The foods and beverages you choose can hinder your focus and reduce your productivity. On the other hand, making healthy choices will aid your focus while helping you live a happier, longer life. Below we’ve covered some of the worst foods for your brain and what foods you should reach for instead.
Changing habits, especially when it comes to food, is very difficult to do and can take time. Start with one habit at a time and give your body and mind time to adjust. A study on habits found “on average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic...”
💡 Learn more about habits and how to Reach Your Goals With These Scientifically Proven Goal Setting Strategies.
This may come as a shock to you: pizza is bad for your health. Aside from adding inches to your waistline, foods that are high in refined carbs have negative impacts on your brain.
- White flour
- Pizza dough
- Processed foods
You may find that’s a lot of your favorite foods and you’re not alone. Your diet is a balancing act. You don’t have to avoid these foods every day, but you should on days that require high focus and productivity. If you find you have trouble cutting out refined carbs, save them for the weekend. To maintain your focus on workdays, check out the list below.
- Quinoa -Sweet potatoes
It’s not as bad as it sounds. You can find pasta, pizzas, crackers, and other crunchy snacks that are made from quinoa, beans, or vegetables.
Trans fats are a form of unsaturated fat. They are found naturally in animal products, such as dairy and meat, and do not need to be avoided. However, artificial trans fats (also known as partially-hydrogenated fats and industrial trans fats) pose severe risks to your brain function and overall health.
- White flour
- Processed meat
- Breakfast sandwiches
- Frozen meals
- Prepackaged cookies
- Prepackaged cakes (Jos Louis, Twinkies)
Trans fats also increase the risk of heart disease and insulin resistance. Alternatively, human beings should consume foods high in good fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat.
- Flax seeds
- Olive oil
Omega-3 fatty acids, as well as other good fats, boost brain function and lower cholesterol, meaning your brain and heart with thank you!
Sugar, soft drinks, and any beverages with added sugar are detrimental to your health. According to VeryWellMind, “In the brain, excess sugar impairs both our cognitive skills and our self-control… Sugar has drug-like effects in the reward center of the brain.” Not only does sugar hinder our ability to focus, it tricks our mind into thinking we need more and more, just like an addictive drug. Sugary drinks are particularly harmful because we can consume much more liquid sugar than we can if we are eating straight sugar or candy.
A regular can of Coke (355ml) contains 39g of sugar. The Coca-Cola Company admits that “children and adults should limit added sugar to no more than 10% of their total energy/calorie consumption.”
To calculate your own recommended sugar intake use this formula:
[Daily calorie intake] x 0.10 / 4 (divide by 4, the amount of calories per 1g of sugar) = [Recommended sugar intake in grams]
If your daily calorie intake is 2000 (the recommended calorie intake for the average woman), your recommended sugar intake is 50 grams. With one can of Coke (39g), you’re nearly at your limit.
- Fruit juice
- Sports and energy drinks
- Coffee and tea with added sugar
The beverages listed above are the single largest source of calories and added sugar in the U.S. diet.
- Black coffee
- Plain tea
If you’re thirsty, don’t reach for a can of cola; drink water. The human body is 60% water. The brain and heart are made up of 73% water. Keeping yourself hydrated optimizes the function of your body. It is recommended that you drink 2 liters or 8 cups of water every day. Need some variety? Opt for black coffee, tea, or sparkling water with no additives.
Don’t start your day off with the wrong foods. Breakfast is a sneaky meal because we often need to grab something quick or on the go. Plus, so many of the foods we culturally consider to be breakfast foods are actually bad for your brain.
- Pancakes or waffles
- White bread
- Sweet syrups and jams
- Sugary cereals
We’ve talked about all of these foods above under refined carbs, saturated fat, and sugar. It’s tough to make healthy choices for breakfast because waffles, bacon, toast, and juice are all breakfast staples. A high stack of pancakes covered in butter and syrup, coupled with a glass of sugary orange juice to wash it all down may sound delicious, but it won’t get your day off to the best start.
- Yogurt (low or no sugar added)
- Whole grain breads or cereals
- Fruit (small portions)
Eggs contain vitamins and nutrients that are linked to brain health, including B6 and B12, and folate. Yogurt is also rich in B vitamins and other essential nutrients. Just watch out for added sugar in even healthier breakfast choices like whole grain bread, yogurts, and fruit smoothies. Making healthier choices for your first meal will set your day on the right track.
Now the choice is yours. What will you power your brain with when you need a day of focused productivity?
Continue your crusade for healthy habits on and offline.