Feb. 9, 2001 -- Listen up, smart guy. That brain of yours? Every day, you rack it, tax it, and let other people pick it, but there's one thing you don't do — feed it.
You need emergency help. That's why we've prepared a relief package. Each food has an immediate benefit (improved memory, sharpened concentration, wittier pickup lines) that'll give you a brain boost anytime, but especially when you need it most — on the job. We call it "The Thinking Man's Diet," and frankly, you'd be an idiot not to try it.
MONDAY, 8 a.m. PowerPoint presentation
You need to eat: oatmeal with cinnamon and brown sugar
University of Toronto researchers recently found that eating certain carbohydrate-rich foods like oatmeal is the same as having a shot of glucose, a.k.a. blood sugar, injected into your brain (without having to explain why there's a syringe sticking out of your head). "Your body quickly takes glucose out of the carbohydrates and feeds it to your brain to help it function," says Arnold Scheibel, M.D., former director of UCLA's Brain Research Institute. In other words, the higher the concentration of glucose in your blood, the better your memory and concentration. No oatmeal, or just can't stand the stuff even with cinnamon and brown sugar? Grab a banana or a bagel instead; they turn into glucose fast, too.
TUESDAY, 3:30 p.m. Midafternoon slump
You need to have: one cup of coffee and two chocolate-chip cookies
The original fresh-brewed brain fuel. In one study, British researchers found that those people consuming the caffeine equivalent of approximately one cup of coffee experienced improved attention and problem-solving skills. Try downing your joe with two chocolate-chip cookies, a powdered doughnut, or half a cheese Danish. "The fat in foods like these triggers the release of cholecystokinin, a hormone that slows stomach emptying, which may help maximize your absorption of caffeine," says John Allred, Ph.D., a professor of food science at Ohio State University. Just stop at one cup; another study found that men given more caffeine did worse on attention tests.
WEDNESDAY, 10:30 a.m. Emergency meeting with the boss
You need to eat: a handful of raisins
Skip the exotic fruits; raisins are loaded with old-fashioned boron. USDA researchers found that subjects taking in the most boron — 3.2 milligrams (mg) a day — performed about 10 percent better on attention and memory tests than those eating the least. "Half of all men get only about 1.2 mg of boron a day," says James Penland, Ph.D., a USDA research psychologist. Raisins help you make up the difference with 1.8 mg in a half cup. Apples and nuts pack boron, too.
THURSDAY, 6:45 p.m. Putting in overtime
You need to have: an egg-salad sandwich and a glass of milk
Eggs and milk are the richest sources of choline, a nutrient that'll make for a memorable evening. Studies have shown that college students given 3 to 4 grams of choline 1 hour before taking memory tests scored higher than those who didn't receive the choline supplements. "We believe choline increases the release of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps your brain store and recall information," says Steven Zeisel, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina. Although studies have used supplements, Dr. Zeisel says that eating your choline should do the trick just as well.
FRIDAY, noon Working through lunch
You need to eat: a six-piece order of Chicken Tenders from Burger King
Every order comes supersized with the amino acid tyrosine. U.S. military researchers found that soldiers did better on a multi-tasking and memory test when they had eaten a tyrosine-enriched food an hour earlier. "Tyrosine may help your body maintain brain levels of dopamine, one neurotransmitter important to working memory," says Patricia Deuster, Ph.D., the study author. Burgers are also high in tyrosine, but hold the bun; carbohydrates can interfere with the absorption of the amino acid.