Protect Your Business Brain by Skipping These 3 Types of Food
The same foods that cause obesity and heart disease are equally bad for your brain.
Science has found sound evidence that certain foods can increase your brain health and in the process help you think better, remember more and basically just have a smarter business mind. But the brain-nutrition connection goes both ways. Yes, you need to increase your intake of brain-power foods, but you also need to decrease the brain depleting ones, too.
Ongoing research suggests that three categories of foods may have the greatest negative impact on our brains. These foods can ignite widespread inflammation in the body that can reach the brain region linked with memory and emotions -- key parts of our brain that we need to keep sharp to perform our best as business leaders and entrepreneurs.
The good news is that you should be avoiding these foods anyway as they are often linked to other health issues like heart disease and obesity.
The bad news? Many are of the feel-good variety, like giant sodas and to-go boxes, that tend to take a seat at many office desk lunches, conference room powwows and client dinners. Here is a look at why three food types in particular can make your brain feel like it’s in a fog at times, and what you can do about it.
1. Sugary drinks
Yes, that Coke or frappuccino may give you a must-needed 2 p.m. pick-up, but it’s a big downer in terms of helping your brain. Using data from 4,000 people in the Framingham Heart Study, researchers suggested that people who drink sugary beverages are more likely to have poorer memory and a smaller hippocampus, the brain region responsible for learning and memory. The study found that people who consumed more than two sugary drinks, like soda or fruit juice concoctions, per week are at the highest risk.
Try this: Keep a bottle of water with you at all times, and add slices of cucumber, lemon, or lime, or several mint sprigs to jazz up the flavor. Switching to herbal tea can satisfy the routine of an afternoon coffee run and give you that needed caffeine boost. I have switched to a green tea bag steeped in steamed almond milk with sugar-free vanilla syrup. This gives me the same satisfying taste as a higher-calorie sugary drink.
2. Refined carbs
There's a reason why you get tired after eating a big bowl of pasta. Refined carbohydrates including pasta, white rice, white bread and potatoes are high on the glycemic index (GI) that measures how carbs affect blood sugar levels. The higher the GI, the quicker the carbs are digested and the faster blood sugar levels spike, which causes your body to produce more insulin. This leads to a sudden sugar crash that leaves you fatigued and moody.
Try this: When you eat these types of food, always pair them with low GI foods with lots of fiber, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes or whole grains to lessen any blood sugar spike. To slow glucose absorption, you can also add a healthy fat to high GI foods, such as topping a baked potato with plain, full-fat Greek yogurt, or pairing it with a fatty fish like salmon. For me, I have switched my afternoon stack to dipping baby carrots in hummus. Not only does it taste great, it boosts my energy level and leaves me feeling better about my food choices during the day.
3. High-fat foods
High-fat foods, especially those that contain saturated fat like baked and fried foods, red meat and cheese can decrease memory by impairing the hippocampus. The connection may be related to how high-fat diets increase the risk of brain inflammation, as well as interfere with the healthy mix of gut bacteria that is essential for normal brain function.
Try this: Adopt meatless days once or twice a week; keep nuts and fruit handy for office snacks instead of bending to the will of vending machines. When eating out, choose items that are sautéed or broiled, and not fried, and always skip any cheese, cream sauces or dressings.
Another way to escape the high-fat food trap is to always pack a bag of healthy snacks. You never know when it will come in handy, especially when you travel for business. People tease me all the time about my “snack bag” but it saves me when there are no healthy options available. It’s always worth the few extra minutes to pack it.
Your success in business hinges on your brain performing at its peak. What you feed it (and don’t) will go a long way to ensure it’s always ready for any challenge, problem or crucial decision that may arise.