Enhancing Mental Performance
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|Some of us care more for sports than academics, while others care more about their report cards than varsity sweaters. In this section, we shall look into various ways food can affect our minds. However, one should not forget that body and mind are inextricably linked. What helps one often assists the other; what hurts one often hinders the other.|
The food you eat affects your body, and that includes your brain. You need good nutrition for your brain to receive nourishment. Only then your brain will receive a regular healthy supply of blood and oxygen, and your brain powers will be in prime condition. We have some tips on what to eat and drink and what not to eat and drink in order to make your brain more powerful.
|Pro-Brain Food||Anti-Brain Food|
Coffee and Tea
a meal abundant in complex carbohydrates
Chomp on plenty of complex carbohydrate snacks before the intellectual event
Have foods with low glycemic indexes
Take a high protein snack an hour or two before the mental event
Eat poultry if you would like to have meat dishes
Drink an adequate amount of water
foods with lots of simple carbohydrates
Consume items high in fat or sugar
Eat foods high in glycemic indexes
Eat meats like pork, beef and turkey
Eat processed sugar
The food you eat affects your body, and that includes your brain. You need good nutrition for your brain to receive nourishment. Only then will your brain receive a regular healthy supply of blood and oxygen, and your brain powers will be in prime condition. We have some tips on what to eat and drink and what not to eat and drink in order to make your brain more powerful.
Water Water is a main component in the human body and makes up more than two-thirds of the body. It facilitates communication within the brain and the central nervous system because it is an efficient conductor of electrical and chemical energy. Drinking an adequate amount of water each day will keep you alert and is supposed to help you improve your memory. It is best to drink water at room temperature, in small doses, throughout the day.
Fish Fish provides us with the ingredients which help in the development of human intelligence and genius. The flesh and oils from cold-water fish are good for the brain. Avoid shellfish, however. Some cold-water fish include: salmon, tuna, mackerel, anchovy, lake trout, bluefish, and herring.
Shellfish Shellfish may contain oceanic toxins and pollutants, and it is best to keep clear of them.
Meat Meat can take quite some time to digest. Pork and beef take the longest time to digest, and turkey inherently contains a chemical which makes you feel sleepy. If you are to stay alert after a meal, with your concentration at peak level, it is best not to eat them. Take chicken instead. Meat can also contain synthetic chemicals. Wild meat and game are free from synthetic chemicals, and can be very good.
Processed Sugar (White or Brown) Processed sugar and products made from it are harmful for a persons memory. The immune system is weakened, as the ability to resist and fight infection is greatly reduced. When you take processed sugar, insulin in the blood is churned up, the pancreas goes wild, and a sugar rush occurs. This results in "high highs" followed by a "crash" which leads to depression. Your ability to focus and your memory will suffer. Sugar in natural form is either labeled molasses or muscovado, and it can be found naturally in fruits.
Coffee and Tea If you drink coffee to keep awake for an examination, you may have to think twice. Drinking several cups of coffee and tea a day will have a diuretic effect where essential minerals like potassium, magnesium and calcium are flushed out of ones system. Caffeine, the stimulant that keeps you awake, is known to raise blood pressure, and can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke. Consistently high blood pressure can do great harm to the brain, heart and kidneys.
Soft Drinks These drinks contain a lot of processed sugar, and a regular high intake can lead to hypoglycemia or Attention Deficit Disorder. The latter is an affliction that has struck numerous children who are inherently bright, but unable to maintain concentration in the classroom. Water and fresh fruit or vegetable drinks are desirable alternatives to soft drinks.
Alcohol Alcohol, unless taken in moderation, ravages the brain cells and impedes the immune system. When the immune system is not allowed to function properly, a persons ability to recall information can be adversely affected.
Brain or Brawn?
Your brain uses glucose as the primary source of energy. As blood begins to fall in the hours following your last meal or snack, your mind will begin to fatigue. Hunger sets in, and stimulates you to seek food. If you ignore this symptom and your recent meal also does not include a lot of protein, your body must rob its own protein stores to obtain amino acids, which means breaking down its own muscles. This is the last thing that an athlete needs --- destroy the muscle to feed the brain. Hence, if you want to retain both brain and brawn, remember to consume an adequate supply of complex carbohydrates to spare your muscle protein from becoming a "meal" for your mind.
Eating a meal abundant in complex carbohydrates enriches the brain with a vital supply of ready energy. Foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole-grain products will put the brain in a better state to concentrate and work effectively. Simple carbohydrate snacks like candy and soda may provide quick energy surges, but the drop in blood sugar that follows could harm performance.
We shall now learn about glycemic index, which refers to the release rate of glucose into the body system following ingestion of a carbohydrate food. The reference point is arbitrarily set for a glucose release rate of white bread at 100. Foods with glycemic indexes higher than 100 produce a faster surge and fall in blood sugar, which usually drags down performance. Foods with numbers lower than 100 produce a slower, steadier release of energy without resulting in the sudden peaks and valleys in blood sugar levels. They hold off hunger's weakness and distractibility longer and are certainly ideal before a long mental event. Click here for a table of glycemic indices of various foods.
Let's look into a very important constituent --- protein. Protein is found to be helpful in keeping your mind sharp and alert under pressure. Therefore, make sure you get a reasonable amount of protein in your meal before a challenging mental event. However, don't overdo the intake! If for some reason you can't get enough protein in a meal, you can also take a high protein snack an hour or two before a mental event.
This page has been authored for participation in
the 1997 Thinkquest Competition.