Other than getting a good night’s sleep, there’s probably no other thing that impacts your productivity and mood at work more than what you eat. Yet you probably give little thought to what you consume before and during work, defaulting instead to what’s convenient, cheap, and tasty. And when you do think twice about what you eat, it’s usually in the context of a diet that’s focused on losing weight rather than improving your cognitive functioning and energy levels. Fortunately, there are a few basic food rules that go a long way towards achieving these latter goals. Here are the best of them.
Things you will need:
* A new food attitude: Carbs are not the enemy. Neither is fat. Eliminating certain food groups may help your waistline, but it will hurt your brain functioning.
* A stash of snacks: To keep your brain well fueled, you can’t let yourself get too hungry. Have a ready supply of trail mix, peanut-butter crackers, or Snickers bars at work. The combination of carbs and protein in these snacks will stabilize your blood sugar, fill you up, and keep you energized.
* Some willpower: Big meals actually reduce the supply of energy to your brain and leave you feeling sleepy for hours. Eat half of what you order, and take the rest home.
1. Balance What You Eat, Whenever You Eat
In 1956, the United States Department of Agriculture produced its “Basic Four” guide promoting the daily consumption of foods from four main groups — meat, dairy, grains, and vegetables. But today, nutritionists talk about a different set of food groups —proteins, carbohydrates (which produce glucose), fats, and fiber — and a different way to combine them. Instead of having a few helpings from each group every day, they recommend having something from each of the four groups every time you sit down to eat. And, yes, that includes carbs, which certain popular diets restrict. Why? Because the combination of carbs and protein (and to a lesser extent, fats and fiber) regulates your glucose levels and keeps your mood and mental ability on an even keel.
Moreover, each food group brings unique brain-boosting benefits to the table. “Research suggests that meals with more protein and fats are associated with better-sustained attention, focus, and concentration,” says Tufts research psychologist Kristen D’Anci. “Meals that have a higher carbohydrate content seem to be more calming and have fairly consistent positive effects with memory.” Cut back on either group and you’re missing half the benefits that food can offer.