You are what you eat, literally. Your body consists out of the things you eat. And that includes your brain.
If you want to function optimally, taking the right food is paramount. In case you are not convinced:
In a [multiple times replicated] study on kids, taking a multivitamin to correct deficits, increased IQ significantly (research reference)
If that doesn’t raise eyebrows:
Vitamin and mineral supplements can be used to reduce violence in prisons (research reference)
There are a lot of people out there who are sub-clinically malnourished. And this messes with:
- Ability to focus
- Mood levels
- IQ level
To function optimally, you should optimize your food for productivity.
Short term improvements
On the short term there is 1 principle you can implement to get your productivity up.
Principle 1: low glycemic index
The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how fast food is absorbed into your blood, and this how big its impact is on your blood sugar:
- High GI: big sugar bump and then a sugar low – bad
- Low GI: low sugar bump and no sugar low – good
Things with high GI are sweet things, and what people traditionally consider carbs. So added sugar, bread and rice fall in this category. As a rule of thumb, the whiter the carb, the worse the GI. So white bread is a lot worse than deeply dark bread.
Things with low GI are things higher in fat and protein and low in sugars, like nuts, cheezes and vegetables.
Step 1 if going low GI. Especially in breakfast and lunch, and that includes unsweetened coffee and tea.
Principle 2: eat actual food
Candy bars don’t grow on trees. And that should tell you something. For millennia the human race adapted to the food that was available. This was generally low in GI and high in nutrients. Oh, and it all came from plants or animals.
I’m not saying you should go eat raw meat and climb trees, but use the nutritional principles of evolution to your advantage. Sugar was rare, and candy bars didn;t exist.
Eat the food your body was evolved to eat. Plants and animals in their pure form. Sure you can combine them into delicious meals, but don’t go for highly processed foods.
On the long term you want to have a good balance of nutrients. Both on a macro and micro level.
These are carbohydrates, fats and proteins. One thing to remember is that all foods contain all of these in some proportion. For example:
- Meat is not a protein. It has protein, but also fat and carbohydrates
- Potato is not a carbohydrate. It contains carbohydrates but also proteins and fats
- Cheese is not a fat. it contains fat, but also carbohydrates and protein.
In general keep these things in mind for macronutrients:
- Carbohydrates: avoid high GI (white and sweet) carbohydrates in your food
- Proteins: have a variety of sources. Not all proteins have the same ratio of amino acids
- Fats: avoid trans fats, and don’t worry too much about saturated fats and cholesterol (see this research summary)
Micronutrients are things like vitamins and minerals. And you pretty much need them all of them in some amount. The biggest factor here is variety in your food:
- Avoid using the same thing as a basis for all your meals (potato, pasta, rice etc)
- Variety is not difficult, try apps/websites like Yummly or Gojee for constant inspiration
- Buy something you rarely eat every week, go experimental
- Use herbs & spices
A note on supplements. You can use these to correct deficiencies, but they can’t replace real food. The best thing is to get a blood test and correct the nutrients that are low. many people are low in:
- Vitamins D