Nourishing the leader’s brain
75% of executives said their diet clearly impacted how they felt and performed according to the studies done by Center for Creative Leadership.
5 months ago I embarked on a personal transformation journey with the help of a personal trainer and a masseur. We have not yet reached my desired destination, however, the results till now are quite promising and motivating. I have lost 27 kilograms so far. I have put down all my medication prescribed for high blood pressure as it became absolutely normal. I have suffered from severe headache and migraine quite frequently for many years. Now it has almost completely gone. I rarely have headache with far less intensity. I have plenty of energy at mental and physical level. My mood mostly is far more positive. And the quality of my sleep has significantly improved as well.
One of major changes I implemented as part of my transformation was a healthy eating habit and diet. My personal experience made me think and look behind the obvious.
Does the type of food we eat impact not only our physical well-being but our ability to think and the long-term health of our brain as well? More and more science is showing that yes, food can and does have profound effects on the brain.
Lack of sleep, poor dietary habits, stress, lack of regular exercise, and smoking can all contribute to worsened cognitive performance. In fact, the same factors that increase our risk for heart attacks—raised cholesterol levels, high fat diets, low levels of fitness, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity—have also been shown to increase risk for dementia, mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease as per the white paper done by Sharon McDowell-Larsen from Center for Creative Leadership.
The deadly enemies are Oxidative Stress and Inflammation
Oxidation is a normal and necessary process that takes place in our body. Oxidative stress, on the other hand, occurs when there’s an imbalance between free radical activity and antioxidant activity. When functioning properly, free radicals can help fight off pathogens. Pathogens lead to infections. Everyone produces some free radicals naturally in their body through processes like exercise or inflammation. This is normal and part of the body’s complex system of keeping itself healthy.
You may also be exposed to free radicals in the environment. Some sources include:
- ozone, certain pesticides and cleaners, cigarette smoking, radiation, pollution, airplane travel
- a diet high in sugar, fat, and alcohol may also contribute to free radical production.
So what foods should we eat more of or less of to help combat oxidative stress and inflammation?
Preventing oxidative stress is to ensure that you’re obtaining enough antioxidants in your diet. Eating five-six servings per day of a variety of fruits and vegetables is the best way to provide your body what it needs to produce antioxidants and nourish your brain. For example:
- berries, cherries, citrus fruits, dark leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, olives
- fish and nuts, vitamin E, vitamin C, turmeric, green tea, onion, garlic, cinnamon
Some of the rules I have to follow set by my personal trainer are to:
- eat six times per day
- mostly green vegetables and fruits
- more fish and sea food
- only chicken, turkey and beef
- berries and nuts
- drink lot of green tea and water
- no alcohol intake
- eat only complex carbohydrates with low glycaemic index
- and finally use only coconut and olive oil for cooking
Plant foods studied most for their effect on brain function are blueberries, strawberries, grapes, blackberries, walnuts, green leafy vegetables, green tea, and the spices turmeric and saffron. All have been shown to have beneficial effects, such as improving working memory, staving off or reversing cognitive decline, neurogenesis, and the ability to manage complex learning tasks, to name a few of the reported benefits.
Studies also said that those who had greater adherence to Mediterranean style diet had 33% lower risk of both cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
If you were to change only two or three things in your dietary habit in order to improve your cognitive capacity what would that be?