How often do you forget where you have put the cellphone? Rather than blaming your dwindling memory on age, or a busy lifestyle, take a look at your diet. What you eat affects the clarity of your thoughts and level of concentration, your intelligence level, memory, reaction time and even how quickly your brain ages.
Have a good breakfast
Though the brain makes up only two percent of total body weight, it uses up to 30 percent of the day’s calories. Since the brain burns the fuel even while we sleep, eating breakfast is the best way to restock fuel stores and prevent a mental fatigue later in the day. After two to three weeks of adding a substantial breakfast to your daily routine, you should notice a gain in energy and mental power, especially if the meal includes a fruit, a cereal (parantha/ dalia/ uppama) and a proteinrich source (milk, egg, yoghurt, paneer, sprouts).
Spread the food into mini-meals
Spread the food intake among four to six mini-meals and snacks, evenly distributed throughout the day. Keep these meals light. Avoid high-fat or big meals that divert the blood supply to the digestive tract and away from the brain, causing sluggishness and fatigue.
Stay off the crash diets
Crash diets do more than deprive you of calories; they make your brain sluggish. Research has shown that women on very low- calorie diets process information more slowly, take longer to react and have more trouble remembering sequences compared with non-dieting women. In contrast, losing weight the good old-fashioned way – a gradual weight loss of no more than a kilo a week – allows you to lose fat, not muscle, keeps it off, and stay clear-headed in the process.
Limit tea and coffee
A cup of coffee helps you think and work faster and more efficiently. But too much has adverse effects. Caffeine lingers in the system for up to 15 hours. A cup of coffee or cola taken in the mid-afternoon could disrupt sleep at 10 p.m., resulting in mental
fatigue and poor judgment the next day. Coffee and tea contain compounds called tannins that reduce other brain-boosting nutrients, such as iron, by up to 75%. Limit your coffee and tea intake to three cups or less each day, drinking them between meals.
Increase the iron intake
Iron helps carry oxygen to the tissues, including the brain. When iron levels drop, tissues are starved for oxygen, resulting in fatigue, memory loss, poor concentration, lack of motivation, shortened attention span and reduced work performance. Menstruating women need at least 15 milligrams of iron daily, yet many consume 10 milligrams or less.
Eat more iron-rich foods, including beans and peas, dark green leafy vegetables and dried apricots. Cook in iron pots. The iron will leach out of the pot into the food, raising its iron content. Drink vitamin C-rich (lime, lemon, orange, grapefruit) juices to boost iron absorption.
Boost the Bs
Inadequate intake of any B vitamin, including vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12 and folic acid, literally starves the brain of energy and leads to confusion, irritability, and impaired thinking, concentration, memory, reaction time and mental clarity. To boost the Bs, include several daily servings of B-rich foods, including toned milk and yoghurt, bananas, whole grains, sprouts, beans and peas.
Stock up on antioxidants
The brain consumes more oxygen than any other body tissue. This exposes the brain to a huge daily dose of free radicals, by-products of oxygen usage that attack and damage brain cells. After decades, the wear and tear of free-radical attacks can contribute to the gradual loss of memory and thinking, an effect associated with ageing. Fortunately, the body has an anti free radical army consisting of antioxidant nutrients, which include vitamins C and E. This dietary militia deactivates the free radicals.
To keep your antioxidant defences strong, consume at least five but preferably nine servings of the following foods each day: orange juice, strawberries, carrots, spinach, and dark-coloured fresh fruit and vegetables.
Eating well is important, not just for your physical health but mental health as well. Make sure you get enough of the right nutrients to support a healthy lifestyle.