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Food For Summer Thought?

How much do you weigh … how much do you think? Why? Well, a person who weighs in at about 68kg will, it is suggested by extensive research all over the world (the researchers reaching for Mars bars constantly during the data-gathering process …), burn between 54 and 120 calories per hour when studying. Apparently the level of calorie burn depends upon how bright you are. The more mental activity you put in the more calories you burn.

Mind you, in tests at Northumberland University in 2013 levels of the stress hormone cortisol were significantly higher in students whose brains were busy, as were their heart rates, blood pressure and self-reported anxiety. Therefore they ate more. In all likelihood, these students did not eat more because their haggard brains desperately needed more fuel; rather, they were ‘stress eating’.

To put this all in a little more context, a Starbucks Grande Caffe Latte will add 272 calories to your daily intake (with no sugar added), a Golden Arches Cheeseburger 720, a Snickers 273 … and a big carrot 30 fibre-stacked calories. Mmmmmmmm. The brain is an energy-hungry organ. Despite comprising only two percent of the body’s weight, the brain gobbles up more than 20 percent of daily energy intake. Because the brain demands such high amounts of energy, the foods we consume greatly affect brain function, including everything from learning and memory to emotions. This organ is akin to that needy relationship you became embroiled in during the early part of your dating history; the brain is energy-hungry and uses one fifth of all the blood pumped by your heart. It is one, clingy, demanding organ (and the second most desperate if you are a man).

Just like other cells in the body, brain cells use a form of sugar called glucose to fuel cellular activities. This energy comes from the foods we consume daily and is regularly delivered to brain cells (called neurons) through the blood.

Every nutritionist knows that the quality of the foods consumed over an average western lifetime affects the structure and function of the brain. For instance, the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, nuts and seeds provides structural material to maintain neurons. It is also strongly suggested that omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the transmission of information between brain cells.

In contrast, foods that are rich in sugars and saturated fats have been found to promote oxidative stress, which leads to damage of cell membranes. Such foods are also strongly linked to brain disease and dementia. The hormone Dopamine is released when sugary snacks and treats are eaten and activates the brain’s reward system, generating pleasurable sensations. This pleasure reinforces the desire to consume that sweet food again. Shut up and pass me another Magnum!!

Recent studies suggest lifestyle choices that affect the metabolism of nerve cells, such as diet and exercise, may in some cases provide a non-invasive and effective strategy to counteract neurological and cognitive disorders.

This summer, as you are contemplating the stuff of al fresco dining, what should you plan to put in your basket?

Omega-3 and omega-6 are found in equal amounts in the brain, and it is believed that we should also eat them in equal amounts. But most of us eat much more omega-6 (found in foods like poultry, eggs, avocado and nuts) than omega-3 (found in oily fish like salmon, herring and mackerel. Plant sources include seeds, especially flax seeds, and nuts, especially walnuts).

Trans fats, also known as hydrogenated fats, are particularly bad for the brain because they stop essential fatty acids from doing their work effectively. They are found in many ready-made foods like cakes and biscuits. But, honestly?, you already knew that.

The brain is about 80% water, so it is important for us to drink loads of fluid for it to function properly. We lose about 2.5 litres of water each day through our sweat, breath and urine, and in order to replace this we should drink 1.5 litres of non-alcoholic fluids every day. Drink six to eight glasses a day; keep a glass of something liquid on your desk or in your rucksack at all times. Avoid stuff with bubbles (unless it’s water, if you really need them) and drink three less caffeine stacked drinks each day.

This summer indulge yourself with some berries and other deep coloured fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, acai berries, spinach, beetroot and beans. These foods are high in antioxidants, which help guard against disease by protecting cells in the body and brain from damage.

Working out. Epinephrine is the hormone that is responsible for the surge in energy and focus that we hear about when people lift cars off others, or leap buildings, or put up with Nigel Farage on the TV and other matters of life and death. When we exercise at moderate to high rates of intensity, we trick our body into thinking we are in such dangerous/life threatening situations and our body responds by producing epinephrine.

This surge in epinepherine signals the release of glucagon which, in turn, releases huge amounts of glucose (liquid energy) into our bloodstream. Some of these terms and hormones may be new to you, but think of glucagon as the yin to insulin’s yang. This increase in energy resulting from pushing yourself beyond 70-75% of your heart rate max (heart rate/220 - age) continues after the end of your workout and leaves you feeling great for hours afterwards.

This is the holy grail of your studying summer; great food mixed in with great exercise.

Posted: 20.06.2016
Tags:  blog
 


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