Great part of our brain is composed by fat, followed then by protein, micronutrients and carbs (please see the post on “sugar coma” to learn more about glucose and other types of sugar). Each one of these nutrients has a specific function in our organism. For instances:
- “healthy” fat (e.g. omega 3 & 6) protects our cells,
- protein maintains and rebuilds tissue,
- micronutrients facilitate the communication between cells, and
- glucose provides the necessary energy so our cells can do their work properly
We usually think about food and its effect on our body as separate from the way we feel, think and behave, but what we eat affects enormously our brain’s function and therefore our emotions, cognitive abilities and actions. Hence, what we eat also impacts how we work and the fact that you may feel sleepy ater lunch or alert at night might well be a result of your daily eating habits (please see the post on “sugar coma” to know more about this), because it’s the great diversity of food-nutrient combinations that allows our body and mind to function as they do.
Knowing this, then you want to know what combinations are better or more suitable to enhance your psychology and therefore your performance as a whole-functioning human being. So let’s see in more detail the impact of each nutrient in our performance.
Fat is the number one nutrient of our brain’s composition. Nonetheless, just like there are different types of sugar there are also different types of fat, each with a specific function and potential effect. When thinking and designing your meals to make the most of your performance at work you want to invest in “healthy fats” or fatty acids which are present in higher doses in foods such as nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like sardines, salmon, and tuna. This type of fat participates in the creation and maintenance of our celular membranes and therefore is essential to keep our brain cells working in perfect condition. The “unhealthy fats”, present in foods such as pizza, cake, and french fries, and when over-consumed though can compromise the healthy maintenance of our body and even block many important communication channels between cells.
Proteins are big agglomerates of amino acids, which are very important for cellular communication. They are also the building blocks of many neurotransmitters which in turn are responsible for how we feel and what we do. Neurotransmitters regulate our mood, sleep, and attention, just to mention a few of the processes that are essential to our performance at work. Hence, you don’t want to eliminate protein from your diet.
They are indeed micro but not least important. Micronutrients participate and help in many of the processes mentioned above. Iron, zinc, magnesium and all sorts of vitamines are crucial to keep our mind and body healthy. The reason why it’s so important to consume a great amount of vegetables and greens is exactly because such foods are very rich in micronutrients.
Again, this is another nutrient that you don’t want to take out of your meals. However, you do need to learn which carbohydrates are better for your health and performance. Carbs are to our body like gasoline is to a car. Carbs are the fuel of every cell process. They are the source of energy that allows us to function and our brain actually consumes 20% of our overall energy. If you go without carbs, you go without energy. But again: different carbohydrates have different effects in our system. To make it easier, let’s say there are three types of carbs: starch, sugar, and fibre. Of course these three types of carbs come all together in our food but here’s why it’s so important to know how to read nutritional labels: the ratio between these three types of carbs varies from food to food. For instances, a cake has carbs, but the proportion of sugar is far greater when comparing to its starch and fibre content. Therefore, you want to choose carbs that are higher in fibre and starch than in sugar. This is also why we have food with different glycemic index (GI). For instances: white flour bread has a very high GI and even though it will quickly boost your energy but it will also lower your mood and attention after a few minutes, whereas integral bread has a lower GI and therefore will help your body to release and produce energy over time without making your system “crash”.