Home Office Productivity: Brain Food, Mood Food, Comfort Food

Feed your head. – Jefferson Airplane

During these dreary last weeks of winter I have found myself craving comfort foods: cookies, mac and cheese, breads. You know – the “bad” stuff.

While doing my taxes (I am not good with numbers) I experienced a brain ache. This was not a headache, but more like a brain cramp. This was signaling me I needed to eat something.  You brain runs on glucose and when your blood sugar level drops your thinking gets fuzzy (and if you are like me you get cranky.)

close-up photo of large salted pretzel

Pretzels contain carbs that boost your serotonin levels and your blood glucose.

Comfort Food is Mood Food is Brain Food

Mood Food

Our bodies convert carbohydrates into serotonin – a brain chemical that is essential for a stable, improved mood. Judith Wurtman, co-author of The Serotonin Power Diet states women are more vulnerable to depleted reserves of serotonin in their brain. This is experienced as a drop in energy and mood. Since we are currently deprived of sunlight – which helps our mood – we may have a greater need for high-carbohydrate comfort foods.

You can do this in a smart way and avoid packing on the pounds. Wurtman recommends carbohydrates without fat or protein as a late afternoon snack when you feel your energy and your mood drop. Pretzels, crackers and breads are the recommended foods. (Sorry, no cookies, ice cream or chips.)

 Brain Food

Your brain cells are nourished by glucose – blood sugar. When you are doing something that requires a lot of brain power or concentration you brain needs more glucose. Your body converts much of what you eat into glucose. If you eat too much it converts it into glycogen and stores it in the liver for later use, or converts it into fat for future energy conversion.  You might think a sugary snack is the way to go. Not. You want to avoid the rollercoaster of sugar highs and plummeting lows. Carbs are better and complex carbs are the best. Whole grains and fruits and veggies.

 Brain Food – Mood Food Action Plan

  • Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with a variety of healthy foods that you enjoy.
  • Eat at times that refuel your body – before you feel that slump.
  • Eat complex carb snacks late morning and late afternoon, when you start feeling that eleven o’clock droop and the four o’clock slump.
  • Working at home gives you a lot of choices and temptations. Pre-plan your meals and snacks.
  • If you work in an office, there are a lot of temptations: birthday party sheet cakes, the shared box of donuts shared, or the vending machine. Set up a healthy food stash in a desk drawer.

What foods do you eat to fuel you through the day? What foods do you most enjoy? What foods have sabotaged your workday? What foods or food strategies do you recommend to others?

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photo by sigckgc