You are what you eat! More importantly, you are what you think because of what you eat.
There is significant research about the importance of diet in the functioning of our brain. We have known for some time about the importance of Omega 3 fats and that we should eat more oily fish, but do you know what it is all about, really?
More than that, it is also about the effects foods have on our behaviour. Research indicates significant improvements for people who suffer from ADHD, depression, schizophrenia and so on, from simply changing their diet.
There are 5 essential foods needed to tune your brain:
Glucose – in the right amounts is the fuel which drives your brain. Eat low G.I carbohydrates, such as wholemeal and grain breads; 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables every day; rice, corn, oats. Avoid foods with added sugar. Combine protein with carbohydrate in your meals. (e.g pasta with fish)
Essential Fats – needed for the transmission of information in the brain. Eat raw nuts and seeds; seeded bread; muesli; fish, such as mackerel, salmon and other cold water carnivorous fish, 3 times per week. Avoid fried foods and saturated fats. Take Omega 3 and Omega 6 supplements.
Phospholipids – help us to remember better by enabling a “smooth run” for signals in the brain. Eat eggs; lecithin; cereals.
Amino acids – help send the brain’s messages. Eat “good” proteins, such as lean chicken, lentils, brown rice, eggs, yoghurt, tuna, broccoli, frozen peas, cottage cheese.
Intelligent nutrients – include vitamins and minerals for “fine tuning”. Eat at least 5 servings of fresh fruit and vegetables per day. Eat nuts and seeds regularly. Choose wholegrain foods over processed. Supplement with a multivitamin and mineral tablet that includes B vitamins, folic acid, magnesium, manganese and zinc.
Many children eat very high sugar cereals for breakfast, such as fruit loops, cocoa pops etc. This produces a rapid influx of sugar into the bloodstream, but does not give long-term energy to the body, so by mid-morning, students are “starving”. Very often they have another high sugar food at this time, which repeats the cycle. This is why foods are now labelled with a G.I rating (Glycaemic Index, which means a ranking of the effect of carbohydrates on blood glucose and insulin levels.) Low G.I foods keep you going longer and enables better concentration, as they release energy more slowly, thus causing fewer fluctuations in blood glucose levels. Long-term this reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
What you drink is also important to keep you healthy and your brain working at its peak
Water – the building blocks of growth, water is the transport system for nutrients and electrical impulses in the brain. Drink between 1 -2 litres of good quality water a day for your brain to work well. Brain cells require a delicate balance between water and the other elements discussed to operate. When you don’t drink enough water your brain cells lose efficiency. Years of research have found that when you don’t drink enough water you have more difficulty keeping your attention focused. Short-term memory function and the recall of long-term memory as well as the ability to perform mental arithmetic are compromised when your fluids are low. Avoid sugary additives to your water such as cordial.
This information comes from a number of sources, but it is interesting to note that many popular magazines on the news- stands have a focus on school lunches built around these principles. More information about G. I. can be found at www.glycemic.com or just Google glycaemic index for a host of available sites.
Talking Matters would like to thank Deborah Russell, Head of Student Care at Trinity College Senior for allowing us to share this information with our families. The information provided below was put together by Deborah for students of Trinity College but we thought it was so good we asked her if we could share it. We have modified a few words to make this more applicable to our young families also.
We’ve added a few extra websites and blogs here for you to look at if you would like more information on this subject:
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