Boosting Your Brain Power through Diet and Nutrition (I)
Mandy Lau, HK BioTek Nutritionist
Have you ever felt hungry again shortly after your meal or felt grumpy even after breakfast? These might reflect that you are not having the right diet to sustain your daily performance proficiently. Diet and nutrition are believed to play a significant role, not just in your physical health, but also your cognitive health. Therefore, choosing the right food could substantially boost your concentration, productivity, creativity, and memory.
Choosing the Right Fuel
Glucose is the primary fuel for our brain cells to support normal functionality. It comes from the breakdown of carbohydrates consumed in our diet. Adequate supply of sugar is crucial, yet over dosage could be undesirable for brain functions. If we consume too much carbs in a meal, our body would regulate by secreting more insulin to suppress the dramatic rise of blood sugar. Frequent consumption of high carb meals creates fluctuations in blood sugar, leading to recurring fatigue and hunger throughout the day. It also explains why you would feel hungry and grumpy shortly after meals.
To ensure the right amount of sugar supply in your body, you could consider the concept of Glycemic Index (in short, GI) when choosing your food. GI measures the impact of food on blood sugar. Low GI food could breakdown controllably and slowly in the body and so it could release energy stably for a longer period. Therefore, consuming low GI food not only stabilizes the sugar supply and insulin secretion, but also increases satiety and productivity.
How to choose foods by low GI Principles?
Whole grains, not white carbs
Fresh fruits, not fruit juice
No added refined sugar
Adding Smart Fat
Many people tend to believe that fat is bad for health. In fact, approximately 60 percent of our brain matter is made of fat, thus moderate supply of fat is essential to maintain brain functions. Not just quantity, quality also acts as a determinant: when you load your diet with bad fat, you can only produce low quality nerve cells in return. When your diet is loaded with good fat, you can then produce well-nourished nerve cells with maximized capacity to function. The type and composition of fat should not be overlooked in a well-balanced diet.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are both the essential fatty acids for our body. They could not be synthesized by our body, so we must get them from diet. In the past century, large amounts of processed vegetable oil, which are high in omega-6 fatty acid, were globally used. Studies found that the modern consumption of omega-6 is 15- to 20- fold greater than that of omega-3, reflecting that omega-3 is highly insufficient in our diet! Such an imbalanced ratio is believed to be pro-inflammatory and damage cell functioning. Omega-3 fatty acid is also found to play a significant role in signal transmission for various cognitive functions. Therefore, to restore a healthy ratio, it is advisable to increase the dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acid, through oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, saury, sardines and etc.), nuts and seeds (such as walnut, flaxseed, chia seed and etc.) and their oil products, dark green vegetables, algae, and kelp.
Stay tuned for other brain-boosting tips!