Like you wouldn’t make a snap decision on something extremely important when you’re emotional, you should apply that same restraint when you’re hungry, too.
According to Uma Naidoo, MD, director of nutritional and lifestyle psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, science agrees: You should make life-altering decisions like moving in with your significant other, dying your hair purple, or trying a new career only when your stomach is full and satiated.
“Research supports not making a decision on an empty stomach,” explains Dr. Naidoo. “Ghrelin is a hormone made in the GI tract that affects the brain. It is released when the stomach is empty. In a healthy person, once you eat, the action of this hormone stops.”
While the research on the presence of ghrelin and its effects on rational thinking has only been done on animals and small human sample sizes, Dr. Naidoo says the findings are noteworthy nonetheless.
One small study including 50 subjects led by Benjamin Vincent, DPhil, from the University of Dundee’s Department of Psychology, found that hunger noticeably altered participants’ decision-making processes. “Hunger made them impatient and more likely to settle for a small reward that arrives sooner than a larger reward promised at a later date,” says Dr. Naidoo. “Simply said, what the research appears to show us is that we seem to make poorer more reckless choices when we are hungry.”
The brain also thrives on glucose; when the stomach is empty, it has an effect on the brain.
“The brain needs about 62 grams of glucose in a 24-hour period. This means actual glucose, not other forms of sugar. Our mental sharpness relies on the brain getting enough brain food. So when we eat, our brains get fed too,” says Dr. Naidoo.
Related: The Importance of When to Eat
So, are some foods better than others for decision-making? Dr. Naidoo says you can simply go back to the basics. “A simple way to lead to a healthier lifestyle is to maintain a balance of foods that you eat, focusing on whole foods—for example, eat an orange rather than buying the juice—or eat leafy greens, lean poultry, legumes, nuts, healthy fats, and omega-3 rich seafoods to help your brain along,” she says.
So fill yourself up with good food first, and then decide if you really want to go through with that tattoo of your own face on your back.
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