Being able to remain sharp and focused throughout the day has become even more of a challenge as the way we work shifted throughout the pandemic.
At rest, the brain uses up about 20-25% of our daily energy needs just to keep us alive, breathing, digesting, and maintaining our body temperature. If you are interested in how much more the brain can consume when at work, here is a fascinating story on how elite chess players can burn up to 6,000 calories a day during a tournament without leaving their seats by ESPN.
It is no wonder if your brain isn't getting enough of what it needs, you may suffer from memory loss, concentration, moodiness, fatigue, and very likely other health problems.
Lucky for us, we now know there are multiple ways to help boost our brain health. Alongside getting sufficient sleep, managing stress levels, and exercising, how we eat is one of the pillars for optimal concentration and mood.
1. Keep Your Brain Hydrated
On average, up to 60% of an adult's body is water, and the brain is 80-85% water. All brain functions and the production of neurotransmitters and hormones depend on water. Brain fog, irritability, blurred vision, inability to concentrate are all signs of dehydration.
This 2013 paper found that supplementing individuals that were thirsty with water helped them improve response time to the same level as individuals that were not thirsty. In other words, by the time we feel the thirst, our response time is already compromised.
The amount of water you need will depend on gender, age, activity level. An easy way to start is to set up some habits such as having a glass of water:
• When you wake up
• In between every work call
• Every time you take a bathroom break
• Before a meal
2. Check the List: Green Leafy, Berries, Avocado, Eggs, Liver, and Nuts
Flavonoid, vitamin B's/C/D/E/K, calcium, zinc, selenium, iron, copper, iron, and choline are all nutrients that are found to be associated with improving or protecting cognition.
The good news is, you won't have to go around hunting for each nutrient in foods. Green leafy vegetables, berries, avocado, and nuts, particularly walnuts, which are also high in omega-3 fats, are full of these nutrients.
Choline, vitamin D, and B12 can be found in egg yolk, liver, beef, and shellfish. Make sure you don't single out specific foods and always include a variety in your day.
3. Up the Right Fats
Omega-3 is the most studied nutrient, amongst all, for heart and brain functions. Omega-3 DHA is a component in every cell in the body and is at least 90% of the omega-3 fats in the brain.
Low levels of omega-3 in the body have been associated with increased risks of attention deficit disorder, depression, dementia, etc. Since our body can't make enough DHA for our needs, we rely on our dietary intake - food.
Foods high in omega-3 foods usually contain fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K. Salmon is not the only source: trout, tuna, sardines, mackerel, cod liver, anchovies, shellfish, seaweed/kelp, grass-fed meat, and seeds like flax and chia. Raw oyster, for example, is high in omega-3, as well as zinc, copper and vitamin B12.
It is essential to remember that what we eat impacts our immediate ability to focus and long-term brain health. We covered some principles in choosing foods to help you think better; try incorporating these ideas and see how you feel.