Despite the fact that the hardest working part of the body is the brain, one is far more likely to hear commentary about nourishing only the visible parts of the body.
Informed with new research, it’s clear that what we put into our guts—personally and collectively—has more influence on our brainpower and social wellness than previously thought possible. And while it’s admittedly harder to observe the gains of a well-fed brain than it is to appreciate the physical earmarks of time spent in the gym, nutrition is the key to getting the most from our work, our work-outs, and our brains in general.
Here are four simple habits for building your brain up each day, and a friendly reminder that you’re a mental and physical by-product of what you choose to eat:
Be intentional with your meals and snacks
The brain is rich in nerve cells and is the most energy-demanding organ in the human body. It uses one-half of all its energy needs for functions such as thinking, memory, and learning. By including foods with “brain-friendly” nutrients such as beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole grains, you can experience a reduction of mood swings and improved physical fitness results. You can also help your brain by eating regularly – this gives it the energy it needs!
Drink more water
This can’t be overstated. A majority of the human body is composed of water, and you will wither and die without it. It is recommended that humans drink at least half a gallon of water per day to help improve concentration and cognition, and to aid mood and memory function. More than 10% of the world’s population doesn’t have access to fresh water close to home, and it gains scarcity each day. If you’re lucky enough to have clear, clean water, then toast the functions of your mind and body by drinking lots of it. And whenever possible, please drink out of something reusable—the Pacific Ocean “garbage patch” is now estimated to be the size of Mexico.
Drink alcohol in moderation
Excessive alcohol kills brain cells, is highly addictive, dehydrates the body, and destroys the functions of your internal organs. It erodes judgement, starves the brain of oxygen, and wreaks havoc on dietary resolve. It’s easier to avoid drinking if you don’t keep temptations around. If you do choose to drink, consume your beverages slowly, take a 30-60 minute break between drinks, and remember to continue drinking enough water.
Don’t spend the first or last moments of your day in front of a screen
If you’re reading this in bed, put the phone down! Excessive screen time can damage the brain’s gray and white matter, alter cerebral cortex thickness, and impair cognitive function. Looking at the screen before bed can make it hard to sleep (the brain NEEDS it’s downtime to recharge) and can cause anxiety and memory loss. Light also interferes with your hormones that help you get to sleep, and stay asleep. Give yourself a 30-minute screen-free buffer when you get into and out of bed. Reading a good book is not only relaxing and will help you sleep, it makes you smarter too!
A majority of the time, you can’t choose the type of stimulus your brain receives; however, you can struggle to master those habits that define your body and mind. We at THIRA believe that deliberate choices about nutrition and hydration are an important jumping off point for understanding your body, and for connecting the way in which food influences mood, energy levels and life-span.