In previous posts, I’ve shared that I try to make healthy eating one of my top priorities because it helps me to have more energy and feel better overall. While I don’t follow any specific diet, I have increased my awareness of the foods I eat. A turning point for me was when I did a 10-day cleanse about two years ago, which helped me to improve some of my eating habits. For instance, I have reduced my intake of carbs and increased the amount of green leafy veggies I eat, and I also start each morning with a cup of hot green tea instead of coffee.
Since my focus so far has been on the health benefits of diet and nutrition, I was intrigued to learn about the research being done on the role of diet in work performance and productivity. Previously, I’ve always connected diet with how you look and how you feel, not necessarily with how you perform. But it makes sense that eating the best foods would make your brain function at its best. After reading several articles on the positive effects of “brain foods” and diet trends to boost productivity, I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned.
Foods for the brain
Recently, I’ve been reading articles touting the effects of “brain foods” aka foods that have evidence to support benefits such as improved cognitive function and decreased risk for neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s. Specifically, the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet suggests to increase consumption of brain-healthy food groups, such as green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, and fish.
Researchers at Rush University Medical Center and the Harvard School Of Public Health created this diet and sought to determine its efficacy in regards to reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. After tracking dietary habits of 960 adults over the span of nine years and conducting cognitive tests to evaluate the results, the researchers found that older adults who adhered strictly to the MIND diet faced a 53% lower risk of Alzheimer’s, and those who followed it moderately saw their risk lower by 35%.
After four years of living in Europe and personally trying a Mediterranean diet, it’s easy to understand why this diet is so effective. The Mediterranean diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating, but focuses on quality rather than calories. Plus, this diet is full of flavorful foods, such as olive oil, olives, vegetables, whole grains, and even red wine (in moderation, of course). According to the Mayo Clinic, research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet lowers the risk of heart disease by reducing the level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol that’s more likely to build up deposits in your arteries.
Diet trends for increased productivity
I love reading research behind the various diet trends that come and go, but I must admit that I don’t tend to fall into one category when it comes to my diet. I’m not paleo, ketogenic, or vegan, but I’m also not against these different diets and feel that what works for one person may not work for someone else. However, one new diet trend that instantly caught my attention is “biohacking”.
According to an article by Fast Company, biohacking is a small but growing trend among some Silicon Valley executives that involves extreme fasting not for the weight loss or health benefits, but for the productivity benefits. I was surprised and amazed to learn that participants in biohacking fast for up to eight days at a time! The theory behind the productivity benefits gained from these fasting extremes is due to the rise of ketones during the fasting period. Ketones are the byproduct of fat metabolism, which only occurs when the body has an insufficient supply of glucose (sugar that results from the breakdown of carbohydrates). It’s purported that ketones are “super-fuel” for the brain, leading to increases in mental clarity and performance.
While there seems to be sound scientific evidence behind these claims, I’m not sure I am brave enough to try biohacking. Eight days is a long time to go without eating! However, I do want to test for myself incorporating more “brain foods” into my diet to see if I notice a difference. What do you think about diet trends like “biohacking” and the MIND diet? Please feel free to share your thoughts or experiences with these various diet trends in the comments below!