We often forget that the way to get the best out of our brain starts with our stomachs. And just as you wouldn’t put rubbish in your tank and expect the engine not to splutter, putting good fuel in our bodies is just as important.
Good for …Sleep
You don’t want to be eating food that makes you sleepy at the wheel but getting a good night’s rest is vital for top performance on the road, not to mention all-round good health.
Milk – The glass of milk before bed isn’t a childhood cliché. Milk contains Tryptophan which helps your body make Serotonin, a vital chemical in the stomach that produces melatonin, the sleep hormone. Make picking up a pint on the way home a habit for better sleep.
Good for …alertness
Coffee is good for you, it’s official. Scientists have found that a cup of coffee can give you a mental boost for around 45 minutes.
But coffee can have decreasing benefits the more you drink and it will disrupt your sleep if you drink too much or too close to bedtime.
A simple trick to stay alert is to swap coffee for…water. Simple dehydration is the most common cause of brain fog and staying hydrated (eight small glasses or 1.5 litres) throughout the day is usually enough to keep your brain sharp.
Good for …circulation and fighting disease
See red if you want good overall health. Red fruit and vegetables contain vitamins and chemicals such as lycopene that improve blood pressure, fight free radicals and improve your defences against colds and cancer.
Or go yellow. Turmeric and foods that contain it (look for really yellow or brown curries) keep inflammation at bay. Particularly helpful if you have aching joints or stiff muscles.
Good for …staying full
Beans, beans, good for the heart…amongst other things. Beans or pulses and legumes which includes lentils and soya beans are good non-meat proteins as well as being high in fibre and low GI.
Meat and eggs are also low GI, high protein foods although there’s not much fibre to go round. How about grabbing a tuna niçoise or chicken and brown rice salad from the chiller for lunch?
Good for …sitting down all day
Sitting down for long periods isn’t great for your digestion. Foods that are high in fibre keep your gut happy and help you avoid that heavy, bloated feeling. Hard fruits such as apples are high in fibre, as are prunes and figs.
Many cereals (think porridge or muesli rather than sugary flakes) also keep your digestion ticking over nicely. Some simple swaps also put more fibre in your diet such as having wholewheat spaghetti and brown rice instead of white.
Good for …feeling treated
There’s nothing more guaranteed to make you binge on unhealthy food than trying to ban yourself from eating it.
Always set aside time for a treat but try to make it a clever one. Instead of high sugar, processed chews, try dried fruit or nuts dipped in dark chocolate.
If you’re after a fizzy drink, try mixing fresh juice with sparkling water. Diet drinks aren’t always the healthier option; there may be more sugar in the fresh OJ but there are also more of the good stuff like vitamins and fibre.
If you’ve got a savoury tooth, have a snackpack of nuts instead of crisps. Unsalted are best but swapping for nuts is the important bit.
There are also some things you want to avoid to make sure you get peak performance.
Even with a healthy meal, a big portion will make you drowsy as your body diverts all its energy to digestion instead of keeping you alert. If you get hungry, eat little and often.
Sweets and fizzy pop spike your blood sugar only for it to drop suddenly again and leave you starving and quite possibly light-headed. Never say never but you should aim for the sensible choices at least 80% of the time.
Chasing the caffeine buzz
A little caffeine is good for you (see alertness) but ‘a little’ is the operative word. When you’re really tired, no amount of coffee is going to give you a spark that lasts all day. Vitamin Zzz is the only supplement that really works.
Source: Shell Fluid Thinking