Chew on This!

As a member of the Career Step forums for over 10 years, I have seen my share of posts discussing the most important tools for medical transcriptionists and editors—everything from hand warmers to keystroke expanders, from the things we just have to have to the things we can only wish for—but there has been one very important tool that I’m not sure I have ever seen discussed: brain food.  We spend time and money trying to make our schooling and career easier on our hands and back and even go to certain measures to make it easier on our family, but what are we doing to make it easier on our brain? Let’s take a look at some tantalizing choices to give our brain a boost.

Sugar: Wait, what?! Yes! But don’t go reaching for that candy bar. Instead, reach for some fruit, especially blueberries. Blueberries are superfoods that can punch right through the blood-brain barrier and come to the aid of the memory and learning regions of the brain. They contain polyphenols that help to increase dopamine production, the low levels of which can be responsible for poor concentration, low energy, depressed mood, and lack of motivation. As if that’s not reason enough to grab a handful of nice, plump blueberries, they also have a profound effect on eyesight due to their ability to raise glutathione levels in the eye lens.

Chocolate: Wait, more sugar?! Yes! But still don’t go reaching for that candy bar because chances are it’s milk chocolate with a gooey caramel center. Instead, reach for a dark chocolate bar with nuts, or a cup of hot cocoa during the cold winter months. Studies show promising results that chocolate (not necessarily flavanols, as originally thought) improves blood circulation, including that of the brain. Not only that, it contains magnesium and potassium, minerals that have been found to reduce fatigue, relax muscles, and keep the ol’ ticker beating at a good, steady rhythm.

Caffeine: Now that you’ve got blueberries and dark chocolate on your shopping list, don’t counteract their brainy benefits by reaching for a soda—reach for a cup of joe instead. Coffee is great served hot or cold, and it doesn’t contain all the harmful ingredients that most other caffeinated beverages contain. For adenosine, a compound that progressively inhibits the central nervous system, caffeine is a force to be reckoned with as it passes through adenosine receptors incognito and blocks them. Bad news for adenosine, good news for dopamine and glutamate as this blocking effect allows them to party like there’s no tomorrow, improving reaction time, memory, cognitive function, and mood.

Despite the benefits, too much of a good thing is still too much, so eat a variety of foods in moderation rather than finding your one true love and doting on it all day long. There are many other foods that can boost your brain power, but until we explore those some other time, chew on this.

– Heather Garrett
CS Skills Assessment Team

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