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How important is your Mental health for your physical performance
By Edwina Coram

Do you have days when your mind feels foggy; when you can’t seem to think straight or concentrate on anything no matter how hard you try? If your answer is yes, then it might be time to re-evaluate your diet and daily habits.

Some things that we do deplete the body’s system and in turn will affect the ability to think clearly and concentrate. Not eating regular healthy meals can be a drain on the brain, affecting your ability to focus without becoming distracted.

Iron is essential for the transportation of oxygen to the brain, too little iron in your diet means that the brain literally suffocates. Inadequate oxygen supply prevents cells from converting glucose and other calorie containing foods to energy, quick enough to meet your cellular needs. In such case, many cell functions will either slow down or stop altogether. Leaving you feeling tired, and irritable. You may also find it difficult to think clearly or concentrate.

Smoking has similar adverse effects. The nicotine in tobacco smoke constricts the blood vessels and interferes with circulation. This can gradually reduce the number of brain cells, increasing free radicals. These in turn, damage the whole system, due to oxygen deprivation. Again this can make feel sluggish and will also be a burden on your immune system.

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Acute or chronic stress can also result in the inability to concentrate and thus reduce the effect of short-term memory. Likewise, high blood pressure is linked to reduced attention span and memory loss. Concentration can further be affected by lack of physical exercise and obesity.

Smartening up your diet

If you want to restore you concentration and memory skills then a good place to start is with your diet. Mental performance and relaxation can both be improved by choosing the right combination of foods.

Foods rich in iron include whole grains, beans, and fortified cereals. Though these are generally more difficult to absorb than animal sources, vitamin C will help enhance your intake, so you should consider including sources such as citrus fruit, strawberries, red peppers, broccoli, potatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, cauliflower, and kiwis in your meal.

There are two amino acids in the brain (L-tryptophan and L-tyrosine) which compete with each other to control brain function. The brain uses L-tyrosine to synthesize neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine. Both these chemicals are essential to the processes of alertness, clear thinking and concentration. L-tyrosine production is stimulated by protein rich foods such as beans, nuts and soya. The brain uses L-tryptophan to synthesize the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is responsible for relaxation and satiety and slowing down reaction time. L-tryptophan production is stimulated by foods such as sunflower seeds, milk and carbohydrate rich food. Because these chemicals compete with each other, if you want to stay focused and alert throughout the day, then the best thing it to eat protein rich foods. That way L-tyrosine will reach the brain first, thus keeping your mental performance at maximum potential.

If you don’t allow your body a chance to self-cleanse then poor concentration and fatigue can become daily problems. You can help your body relieve itself of toxins by adjusting your dietary routine. Including alfalfa sprouts soybeans, brown rice, sesame salt, miso, and sea vegetables can help to clear toxins from your body and enervate your digestive and metabolic processes.

Adding friendly microflora to your digestive system by eating yogurt or probiotic supplements can also help to detoxify your system and prevent buildup of damaging bacteria in the intestines.

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There are also a number of herbal drinks, which are nutritious as well as helpful for detoxification processes. Dandelion, licorice root, yellow dock root, milk thistle, red clover and burdock root taken in extract or tablet form will each help to remove toxins from the body and boost the immune system. Lemon, beet, carrot, wheat grass and the juices of all leafy greens are the best juices for purifying the blood because as they help to build up essential nutrients.

Several mini-meals and snack throughout the day rather than a few large meals with long intervals will help your metabolism function better by balancing nutrients and keeping the brain supplied with oxygen. A moderate meal every four hours is adequate to balance brain chemical and improve mood and blood sugar levels. But don’t be tempted to nibble, this will lead to craving and gorging and will disrupt concentration further. It is also beneficial to increase your water intake to at least 6 glasses daily, and to limit caffeine (coffee, tea, and coke) to two beverages per day. Remember, if you are consuming less than 2,500 calories daily then it is advisable to at least consider taking a moderate vitamin supplement, but don’t be tempted to use supplements as replacements for nutritious foods.

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