The Ultimate Guide for Sharpening your Mind, Memory & Mood
Thank you to Pure Encapsulations® for sponsoring this article
Do you ever feel like some days your body shows up to work, but your mind seems to be left at home? You want to be fully present and ready to tackle the day, but your mind feels foggy and helpless. Just like there are things that can help you improve your performance at the gym, there are things that can help improve your cognitive performance and give you an edge with your mood and mental clarity. This is helpful if you are trying to take your performance to the next level at work, focused on keeping your memory sharp, or just trying to balance your mood.
All of these things are achievable but the key is to commit to setting up your day for success and being mindful about what you put in your body—including those things that help your performance and avoiding the things that set you back. Here are some of my top tips for supporting your memory and mood.‡
1. Try CurcumaSorb Mind by Pure Encapsulations®
This is a supplement created by one of my favorite professional supplement companies, Pure Encapsulations® that is formulated to promote mood, memory and mental sharpness.‡ I first started using Pure Encapsulations® when I worked at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine and now continue to use them in my own practice.
If you are trying to support your cognitive function and feel more productive and sharp then you should definitely consider trying this supplement. It is comprised of ingredients like curcumin and polyphenols, both of which promote cognitive function and emotional wellness. I am a huge advocate for using phosphatidylserine to help support occasional stress and memory, so I was very excited to see that Pure Encapsulations® paired it with some of the most amazing brain boosting ingredients like Meriva® (which is a highly bioavailable form of turmeric), and Neurophenol® (which is a blend of polyphenols from wild blueberries and grape extracts that supports neuronal function and healthy aging). Foods like turmeric, blueberries and grape extract are some of the best examples of the power of food and this supplement was strategically formulated to leverage the power of these superfoods for brain health.‡
See below for some of the ingredients of CurcumaSorb Mind and how they support health.
|Meriva ® Turmeric Phytosome||Supports neurotransmitter synthesis, positive mood and memory.|
|Neurophenol® Proprietary Blend of Grape and Wild Blueberry Extracts||A new 2018 study showed that Neurophenol provided significant support for episodic memory and verbal recognition memory in healthy aging adults. Research also suggests that polyphenols may offer support for occasional stress and mental alertness.‡|
|Monterey Pine Extract||Provides support for daily cognitive function and mental tasks.‡|
|Green Tea||Promotes neuronal health, healthy hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) function, and positive mood.‡|
2. Try Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting can be a powerful tool to increase mental clarity. Fasting has been shown to influence brain aging and neurogenesis to help increase mental sharpness. Fasting has been shown to increase production of Brain Derived Neurotropic Factors (BDNF) which promotes neuronal survival. In a study on people fasting for Ramadan, those who observed the holiday had 25-47% higher BDNF than those who didn’t. To begin intermittent fasting, start by going 12 hours between dinner and breakfast without eating and you can gradually work your way up to a 16-hour fasting window. See my previous article for additional tips on fasting. People who have issues with their adrenals and high cortisol levels typically do better fasting no more than 12 hours overnight and should not push beyond that. To read more on adrenals and fasting, see this previous article.
3. Listen to your Internal Hunger Cues
Overeating during the day is one of the fastest ways to negatively impact your mood and zap your mental clarity. Skip the food coma and start to focus on eating until you are satisfied. Try to pay attention to how hungry you are when you start your meal and then eat until you are satisfied, not until you are full. Overeating will lead to a blood sugar rollercoaster which is directly related to an unstable mood and poor focus.
4. Eat Slow Releasing Carbs
As mentioned, stable blood sugar levels are essential for having a stable mood and amazing concentration throughout the whole day. Tightly regulated blood sugar levels are associated with neurotransmitter production like GABA (will help calm you), dopamine (will help motivate you), and serotonin (will help you feel good). Production of these neurotransmitters is also influenced by your gut bacteria due to the gut-brain connection. If you are eating too many quick releasing carbs and sugar then it can feed harmful strains of bacteria that create dysbiosis (imbalance in your gut) and interfere with your neurotransmitter production.
One of the best ways to ensure that your blood sugar levels are stable is to avoid stripped carbs like white bread, pita, white pasta, muffins and other pastries, white rice, etc. This is also the same reason that you would want to avoid foods with added sugar, aiming for less than 1 tbsp per day. The best places to watch for sneaky sources of added sugar include your morning coffee, protein bars, salad dressings, sauces and yogurts.
That doesn’t mean that you need to cut out all carbs—just the ones that cause your blood sugar levels to rise quickly. Replace those with slow releasing carbs that are naturally high in fiber and will trigger a slow release of insulin. Slow releasing carbohydrates include brown rice, quinoa, brown rice pasta, lentil pasta, corn tortillas, etc.
5. Incorporate Protein with Every Meal
Most people need a minimum of 15-20 grams of protein per meal. This is because protein signals to your brain that you are satiated through hormones like cholecystokinin (CCK), glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) and peptide YY (PYY), making it less likely for you to overeat. It also helps prevent blood sugar crashes a few hours after the meal and stimulates the release of dopamine and norepinephrine, which are associated with improved mood and clarity. It’s important to include protein at every meal, whether animal or plant-based sources. Animal sources include organic chicken, wild salmon, sardines, pasture raised eggs, grass-fed bison and plant-based examples include non-gmo tofu, non-gmo tempeh, lentils, protein powder, etc. An added bonus to eating some animal protein is the boost in vitamin B12, which is another nutrient associated with serotonin production.
6. Don’t Fear Fat
Eating foods that are high in fat does not translate to having more fat in your body, as long as you don’t go overboard. Eating foods that contain fat is a great way to balance blood sugar levels, fuel the brain and help you absorb nutrients that require fat for absorption: vitamins A, D, E and K and carotenoids. The key is to choose foods rich in healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, almonds, avocado and avocado oil. You’ll also include brain boosting fats that are rich in omega 3s like chia seeds, ground flax seeds, wild salmon and sardines at least three times per week.
7. Get Outside
Here’s a great excuse to take that coffee break outside. Spending just two hours every week in nature could have a dramatic effect on your wellbeing, as evidenced by this recent study. Getting out in nature not only increases your sense of wellbeing, but can also reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. In a recent study, those who took a 90-minute nature walk had significantly less activity in their prefrontal cortex, the area associated with rumination and negative emotion. Finally, being in nature improves your capacity to pay attention and perform on mental tasks. Even looking at nature or being on a simple patch of grass with a single tree can give these benefits. But given that exercise can significantly improve mood and brain function, you may want to get the most of your outdoors time by moving your body in a way that feels good.
8. Stay Hydrated
Your brain cells lose efficiency if they are dehydrated, making you foggy, irritable, and fatigued. Researchers found that women performed worse on cognitive tasks involving visual and working memory when they were dehydrated by only 1%. If you start to feel cranky during your day, try drinking a glass of water, and you should feel the effects almost instantaneously. Aim for 8-10 cups of water per day, drinking until your urine is almost clear.
9. Limit Alcohol Intake
Alcohol is used very commonly as a way to relax, unwind and have fun. But it’s also important to remember alcohol is a toxin, a depressant and a sleep disruptor. Research shows that alcohol can make it easier to fall asleep but then decreases sleep quality throughout the night by reducing REM sleep. When REM sleep time is decreased, it can negatively impact concentration, motor skills and memory. Aim for limiting the number of days that you drink during the week and enjoy 1-2 drinks on weekends. Be sure to drink a glass of water in between each glass of alcohol to help you stay hydrated!
Implementing these simple tips can have a huge impact on your day, increasing your productivity and boosting your mood. Next time you start to feel a little foggy, think which of these tips you can follow to get right back on track.
‡These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.