FOOD & FITNESS / AUG. 02, 2015
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Healthy Fats Improve Productivity

The dreaded three letter word: F-A-T. A product’s fat content tends to be one of the first things people look at when purchasing food. “Oh wow, this yogurt is fat-free, it must be healthy.” We’ve become so obsessed with getting healthy that we think that they only way to do that is by avoiding fat, however in doing so we’re missing out on some serious brain power. We should make sure to consumer healthy fats as they improve productivity.

See Also: How to Make Healthy Bring-To-Work Lunches

The truth is, you need fat. Considering your brain is approximately 60 percent fat, this connection cannot be ignored. Not only does fat support various body functions, but healthy fats can actually boost productivity based on improved cognition. Let’s face it, we all want to be more productive. Increased productivity, means higher levels of success, leading to increased income and recognition.

Now, it’s not a free-for-all when it comes to your fat intake. Don’t expect to live off chips and ice cream in order to boost cognitive health and get more productive. Understanding fats can be confusing, however, it’s critical that you focus on the type of fat, not the amount.

It is up to you to properly fuel and care for your brain. Nutrition is a very powerful tool in terms of cognition and overall health. Although there are other contributing factors, such as exercise, social interaction, stress at work, and sleep quality, a healthy, balanced diet can help boost brain power and make us happier in the workplace.

In order to consume a balanced diet, you must focus on healthy sources of fat. It’s time to set the record straight regarding fats so that you can make truly healthy and boosting lunches to bring to work.

Fat Builds the Brain

Based on historical research, it has been found that animal life began in the sea. Within this environment, there was an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids, which now form the cell membranes in our brain, as well as the photoreceptors in our eyes. Our neurons communicate with one another, allowing us to perform daily tasks without much thought and get through our daily workload. Their membranes are composed of fatty acid molecules. When you consume fatty acids, your brain uses them as raw materials to support these cell membranes.

We’ve come a long way in terms of brain and cognitive research. It’s no secret that fatty acids help build a healthy brain, but they may also aid in intelligence and other cognitive factors that would affect productivity. Think of your brain as an extremely hungry organ, requiring up to two times the amount of energy in comparison to other cells. In order to avoid mental exhaustion at work and stress and allow yourself to maintain high levels of productivity, you need to provide your brain with sustainable energy.

Although our brain’s primary energy source is glucose, it can happily utilize ketones (which are broken down from fat) as an alternate source of energy. The human brain requires a minimum of 30 percent of its energy from glucose, but can source the remaining 70 percent from ketones. Many experts agree that ketones are actually an ideal fuel source for the brain.

What Types of Fat Benefit Your Brain?

Before we dive into beneficial fats, let’s focus on trans fats. When you consume far too many processed and fried high-fat foods, you negatively impact your brain and you cannot focus. Man-made trans fats are not the same as natural fats in terms of their properties inside your body. It’s been found that trans fats can actually cause inflammation in the brain and negatively affect memory. It has long been understood that trans fat can wreck havoc on one’s mood and behavior, however, it’s only recently that we’re seeing impairments regarding cognition.

In order to be productive, you need to be sharp and on your toes, not slowed down by unnatural fats. So, what types of fat does your brain need? How do these types of fat influence cognition and one’s ability to boost productivity? It’s critical to understand the difference between beneficial fats and those that sabotage brain health so that you can make healthier decisions.

  • Monounsaturated Fats: When you consume foods such as olive oil, you’re obtaining beneficial monounsaturated fats. These fats support positive brain health while increasing the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Since acetylcholine is associated with learning and memory, a diet that includes nuts, seeds, oils, and avocados helps support healthy brain function and helps u be more productive at work.
  • Essential Fatty Acids: Omega-3 and omega-6 are considered ’essential’ because your body cannot produce them. They’re often found in sources such as grass-fed meat, free-range eggs, nuts, seeds, and fish.
  • Natural Saturated Fats: When you focus on consuming natural saturated fats, you actually strengthen brain cells, aiding in higher functions. These sources include coconut oil, free-range egg yolks, and grass-fed butter. Saturated fats found in meat, poultry, and dairy are considered to be unhealthy fats. This is mainly due to their association with heart disease and research is mixed regarding brain health. The key is moderation and sourcing high-quality grass-fed, organic sources.

So now that we have cleared up the types of fats, how do they benefit your brain and productivity levels?

  • Although serotonin is mainly associated with mood, it also plays a key role in sleep, learning, and memory. If your diet lacks fat, you will suffer from low serotonin levels. When you consume sources of omega-3, for instance, you benefit from tryptophan. This essential amino acid cannot be produced in the body and is used to produce serotonin. Since low levels of serotonin are associated with anxiety and depression, this could most certainly interfere with your level of productivity.
  • We all know that vitamins are essential for healthy and productive brain function, but you can only benefit from what you absorb. Some nutrients, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble. Meaning, without a sufficient intake of fat, your body and mind cannot benefit from these vitamins. When you bring a salad to work, pair vitamin-rich foods like greens, carrots, and berries, with nuts, seeds, and olive oil.
  • It’s believed that healthy fats can actually help boost your IQ. In one specific study, 3,500 newborns were followed for 30 years. Data was collected regarding whether or not they were breastfed and for how long. Although those who were breastfed showed a slight increase in IQ, the longer they were breastfed, the bigger the IQ boost. This is believed to be based on fatty acids found in breast milk, specifically DHA. To get enough omega-3 fatty acids, you should consume fatty fish twice weekly.
  • Healthy fats, specifically omega-3 fatty acids, have been shown to strengthen one’s ability to focus. In one Dutch study, 80 boys with ADHD were examined. One group was given omega-3 fatty acids while the other group was not. After 16 weeks, the omega-3 group displayed a reduction in their attention issues. Increasing your ability to focus is essential in terms of productivity. If you cannot stay focused on tasks, it’s difficult to complete them.

See Also: 5 Tips on Staying Healthy at Work

When it all boils down, fat is not the enemy. It’s time to welcome brain-boosting, healthy fats into your regular diet. Along with healthy fats, consume plenty of nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and lean protein sources. A balanced diet that includes beneficial fats, can help you boost cognition so that you can achieve your career goals. If you would like to embrace the power of healthy fats, here are some sources of healthy fat to incorporate into your work lunches.

 

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