Nutrition to Support Cognitive Function, Immunity, Energy Levels, & Stress Relief Sydney Nitzkorski, MS, RD
Overview • How is nutrition related to: • Cognitive ability • Better immunity • Energy levels • Dealing with stress
Cognitive Ability The brain depends on food for energy “In spite of potent biological mechanisms that protect brain activity from disruption, some cognitive functions appear sensitive to short-term variations of fuel (glucose) availability” (Bellisle, Effects of diet on behavior and cognition in children, British Journal of Nutrition 2004) What does this mean?
Cognitive Ability • Glucose acutely facilitates mental performance • Especially on demanding, long-duration tasks • Examples of the above? • Research has shown repeatedly that when breakfast is omitted school children have a deterioration in mental performance
Cognitive Ability • Intelligence scores are improved in individuals who are supplemented with micronutrients (when they start with poor nutrient status) • Some “healthy looking individuals” can have micronutrient deficiencies (A, B2, B6, folate, iron, C, zinc) • How can you avoid this? • Balanced diet with lots of color (green leafy veggies, whole grains, plenty of fruits and veg)
Immune Function • Macro and Micronutrient deficiencies will affect immune function as well as cognitive function • Immune function is affected by: • Adequate intake of protein (approx .5/pound BW) • FISH, lean meats, skinless poultry, legumes, skim dairy, soy products
Immune Function • Proper balance of fats (good vs. bad) • Fat from olive oil, nuts, avocados, nut butters, vs. red meat, poultry skin, full fat dairy • Proper amount of fat (approx .5 grams/pound BW) • Excess intake can depress immune system • Adequate amounts of vitamins A, C, E • Antioxidants found in abundance in fresh fruits and veggies • Adequate amounts of the minerals zinc and iron • red meat, baby spinach, fish, beans, dairy products, peas, cashews, eggs, lima beans and chick peas
Immune Function • “Children with subclinical deficiency of micronutrients are more vulnerable to develop frequent and more severe common day-to-day infections thus triggering a vicious cycle of undernutrition and recurrent infections” (Singh, Child Care dn Dental Health Center) • Anyone try to study when they had a cold?
Energy Levels Along with sleep, energy levels are highly related to food/fluid intake: • Hydration • Inadequate fluid intakemore viscous blood iron carrying oxygen moves slower & more work for heart to pump • *Fastest way to see/feel improvement in well being • Carry a water bottle to class/everywhere!
Energy Levels • Hydration needs: • 16 ml fluid/pound body weight • Example: 150 # x 16=2400 ml fluid • 2,400 ml/1000=2.4 Liters (x4) =9.6 cups • Add more if drinking alcohol that day or exercising • Being dehydrated will make you feel tired!!!
Energy Levels Along with sleep, energy levels are highly related to food/fluid intake: • Regular meals and snacks • Skipping meals causes blood sugar to fall which can decrease concentration and increase sleepiness • Meals/snacks of appropriate size • Meals that are too large cause blood to rush to GI tract (which leaves less for your muscles and brain—Thanksgiving factor!)
Energy Levels • Proper Balance of Protein & Whole Grains • Eating protein along with carbs helps regulate blood sugar • Fiber in whole grains does the same • Brown/wild rice vs white, whole wheat bread vs. white • Iron Levels • Never supplement without being advised to by an MD • Chronic fatigue is a symptom of iron deficiency
Stress • Balanced nutrition is essential for overall health, but how is it related to your capacity to cope with stress? • Stress (physiological and mental) requires the body to use up more of all of the nutrients it needs • Increased need to eat a variety of foods and at regular intervals • Limit excessive amounts of caffeine • Too much caffeine causes the body to use up more of its B vitamins which are needed for coping with stress
Stress • Caffeine • Can also inhibit sleep which decreases ability to cope with stress • Alcohol • Also depletes body’s B vitamins, can disrupt sleep and impair judgment or clarity of thought • Sugar • Excessive amounts (processed foods) causes blood sugar to rise quickly and then crash • Think of mental stress in the same way as physical stress changes the food needs of the body
Conclusion What do improving cognitive function, immunity, energy levels, and appropriately dealing with stress have in common? Eat a variety of foods to get the nutrients you need Eat LOTS of fruits and veggies Eat unprocessed foods, and avoid excessive amounts of sugar, caffeine, and alcohol Include enough water Include healthy fats and healthy lean proteins
Contact Information • To make an appointment: call 215 746 3535 • Office Location: Student Health Services, 1st floor @ 36th and Market