We are fascinating beings, composed of various elements as reactive as a chemistry experiment. How you eat can affect your mood, attention, pain levels and memory, due to the processes your body carries out with the components of your meal.
You probably already lean towards one type of breakfast over others. Maybe it’s eggs and bacon – with or without toast. Maybe you love oatmeal with fruit. Maybe you crave a steak most mornings, whether or not you get it! Here is a very simple breakdown of examples of meals that can fuel your mind:
Carbohydrate-rich Meal: When you want to relax. Eating whole grains and complex carbs like oatmeal, fruit and potatoes causes your pancreas to release insulin. All amino acid levels drop, except for tryptophan, which creates serotonin in your brain. Your dopamine levels drop and the serotonin wins, resulting in a happier, more relaxed mood but you may feel unfocused and less motivated.
Protein-rich Meal: When you need to focus. Steak, eggs, bacon, sausage. These foods raise all amino acid levels in your blood, and as they compete to enter your bloodstream, tryptophan loses out and tyrosine – the building block for dopamine – wins. The result is you feel energetic and highly focused, but can also feel more worried, anxious and rigid in your thinking.
The Choline-rich Meal: When you need to remember. Eating choline-rich food like eggs causes blood choline levels to increase, causing the brain to make more acetylcholine, and your thinking a memory will improve. Great to know on a test day!
Eat antioxidant-rich foods with every meal, regardless of protein or carbohydrate intake, like blueberries, cacao and green tea as these also boost your memory and thinking power.
And as a bonus, foods that reduce pain include foods rich in omega-3 fats and complex carbohydrates, to boost serotonin. Fish and sweet potatoes is a good example. Also, avoid sugar and inflammatory foods to reduce pain!
To sleep better, try foods high in magnesium and complex carbohydrates, like pumpkin and sunflower seeds with whole grains. Homemade sugar-free granola is perfect.