For better or worse, what we eat affects our brains performance for the day.
The combination of foods determines if our brains make the right connections. Are you ready for the secret formula? Here we go.
Start with Proteins
Improves alertness by stimulating dopamine and norepinephrine – those pesky neurotransmitters that are sluggish in the ADHD brain. Proteins also calm and relax the part of our brain that manages our emotions. Protein-rich foods, especially breakfast favorites such as eggs and whole grains, will start our day off feeling ready to tackle whatever is on our to-do-lists and better manage our emotions.
And top off with Complex Carbohydrates.
Calming carbs packed with fiber, protein, and fat slow the absorption of sugars into our bloodstream and provide a steady supply of fuel, which can also act to calm the brain.
Carbs are the main energy source for the brain making the brain a real sugar hog. When the brain receives a steady supply of sugars, it functions more steadily. When the body’s blood sugar fluctuates up and down, the sugar entering the brain is unsteady. These peaks and valleys in sugar level can result in us feeling “unsteady.”
The best breakfasts are those that contain complex carbohydrates along with proteins. Eating complex carbohydrates helps move the proteins amino acids to the brain, so our neurotransmitters can work better.
Avoid simple sugars such as corn syrup or just plain sugar. These carbs enter the bloodstream too fast resulting in the infamous “sugar-high” which always leads to a “crash in energy”.
The brainy breakfast menu looks something like this:
- Scrambled eggs, whole wheat toast, and orange juice
- Yogurt, whole grain cereal, and apple slices
- Whole grain pancakes or waffles, berries, and a glass of milk
- A fruit and yogurt smoothie
- Veggie omelet, bran muffin, and yogurt.
Never underestimate the power of a healthy breakfast. “Breakfast” means just that: break the overnight fast. Eating breakfast allows you to restock the energy stores that have been depleted overnight and begin the day with a tank full of the right fuel. Sending yourself to work or your child to school without breakfast is like trying to use a cordless power tool without ever recharging the battery.
The research has shown it is worth the effort to calm the chaos in your morning routine and take time for a healthy breakfast. Here’s what the studies have shown:
- Breakfast eaters are likely to achieve higher grades, pay closer attention, participate more in class discussions, and manage more complex academic problems than breakfast skippers.
- Breakfast skippers are more likely to be inattentive, sluggish, make lower grades, and be less productive.
- Breakfast skippers are more likely to show erratic eating patterns throughout the day, eat less nutritious foods, and give into junk-food cravings. They may crave a mid- morning sugar fix because they can’t make it all the way to lunchtime on an empty fuel tank.
- Some of us are more vulnerable to the effects of missing breakfast than others. The effects on mood and performance as a result of missing breakfast or eating a breakfast that is not very nutritious vary from person to person.
- Those who eat a breakfast containing both complex carbohydrates and proteins in equivalent amounts of calories tend to show better learning and performance than those who eat primarily a high protein or a high carbohydrate breakfast. Breakfasts high in carbohydrates with little protein seem to sedate us rather than stimulate our brains.
- Those eating high calcium foods for breakfast (e.g., dairy products) showed enhanced mood and productivity.
Morning stress increases the levels of stress hormones in the bloodstream. This can affect our emotions and performance. Stress hormones themselves can bother the brain. They also increase carbohydrate craving throughout the day. The food choices that result may affect our moods and ability to function at our best, especially those of us more sensitive to the ups and downs of blood sugar levels.
- Breakfast sets the pattern for nutritious eating throughout the rest of the day. When we miss breakfast to save time or to cut calories, we set ourselves up for erratic bingeing and possibly overeating the rest of the day.