Food For Thought: Four Nutrition Tips To Optimize Mental Acuity

When parents think about the key factors for academic success, they often look at standard pillars of solid education: (1) a collection of good educators, (2) a wealth of solid academic resources, and (3) a diligent routine of practice and study. These components are certainly essential pieces of the puzzle, but they overlook the keystone underpinning that affects every aspect of learning: nutrition.

?Food provides our bodies with necessary nutrients to run smoothly and efficiently. It keeps our immune systems operational, our musculature robust, and our mental faculties sharp. Just like automobiles, our bodies function better when our fuel is of higher quality. If we want optimal performance, we need to be ingesting a steady stream of nutrient rich food. How can we expect our brains to be fully functional when we are feeding them subpar sustenance? ? ?The difficulty for us is that the marketplace is flooded with garbage. At every turn in the grocery store, we are bombarded with colorful and deceptive marketing ploys to convince us to buy an assortment of unhealthy processed foods that are calorie rich and nutrient poor.

The foods that look nice and taste great are often loaded with artificial flavor enhancers, preservatives, and worst of all, sugars.? ?Aside from the long-term health impacts of these foods such as obesity and diabetes, eating these products can have short-term detrimental results for children in school. The problem with processed foods like French fries, cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, and various sugary desserts is that they impair learning and memory. According to the Society for Neuroscience, these types of foods have been shown time and again to lower brainpower. This is due to the biochemical effects of foods with high sugar content.

When we ingest large amounts of sugars, our bodies compensate by releasing heavy doses of insulin. We then experience a post-meal crash, where the body shuts down as it processes the food. These sugary and low nutrition foods subsequently cause an incredible drop in energy, focus, and successful mental performance.? ?So how can you keep your kids on point at school and at home? How can you avoid problematic foods and provide your children with proper nutrition? It’s not as complicated as you think. Here are four simple tips to keep your kids healthy and well nourished.

1.  Eat natural foods – I can certainly advise you to avoid sugary, processed foods, but that will simply leave you wondering what to put in your body. So, here’s a simple rule: only eat things that are found in the natural world. For example, vegetables, fruits, and nuts are items that have clearly been grown, plucked, and brought to the grocery store without much interference. Accordingly, you may eat them (though you should limit your intake of starchy vegetables such as potatoes). Meat is also a natural product that can be eaten. Just be wary of meats that contain loads of fat such as pork and beef. Meat is a dietary staple that will provide your body with much needed protein. Balanced with a high vegetable diet, a bit of meat will give you a well-rounded dose of nutrients.

2.  Drink plenty of water – it is estimated that approximately 90 percent of people are chronically dehydrated. This is a significant problem as dehydration can severely impact your health, energy, and vitality. But in order to bolster your hydration levels, you should NOT drink more soda or juice, as the sugars will disrupt your energy levels and tax your liver. Instead, water should be your go to drink. In addition to being a terrific detoxifier, water will keep your mind nimble and active. You should aim to drink between 6 and 18 cups of water per day. A good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces on a daily basis. So, if you weigh 140 lbs, you should be drinking 70 oz (which is approximately nine glasses).

3.  Avoid artificial sweeteners – one of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners is aspartame. Aspartame, more commonly known as Nutrasweet and Equal, is found in a number of diet/sugar free foods. In our body image obsessed culture, aspartame is rampant. Everyone is looking to replace sugar with aspartame in order to trim calories off their diets. Despite its popularity, it is very unhealthy. Aspartame is a known neurotoxin, proven to erode intelligence and negatively affect short-term memory. It has also been linked to brain tumors, lymphoma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, fibromyalgia, and emotional problems like depression and anxiety attacks. So what’s the bottom line? If you want to stay sharp, steer clear of artificial sweeteners.

4.  Educate yourself – yes, I have provided you with some guidance, but the onus is on you to gain a full understanding of what good nutrition is. There are a number of terrific online resources that can teach you the basics. In particular, there are two solid films that will provide you with all you need to know about healthy living: (1) Hungry for Change (available on Netflix), and (2) Fed Up (still in select theaters). These movies are well made, highly interesting, and super informative. Hungry for Change has innumerable facts and tips, and Fed Up is an amazing look at both nutrition as well as the political battle between health conscious medical professionals and the food industry.
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