If you suffer from the dreaded ‘threethirtyitis’, or just feel unmotivated and moody at work, Nutritionist Zoe Bingley-Pullin can help you get back on track. She reveals the brain-boosting foods to keep you alert and happy all day long, five days a week.
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Believe it or not, but your brain is directly affected by what you eat.
The brain is the enlarged and highly developed mass of nerve tissue that forms the upper end of the Central Nervous System (CNS). The foods you eat can have an overall affect on your brain, in turn, influencing your mood.
Mood swings can be a result of sudden change in blood sugar levels, caused by eating a diet high in sweet foods and refined sugars.
To alleviate mood swings, avoid a diet high in simple carbohydrates, sugar, flour, rice, pasta and white or wholemeal bread. Instead, eat foods that are high in complex carbohydrates, such as fruit, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds.
The brain is 70 per cent fat; therefore, it is extremely important to maintain a healthy balance of fats in the diet.
Supplements containing fish oil and flaxseed oil can help maintain the brain’s healthy fat levels. These essential fatty acids (EFAs) have also been proven to help increase energy levels, induce deeper sleep, improve your sense of physical and psychological wellbeing (mood), increase your sense of relaxation, and improve your ability to deal with stressful situations.
EFAs also affect the nervous system, helping to induce a feeling of calmness. It is, therefore, possible to eat your way to a calmer you, simply by increasing your consumption of fish, nuts, seeds, avocados and flaxseed oil, or by taking a fish oil supplement (approximately two per day).
Selenium is a very high antioxidant that can also decrease anxiety and enhance your mood. Try supplementing 100mcg of selenium for a five-week period, and you are bound to notice a distinct improvement in your mood.
Brazil nuts are the best known food source of selenium, but if you’re not a nut fan, try eating more barley, full-grain bread, mushrooms, chicken, tuna, garlic or tomatoes.
Are you Vitamin B1 deficient?
Poor mood has also been commonly found in people with a vitamin B1 deficiency, so if you are finding yourself feeling a little cranky, try increasing your intake of vitamin B1; taking 50mg per day for two months should help to elevate mood.
In women, additional side effects of an increased B1 intake have included greater feelings of clear-headedness, composure and energy.
Common food sources of vitamin B1 (e.g., thiamine) include Brewer’s yeast, liver, mackerel, kidneys, beef, all nuts and miso.
Eat your way to happiness at work
Glutamic acid is the most abundant amino acid in the brain and functions as a stimulatory neurotransmitter, which means it ‘excites’ almost all the neurons within the brain, as well as accelerating ‘communication’ between neurons.
Glutamic acid can be found in fennel, wheat, bee pollen, garlic and wakame (a flat sea vegetable). Japanese diets are typically very high in glutamic acid.
The five key rules:
1. Enjoy eating: If you look at history, celebration is always done around eating. Unfortunately in society we like eating on the run. Food should always be enjoyed and celebrated even if you are eating the wrong foods, as often this will stop you reaching for the wrong food again.
2. Keep your fluids high: your body requires approx. 2L of water sipped through the day. Keep a jug of water on your desk, and try adding fresh strawberries and a slice of ginger to make it more interesting.
3. Five meals per day at the correct times: this will help to stabilise your blood sugar levels, no 3.30pm lows and stop you overeating.
4. Don’t starve yourself but don’t over indulge; your brain is hardwired to consume high calorie foods if you are starving it. This is part of the body’s survival mechanism.
5. Do a small amount of activity every day; move your body, baby! Most of us are so inactive especially throughout the day so make sure you do something everyday even if is a 20-minute walk each morning.
Zoe Bingley-Pullin’s Sample Eating Plan for Optimal Brain Health:
Untoasted, organic muesli with 2 tablespoons of natural yoghurt, and a small amount of dried fruit, banana and fresh strawberries.
Miso soup with fresh coriander and shallots.
Mixed salad with vegetables and a small amount of avocado and sardine. Make a dressing using flaxseed oil, lemon juice and herbs.
Raw, unsalted nuts and seeds, such as Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and almonds.
Skinless chicken breast marinated in olive oil and lemon juiced, with roasted Italian vegetables, such as red and green capsicum, Spanish onion, mushrooms, fennel, zucchini, whole garlic and cooked with a little olive oil, sea salt and thyme.
A very small bowl of frozen berries and a pinch of cinnamon.