How Diet Affects Your Focus and Concentration
Your body is like a machine with many parts working together to make that machine run smoothly. Your brain is the central part of your machine. It’s only 2% of your body weight, but it uses over 20% of your body’s energy.
Understanding Energy In Your Diet
While it may carry out millions of tasks each day to keep your body running smoothly, if you don’t take care of it, it can reach a point where it starts to slow down and affect your memory and focus.
Luckily, all your brain needs is a few simple fixes that come in the form of sleep, relaxation and eating the right amounts of the right types of foods. Just as you wouldn’t put just anything in your car and expect it to run, your brain also needs the right types of foods to work efficiently.
We all know by now that processed foods are bad for your health. They increase the risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. But did you also know that eating foods high in sugar, salt and saturated fats can also have a negative impact on your energy and concentration levels?
The Negative Effects Of Diet
This can be due to a diet that’s low-fat because the brain requires certain essential fatty acids to work properly. And on the other side of the spectrum, diets high in fat also reduce memory and concentration levels.
It can also be due to eating foods high in sugar in its sucrose form and simple carbs, as white rice and flour, as they result in sugar crashes that greatly reduce concentration levels. In addition, if your diet is lacking in essential minerals and vitamins, especially vitamin B group and vitamin D, your ability to focus will get worse with time.
The reason we get cranky when we’re hungry is that blood sugar levels drop, so does our energy levels. And when we don’t have enough energy, we feel sluggish, and hence, are unable to focus on the task at hand.
While it may sound crazy that caffeine causes a lack of focus, it’s true for all of us, especially for those who drink more than 2 cups per day. Over time, your body gets used to the large amounts of caffeine coursing through it and decreases its production of neurotransmitters which are responsible for concentration and attention.
People don’t realize how crucial water is to your concentration levels. Even 1% drop in normal hydration levels can have a negative impact on how well you concentrate. Dehydration can also bring on headaches, low moods, and fatigue.
Food to Increase Memory Power and Concentration
A good diet
Those who eat a well-balanced breakfast tend to have improved short-term memory than those who didn’t pay much attention to it or skipped it altogether.
A nutritional diet should include minerals and vitamins as:
- Magnesium which is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and soothing effect on the brain
- Zinc is important for the healthy production and performance of neurons; brain cells.
- B vitamins are all known for maintaining good brain health. Thiamine (B1) especially helps boost mental strength and short-term memory. Vitamin B6 is crucial for keeping up focus levels. Vitamin B9 (folate) sustains memory and healthy brain function. If your body is lacking in vitamin B12, it can cause brain fog, confusion, and memory loss.
- Vitamin D could b a helping factor because it aids in the production of serotonin, one of the ‘feel-good’ hormones that help keep you focused and calm.
- Vitamin E keeps up the brain’s energy and strength.
- Protein is also very good for concentration because it’s considered the building blocks of the brain. Research shows that a high-protein diet, which includes lean meat, beans, omega-3 fatty acids, beans, and nuts, can help improve concentration and focus. (Source)
While supplements aren’t substitutes for real food, they can come in handy, especially when your body is lacking in certain minerals and vitamins, and you’re unable to provide them through your daily diet.
Drink lots of water
Your brain is 85% water. It can’t function without it. Neurotransmitters and hormones produced by the brain rely on water. This is why when you drink plentiful amounts of water, you’ll be able to stay focused and alert for longer.
Knowing what to eat throughout the day can have such an immense effect on your ability to focus and concentrate. It can also greatly impact both your short-term and long-term mental health which can lead to an increase in productivity and efficiency. (Source)
How Diet Affects Your Focus and Concentration
According to the energy balance equation, your body gains energy when you intake more energy through your diet than you expend through physical activity. That’s why the main point of most diets is to limit your energy intake through counting carbs or calories.
It seems like a few years ago all of the diets were about counting calories and now they’re all about limiting carbohydrates. But you should you limit carbs or calories? And, if they’re both units of energy what’s the difference? What is the difference between carbs and calories, how they impact your diet, and how or why you should watch them.
Calories Are Energy, Right? Yes.
To set the record straight, carbs and calories are not both units of energy. We’ll start with calories and talk about carbohydrates in a little bit.
Calories are the units of energy, not carbs. A single calorie is the amount of energy that it takes to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius. This is a very small amount of energy, so when you read the nutrition label on your food, what they call “Calories” (with an upper-case C) is actually the number of kilocalories (that is, one thousand lower-case c calories).
That doesn’t mean that the food companies are trying to lie to you and get you to eat more calories.
They do it because it would be tedious and useless to try to count actual lower-case c calories. Don’t worry about keeping track of whether we’re talking about calories or kilocalories. Because we’re talking about calories as a unit of energy, it doesn’t really matter which scale we’re talking about, as long as you understand what calories are and why they’re important.
Carbs Are Energy, Right? No.
As mentioned above, the carbohydrate is not a unit of energy like the calorie is. The carbohydrate is a class of nutrient, along with proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are all called “energy-yielding nutrients” because the body can break them all down to release calories.
Of the energy-yielding nutrients, proteins and carbohydrates both release one 4 calories per gram, while fat releases 9 calories per gram. (Source)
So Why Are Carbs So Special?
The first reason is that the average person has much more carbohydrates than fat in their diet. We tend to think of carbohydrates as coming from grains, like pasta and breads. These are sources of carbohydrates, but carbohydrates also come from sugars. Grains are a source of complex carbs, which your body breaks down over time. Sugars are a source of simple carbs that your body doesn’t have to break down.
Sugars are naturally occurring in sources like fruits, but they’re also added to just about everything. If you put a store-bought sauce on your pasta, you’re putting carbs on carbs. If you put jam or jelly on your bread, you’re putting carbs on carbs. And don’t even get us started on sources like soda and junk food.
When you eat whole grains, you’re not just getting carbs. You’re getting fiber, vitamins, and minerals. All of these nutrients can also be found in other foods that don’t have as many calories, like vegetables, which often have no carbs at all.
Fat, on the other hand, is far scarcer in our diet and its benefits cannot be found elsewhere. We usually don’t think of fat as being good for us, but it’s in every cell of our bodies and is very important to the nervous system. While some fats are better than others and you should be careful about how much you get of each kind, carbs are simply more expendable in our diets.
Hopefully, this article has helped you to understand the difference between carbs and calories, as well as why most diets these days have you counting carbs. Remember, however, that a balanced diet and plenty of exercises is better for you than a diet that tries to eliminate fats or carbs or calories and promises a quick solution.
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