I am a huge proponent of eating clean year-round and practice it pretty faithfully. On the rare occasions when I have slipped a bit, I have noticed that my concentration, energy level and sense of well being take a major nosedive. I can actually feel my body winding down and my mental clarity sinking into a fog that makes it difficult to power through my to-do list.
Our bodies are machines, and like any machine, optimal fuel can make a huge difference in performance. Why fill your tank with junk foods when you can fill it with nutritious food options? I am willing to bet that you have felt very different when you have eaten a clean meal such as a skinless chicken breast, steamed vegetables and brown rice, versus a meal of fried chicken, coleslaw and mashed potatoes. Concentration and mental clarity diminish when fast food and junk food are consumed.
Another important consideration with nutrient-poor foods is that they tend to be low in selenium, an important mineral and potent antioxidant. Signs of selenium deficiency include fatigue, poor concentration, and low immunity. However, if you consume more whole food sources, incorporating selenium rich foods like grass fed beef, free range chicken, shrimp, salmon, tuna, halibut, oats, brown rice, broccoli, asparagus, spinach or Brazil nuts, you can successfully fend off selenium deficiency.
You can also optimize brain function by making sure to eat regular, small meals throughout the day, instead of adopting a “feast or famine” approach in which you skip meals and then pig out on a large and unhealthy meal towards the end of the day. Small, frequent meals keep your metabolism at a steady hum and provide fuel and nutrients for cellular repair and essential bodily functions and activities. When protein is consumed, levels of tyrosine increase in the brain, which leads to the formation of norepinephrine and dopamine, both of which promote alertness and activity. The brain also uses glucose exclusively as a fuel source and cannot store it, so it relies on a constant supply from the bloodstream. When you skip meals, blood glucose levels can drop to precipitously low levels, compromising the fuel supply to your noggin, resulting in the familiar “brain fog” that creeps up.
If you haven’t begun eating clean, I strongly suggest that you do so in order to maximize body and brain function. You have only one body, so take care of it!