How to improve your mindset with focus boosting foods in less than 24 hours

- October 13, 2023 3 MIN READ


Imagine being fully engaged, thinking clearly, firing on all cylinders, with the ability to work through problems and make quick decisions quickly  – that’s the benefit of mental clarity. And your diet can be the key, explains Vesna Hrsto.

Mental clarity is an advantage in business. It not only impacts our productivity and performance, but our creative thinking and innovation, allowing ideas to form that are essential to keep our competitive edge and adapt to changing times. 

The biggest disruptors of clarity are stress, anxiety, overwhelm and mental fatigue. 

The main source of fuel for our brain is glucose. In fact, our brains use more glucose now than a 1000 years ago as it’s needed for creative problem solving, responding to the 200 or so emails at work, picking up the kids in traffic, and more. 

A disruption in glucose levels can mirror symptoms of anxiety, overwhelm, and mental fatigue.

The fastest way to mental clarity is through balancing blood glucose levels. 

Some foods will cause our glucose levels to spike and crash, disrupting our energy and mental clarity, and it’s often these foods we gravitate toward when we’re busy, stressed or working late. 

Insulin is a hormone that is released to pull glucose from the bloodstream to be used as energy. The bigger the glucose spike, the more insulin is released, which leads to a crash later. Think of a time you ate pasta and wanted to have a nap afterward. This is a glucose crash. 

Glucose and insulin both affect our brain. If you eat in a way that keeps the two in balance, you will increase your mental clarity and energy.

But first it’s important to understand the stress-sugar connection. 

It’s a natural biological response to crave sugar or carbohydrates when stressed. Although back in our hunter-gatherer days we only had access to berries or honey. 

Today, we have unlimited access to all sorts of ultra processed, sweet foods and snacks, 24/7.

When we’re stressed our brain is operating from the limbic system or lizard brain – home of the fight-or-flight stress response. Here our mind and body is in survival mode, we’re not thriving.

From this place, it’s the worst time to make decisions because stress hormones change the way we see the world. We become reactive, hypervigilant and myopic in our thoughts, and our judgement is impaired.

Digestion slows down. Our immune system decreases. Hormone production is impacted such as testosterone, thyroid hormones and oestrogen and progesterone in women. 

If we consume a small amount of sugar, our brain moves from the lizard brain to the prefrontal cortex. The CEO/ executive function of our brain, the decision maker, our rational mind. It releases serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter that signals ‘everything is going to be ok’.

People who snack on a lot of sugar are trying to stay in the prefrontal cortex where they feel more in control of their emotions and life, and feel calmer. 

A small amount of carbohydrates can relax us. But if we consume too much or don’t eat a balanced meal, it has the opposite effect.

The highs and lows are like living on a rollercoaster and it disrupts brain function and clarity. 

Foods that will restore mental clarity. 

It’s all about timing and macro combinations. 

Meals should combine your marcos: protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. 

Proteins are animal proteins such as meat, chicken, fish, or eggs. 

Complex carbohydrates are vegetables, starchy vegetables, fruits, legumes, and grains. Avoid sugar and processed carbohydrates as much as possible (i.e packaged foods)

Healthy fats like avocado, olives, olive oil dressing and coconut oil

Combine these macros and eat regular meals every 3-4 hours to prevent the glucose-adrenalin rollercoaster 

For example, breakfast: having just carbohydrates for breakfast (like oats or muesli) will last you about 1.5 – 2 hours before your glucose drops and disrupts your mental clarity. 

If you combine it with protein, your brain has a good supply of fuel for 3-4 hours after breakfast.

Mid morning and mid-afternoon snack options: 1 handful of nuts, ¼ cup of natural greek yoghurt or fruit & nuts combined. 

Lunch/ Dinner: Include animal protein (red meat, chicken, fish) or combine your vegetarian proteins, carbohydrates like starchy vegetables (potato or pumpkin or brown rice about ½ cup), green leafy salad and healthy oils like coconut/olive oil or avocado.