We know that there is a strong connection between your physical
health and work performance.
I consider myself a pretty healthy person: I try to run one half marathon a year, and exercise four or five times a week.
But like most people, I have my unhealthy habits.
While I try to eat a healthy diet of lean meat and vegetables about 70% of the time, I resort to junk food when I’m stressed and drink way too much coffee when I don’t get enough sleep.
Somewhere in the process, my brain slows down and it becomes excruciating to think properly for what seems like a long stretch in the afternoon.
I’ve tried adopting “diets” for the sake of my brain and energy levels–but have largely failed due to its all-or-nothing approach.
Diets like the Slow- Carb diet, the Ketogenic diet, Whole 30, Paleo, and the Bulletproof Diet all tout amazing brain function as a result, but I hated their restrictive nature.
The fact that a slip-up can undo a week of discipline discouraged me from continuing with any of those eating plans for longer than two weeks.
But since I notice a difference in my sleep and clearheadedness when I’m more conscious of what I eat, I was determined to find a plan that works.
A lot of Googling led me to the MIND diet, which was designed purely for greater cognitive function, as opposed to weight loss like most of the diets above.
The best part of all? it’s not all or nothing, adopting parts of diet supposedly still gives you mental benefits. I was IN.
A Diet for the Brain
The MIND diet is a hybrid of the popular Mediterranean and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets.
The MIND diet encourages high consumption of 10 “brain-healthy” food groups such as green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, and fish.
It limited (note: not banned) consumption of unhealthy food groups like red meats, butter and stick margarine, cheese, sweets, and processed foods.
Embracing Higher Grocery Bills and Eating the Same Meals
The first thing I had to swallow on this diet was higher grocery bills.
Salmon, extra-virgin olive oil, blueberries, and nuts are not cheap items, and these are staples on the MIND diet.
I also bought three times as many leafy greens (kale and spinach) than I usually do because I wanted to incorporate more of them in my meals.
That week, I was shopping for one because my husband was out of town, and I still ended up with a bill that was $20 more than what I’d usually pay when I shopped for two.
I also found myself eating almost the same meals every day.
Breakfast would be two eggs, spinach, and salmon–with black coffee and a teaspoon of coconut oil.
Lunch would be chicken breast salad with kale, spinach, edamame, and sautéed broccoli, with a handful of almonds.
Dinner was lentil curry with vegetables and brown rice.
The biggest change for me was cutting out dairy and refined sugar, so I substituted my usual afternoon snack of flavored greek yogurt and granola with unsweetened coconut cream “yogurt,” blueberries, and chia seeds.
I replaced my milky iced coffee with peppermint green tea.
The only time I deviated from this was when I ate out, which happened twice that week, where I devoured greasy carb-laden foods.
I Was Less Hungry Throughout the Day
I was surprised at how quickly the effects kicked in.
It only took me about two days to get past the sugar and dairy cravings, and on day one of the diet I fell asleep much quicker and naturally woke up earlier.
I also noticed that I snacked less, even though my food portions weren’t that much bigger.
As a result, food occupied less space in my brain, and I was able to focus for longer stretches of time.
I Feel More Motivated to Eat for My Brain than to My Body
Unlike other diets, I wasn’t tempted to binge on terrible foods. I suspected that there are two reasons for this.
One is that although they discouraged consumption of certain foods, the diet didn’t dictate that I had to cut out certain things.
Second, I found eating for my brain much more motivating than eating for my body.
That said, I definitely felt a positive change in my body. I suspected that the elimination of refined sugar probably played a big part.
Fruit began to taste like candy.
Moderation Is My Happy Medium
It’s been two weeks since I started the diet, and for once, I’m actually thinking of sticking to this beyond the experiment.
One of the things I really appreciated about this diet was the lack of restrictions.
Staying away from dairy and refined sugar will continue to be a challenge, but knowing that I can indulge every once in a while makes this diet bearable.
I’ll have to swallow the additional money in my grocery bills, but compared to other diets, the increase isn’t too steep.