With the increase in people working from home, being able to maintain focus and productivity is higher than ever on many people’s priority lists. Whether you continue to go into work each week or are making the most of your new WFH setup, eating sugar is harming your ability to focus. Read on to learn more about how to focus at work and how sugar impacts your brain.
Your Brain on Sugar
Sugar consumption causes inflammation, which destroys many of your body’s tissues over time, including brain tissue. Reducing your sugar intake and overall inflammation is one of the best ways to improve both mental focus and overall well-being.
Your body creates glucose from the foods you eat, and your brain uses that glucose as fuel to function. Healthy, complex carbs like those found in whole grains, vegetables, and milk are converted and used in a slow and steady manner. Simple sugars (like table sugar), on the other hand, provide a quick glucose spike and then a following, equally quick glucose drop. You’ve probably experienced this “sugar crash” after indulging in a sweet treat. Since having too much or too little glucose available to the brain can impair its function, eating sugar is a quick way to sabotage your productivity and focus.
In addition, sugar can impact your brain in the following ways:
- Slows down neural communication by blocking membranes (makes it so your nerves can’t communicate with the brain)
- Interferes with synaptic communication (blocks chemical messages to the brain)
- Causes neurons to misfire (causes interruptions in the way your nerves send signals to the body and brain)
- Can damage those neurons over time (results in permanent damage to the brain and nervous system)
Sugar Impairs Memory
Since sugar can block various receptors in the brain, it can impair your memory while trying to accomplish important tasks at work. Sugar consumption has also been linked with more long-term memory problems and even diseases like Alzheimer’s. Decreasing your sugar consumption or cutting it out completely will help to improve both your short-term and long-term memory.
Sugar Increases Stress and Impacts Mood
When the glucose available to the brain crashes after a sugar-binge, it can impact mood and stress levels. The results can be irritability, impatience, shorter temper, anxiety, sluggishness, and even feelings of depression. Sugar consumption is linked with depletion of vitamin B and chromium in the body, both of which are mood-balancing agents. Sugar is also addictive, creating a cycle of dependence on the sugar “high” and then loss of function during the “crash.” To keep your mood more even-keeled, avoid sugar and choose brain-boosting foods instead.
Brain-boosting Snacks to Choose Instead
For optimal focus and clarity, ditch the sugary snacks. Instead, if you need an afternoon pick-me-up, choose from foods that have been shown to improve your ability to concentrate:
- Fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon, sardine, tuna, and cod)
- Dark chocolate (no more than an ounce) that is rich in antioxidants
- Nuts and seeds with age-defying vitamin E
- Avocado and other healthy fats
- Blueberries that fight free radicals and other brain damage
- Sugar-free substitutes that help you decrease the amount of sugar you eat
Additional Tips for Maintaining Focus at Work
- For increased focus and productivity, consider some of the following tips:
- Eat balanced snacks that include a mix of healthy carbs, fats, and proteins
- Take regular breaks (added bonus if you can go on a walk or step outside for a minute for a true brain-refresh)
- Try relaxing breathing techniques throughout the day
- Optimize your environment by getting rid of distractions (including social media)
- Get enough sleep
Mental clarity is all about balance, so free yourself from sugar dependence and learn to live your best life.