(Getty Images) (Jolygon via Getty Images) When we think about leveling up our health, we probably think about hitting the gym or drinking plenty of kale smoothies — but that’s not the only thing we should be focused on. Our brain function is a major marker of our well-being, and staying sharp is vital to our overall ability to enjoy life — which is really what health is all about, right?
This week, scientists made some incredible discoveries that you can take to heart and incorporate today. AVOID…fatty meals
Stressful work day? Don’t even think about eating a croissant. Foods high in fat can negatively impact your brain, according to a study published in Frontiers in Nutrition and Nutrients .
Researchers at the University of Birmingham had healthy adults eat two butter croissants for breakfast and then engage in challenging mental math tasks. They found that those who ate the butter croissants had less oxygen flow to their prefrontal cortex, which is the part of your brain that is involved in decision-making and emotions.
The conclusion? Eating foods higher in fat can impact mood, mental health and brain function — and that effect is even more significant under high-stress conditions. This isn’t the only study to find a connection between eating fatty food and less-than-ideal cognitive function: A 2020 study from the Ohio State University , which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition , found that women who ate fatty meals for breakfast found it more difficult to concentrate on a task .
As tempting as that Krispy Kreme donut is, you may be better off having a more balanced breakfast — especially if you have to make decisions at work, or do anything stressful. Experts say to focus on a balance of protein and carbs so you can stay focused and fueled. STOP…skipping breakfast and eating inflammatory foods
For those constantly running out the door without so much as a banana, it’s time to prioritize what’s commonly called the most important meal of the day. Skipping breakfast may have an impact on your mental health, according to a new study of more than 21,000 adults published in the Journal of Affective Disorders , which found a higher likelihood of depressive symptoms in people who missed the meal.
This study is just another win for breakfast eaters everywhere, as previous research showed that eating a balanced breakfast within two hours of waking up can help with maintaining a healthy weight, keeping blood sugar in check and even improving cognitive function .
The new research also found that those who consumed more inflammatory foods during any point in the day were also more likely to develop depressive symptoms. Inflammatory foods include things like chargrilled meats , sugary or fried foods and highly refined carbs like cookies and crackers.
Instead of eating these foods, replace them with foods that fight inflammation instead, such as berries, fatty fish, olive oil, turmeric, avocado and nuts. If you can include these items in the breakfast you would have otherwise skipped — even better. TAKE … cocoa supplements
Can popping a cocoa supplement help your brain? Yes, a new study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found — and the result is even more prominent in those who already had a poor quality diet overall.
Cocoa is a main ingredient in chocolate, which has previously been studied for its potential brain-boosting effects. A 2016 study published in the journal Appetite found that chocolate intake was positively associated with better brain performance, while a 2019 analysis published in Frontiers in Nutrition found that chocolate can help protect your brain from cognitive decline .
While this recent study looked at cocoa supplements, eating chocolate — particularly of the high-cocoa varieties, like dark chocolate — can offer the same boost. Unfortunately, gorging on chocolate cake for your memory isn’t the best move. Chocolate is typically high in sugar, which itself can harm your brain . However, a small piece of chocolate per day? That’s a treat you should feel smart about eating. EAT … wasabi
Here’s a reason to go out for sushi tonight. Research from Tohoku University in Japan concluded that wasabi improved both working memory , the type of memory that allows you to accomplish tasks in the moment, and episodic memory, which allows you to recall events from your past.
It’s not the only sushi restaurant condiment that can boost your memory. Previous studies found that ginger may also have some memory benefits . Now the real question is: rainbow or salmon roll? IMPROVE…your sleep quality
We’re all a little addicted to our screens, but it may be seriously impacting our ability to get a decent night’s rest — and now, sleep experts are sounding the alarm bell about digital distractions before bed.
A survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) found that screen time is robbing Americans of shut-eye, with 91% of survey participants stating that they lost sleep due to watching TV. (Really, who hasn’t been guilty of starting a Shark Tank binge a little too late in the night?) Also stealing sleep is online shopping, with 75% of participants stating they’ve stayed up late to keep “adding to cart.”
In the moment, it may be hard to wind down sans screens but since there are so many benefits of getting a good night’s rest consistently, including improving memory , it’s worth the effort … even if that means waiting until the morning to shop that online shoe sale. Sleeping with your phone outside the bedroom, as well as avoiding screens for a half hour before you get into bed, can help you catch more ZZZs, according to the AASM. So can establishing a calming nighttime routine.
Can doing a few yoga poses before bed hold a candle to the endless ranch drama on Yellowstone ?! It’s worth a try, at least.