 200 percent more productive if you make the right eating choices. Stock up on these items to halt mental decline, jog your memory, sharpen your senses, improve your performance, activate your feel-good hormones, and protect your quick-witted sharpness, whether you’re 15, 40—or not admitting to any age whatsoever!
1. TO ENERGIZE:Eat This!: HIGH-PROTEIN SALAD WITH VINAIGRETTE
The oil in the dressing will help slow down digestion of protein and carbs in the salad, stabilizing blood-sugar levels and keeping energy levels high.
Build your salad on a bed of romaine and spinach for an added boost in riboflavin, and add chicken and a hard-boiled egg for more energizing protein.
Not That!: PANCAKES OR BAGELS
MIT researchers analyzed blood samples from a group of people who had eaten either a high-protein or a high-carbohydrate breakfast. Two hours after eating, the carb eaters had tryptophan levels four times higher than those of the people who had eaten protein. The tryptophan in turkey is one of the reasons you crawl off for an afternoon nap after Thanksgiving dinner. So watch what you gobble.
2. TO CALM DOWN:Eat This!: LOW-FAT YOGURT OR MIXED NUTS
Scientists in Slovakia gave people 3 grams each of two amino acids—lysine and arginine—or a placebo, and asked them to deliver a speech. Blood measurements of stress hormones revealed that the amino acid-fortified guys were half as anxious during and after the speech as those who took the placebo.
Yogurt is one of the best food sources of lysine; nuts pack loads of arginine.
Not That!: SODA
A study from the American Journal of Public Health found that people who drink 2½ cans of soda daily are three times more likely to be depressed and anxious, compared with those who drink fewer. So Mountain Dew is a Mental Don’t.
3. TO CONCENTRATEEat This!: PEPPERMINT TEA
The scent of peppermint helps you focus and boosts performance, according to researchers. Need to reach Chicago before nightfall, and you’re stuck in traffic around Cleveland?
One study found that peppermint makes drivers more alert and less anxious.
Not That!: CANDY
Sugary foods incite sudden surges of glucose that, in the long term, cause sugar highs and lows, leading to a fuzzy state of mind. So you’ll need to avoid all the attention-busting sugar bombs.
4. FOR GOOD MOODS AND GRINSEat This! ARUGULA OR SPINACH SALAD
Leafy greens—arugula, chard, spinach—are rich sources of B vitamins, which are key components on the assembly line that manufactures feel-good hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
According to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience Nursing, a lack of B6 can cause nervousness, irritability, and even depression.
Not That!: WHITE CHOCOLATE
White chocolate isn’t chocolate at all, since it contains no cocoa solids. So it won’t stimulate the euphoria-inducing mood boosters like serotonin, as real chocolate does. Grab the real thing, the darker the better. More cacao means more happy chemicals and less sugar, which will eventually pull you down.
5. FOR SHARPER SENSESEat This!: 1 TBSP OF GROUND FLAXSEED DAILY
Flax is the best source of alphalinoleic, or ALA—a healthy fat that improves the workings of the cerebral cortex, the area of the brain that processes sensory information.
To meet your quota, sprinkle it on salads or mix it into a smoothie or shake.
Not That!: ALCOHOL
This one’s obvious, but worth mentioning anyway. A drink or two can increase arousal signals, but more than that will actually depress your nervous system. This makes you sloppy, not sharp.
Author: by David Zinczenko, with Matt Goulding
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