Food for thought

Everything we eat affects us. Exactly what affects us, and how, just may surprise you. A microscopic element like iron can ward off anemia, while the properties of other nutrients may range from subtle to substantial. Here’s a few of the foods your body might be asking you for.

Fasting for fuelMany medical professionals applaud fasting as a way to cleanse and recharge. Without food, your digestive system can relax. This frees up energy for both body and brain. During a short fast, concentration improves. Plus, the altered state of fasting may stir the creative pot. One day without food is safe for most people, but longer fasts should be medically supervised.

Iron man
Though iron influences energy, it also affects the mind, killing two flies with one shot. Though we know we get energy from coffee and a refreshing sleep (two things that don’t always fit together) we also get energy from oxygen, breathing through our body as well as our nose. To be precise, our cells breathe for us. Iron helps our cells carry oxygen to our brain, supercharging our focus and memory. While iron is easy to get, it’s not always tasty. You can find huge amounts of this mineral in beans, peas and leafy vegetables. Meat lovers have a bonus, as the iron from meat (especially pork) is used more efficiently than vegetables.

Vitamins for intellect
Even more important for our brain than minerals, are vitamins – specifically B, C, and E. Why? Vitamin C and E are antioxidants, which protect your body from free radicals. Left unmanaged, these can damage brain and other sensitive cells. Potatoes have some vitamin C, but these pasty staples pale in comparison to oranges, spinach, broccoli and brussels sprouts. Generally, when you think C, think G for green or OR for orange and red. Tomatoes and strawberries are also rich sources, but keep that fruit fresh. Despite efforts at wishful thinking, an extra strawberry-filled koláč won’t do. Diners in the Czech Republic can push vitamin E worries off your plate. Pork has plenty, as do butter and the plentiful plums in plum dumplings. Vitamin B is another matter. Getting adequate amounts of each B vitamin is challenging, and many people have a deficiency of at least one. For both a brighter brain and mood, try increasing B1. This vitamin aids communication between brain cells. Brewers yeast, which is used to make beer, is an excellent source of B1. Unfortunately, its nutrient-rich cells die in the brewing process, so don’t celebrate just yet. Though the dead cells still have value, it’s best to eat some B1-rich pecans and cashews with your Pilsner.

Clever carbohydrates
Though many think of carbohydrates as food for energy, few realize they are also “food for thought”. Carbohydrates convert into glucose, which is your brain’s main energy source. Because the two types of carbs operate differently, managing them takes skill. Simple carbs consist of sugars and syrups. These will wear you out quickly. Complex carbs are a more “thoughtful” choice. Their fibre slows their rate of metabolization, distributing time-released energy for brain and body. Vegetables, noodles, breads, cereals and dumplings are all complex carbohydrates. But too much is not better. No more than 60% of your calories should come from carbohydrates. Otherwise, you’ll use up all your energy in digestion. This is crucial at breakfast, when a day’s work is ahead of you. Try light carbs and more protein for a “smarter” meal.

Dehydration dangers
In comparison to many European nations, Czechs are extremely well hydrated. According to an August 2003 report in The Prague Post, Czech consumption of bottled water is the highest in central Europe. Water is the best way to fight dehydration, which is a little known cause of mental laziness. The lost water from dehydration drains your body of important salts and minerals. Even 1% dehydration results in weak concentration, headaches, fatigue and bad breath. Be aware that dehydration is sneaky, and thirst isn’t always a reliable signal. Also, caffeine, salts and alcohol speed the water-loss process.






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