You have set aside time to do your research, closed the door to your office, and ignored the temptation to check your email. The articles in front of you beg for your attention. You wish that you had the energy to devour these written words, uncover a new insight, learn something new, but you can’t focus. Your mind feels edgy and dull at the same time. You read the same paragraph over and over again without retaining anything. You sigh in muted frustration and decide to take a walk down the hall to refresh your coffee.
Your brain is a system of chemical and electrical means. Without the right fuel and maintenance, it cannot operate at peak efficiency. You probably wouldn’t dream of ignoring the maintenance needs of your vehicle, in fact, you may even pride yourself on the detailed care you bestow on it. You wash, wax and buff the exterior to a glossy sheen, maintain the right pressure in the tires to better your mileage, routinely top off your fluid levels and never miss an oil change. So why wouldn’t you do the same for your own body and mind? What kind of care and maintenance do you keep for it?
If you neglect to tune up your brain, that precious few minutes that you are devoting to research could prove useless.
Java is as Java Does
Actually getting up and walking down the hall to refresh your coffee is not exactly off-base when you feel like it is time to push the mental refresh button. If you enjoy it, you will be happy to know that coffee does contain antioxidants, the compounds that help fight oxidation, a normal chemical process in the body that can cause damage to cells in your brain and elsewhere.
Oxidation can be accelerated by things like stress, cigarette smoking and alcohol. Fortunately, our body is not without defense mechanisms against this damage. Ingesting foods that are good sources of antioxidants can help to improve memory, motor control and cognition. Antioxidants are helpful molecules that our body uses to scavenge the harmful free radicals that start the chain of damaging reactions leading to cell damage.
If you prefer tea to coffee, white and green tea, also antioxidant rich, are less processed than black and oolong teas, leading to higher levels of the compound shown to protect brain cells. Due to their lower levels of caffeine as compared to coffee, they are sometimes touted as the healthier choice, but if you like your coffee and monitor your caffeine intake, sip away and enjoy some brainy benefits.
Eat to Defeat Cellular Sabotage
Just as your car requires refueling, your brain and body do as well to maintain optimum performance. Snacking on nuts, veggies, fruit and hummus will help keep your energy level up and send those brain-boosting antioxidants coursing through your system.
The best way to get a variety of antioxidants is to eat a diet containing foods that embody a full spectrum of colors.
Start your day with some strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and/or blueberries. Beautiful and delicious, consuming these berries provides protection of nerve cells from damage, improving memory and also may be associated with the slowing of cognitive degeneration associated with aging.
At lunch and dinner time, think about adding a few servings of colorful veggies to your plate such as carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, spinach or kale, cauliflower or cabbage. You can augment your protein level along with your cellular defenses by adding red, black, pinto and kidney beans or lentils.
Craving a quick lunch? How about a bean burrito? Continuing on the protein theme, oily fish like salmon or trout deliver the essential fatty acids that are good for healthy brain and heart function and contribute to a general feeling of well-being (stress busters). On that note, the dark leafy green salad with the salmon on top might be a nice choice as well for that quick meal.