How Employees Learn

Mindful Eating: Eating Mindfully by Minding What You Eat

The average adult human has a sustained attention span of 20 minutes, but some researchers are saying that’s been reduced to 5 minutes, with the internet to blame. If you’ve got a particularly long training session or meeting coming up, your brain needs all the help it can get. Mindful eating. Recent research says that certain foods improve cognition, while others are harmful to your brain. By minding what you eat, in other words, mindful eating, you can lengthen your attention span, retain information better and even decrease your risk of getting Alzheimer’s Disease as you age.

1. Skip the Pre-Meeting Carb Loading

The morning of a meeting or training, avoid simple carbohydrates like bagels, donuts, waffles or anything not labeled “whole grain.” Simple carbohydrates begin breaking down into glucose (sugar) as soon as you start chewing. Glucose goes right into your system and spikes your cortisol levels, which impairs your memory, makes it hard to concentrate, and makes your brain misfire, meaning your colleague will say one thing, but you’ll hear another.

2. Don’t Skip Breakfast

The trick is to eat enough to keep your blood sugar levels normal, but not eat so much that you feel tired and lethargic. Make sure you try something healthy from the list below before you get to work and bring snacks if you think you’ll be in there for a while. Take a lesson from backpackers: smaller amounts of calorie rich, nutrient dense food eaten every few hours keep your energy and focus steadily throughout the day.

3. Antioxidant-rich Foods Are Good for Your Brain

Your brain works hard for 5-20 minutes straight as you process information. That work is called a metabolic load. Just like when you carry something heavy and create tiny tears in your muscle fibers, your neurons incur oxidative damage from heavy thinking. You needantioxidants, which help restore the damaged neurons so you can keep thinking.

Berries are high in antioxidants like tannins, anthocyanins, and phenolics. They also contain less sugar in comparison with other fruits. Antioxidants called alpha lipoic acids are found in leafy greens like spinach, potatoes, and broccoli. Powerful antioxidant supplements like curcumin, an Indian spice, work both for the short and long term in improving brain function.

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4. Fatty Foods Are Bad for Your Brain

Stay away from bacon, pork sausage, butter and cheesy thick sauces the morning of a big meeting. Forget about what ketogenic dieters tell you—eating foods high in saturated fat is bad for your brain.

Not only do they make you feel slow, fatty foods injure your hypothalamus, which can lead to obesity, as it regulates your calorie intake.

5. Eat Fatty Acids to Improve Your Memory

Omega-3s are the ultimate brain food, as they help you retain information. You can get the most from fish like salmon, trout, canned tuna, sardines. If you don’t want to walk into a meeting smelling like canned tuna, you can also try eggs, milk, and yogurt. Seeds and nuts, like flax, almonds and peanut butter are just as good. Plus, you can take a few handfuls of trail mix into a long onboarding session to keep your glucose levels up.

6. Don’t Knock Avocado Toast

If anyone criticizes your avocado toast, tell them it’s a tax write off, or at least, it should be. Avocados are a great source of long-term energy, and they increase blood flow to the brain, making you smarter and more productive. Again, take another lesson from backpackers—snack on nutrient dense and calorie rich food.

Regardless of whether the average person’s attention span is 5 or 20 minutes, you can strengthen your mind through mindful eating. If you can start by making small changes in what you eat at breakfast or lunch, you can reap both the short-term benefit of higher brain power and the long-term benefit of reduced risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.