If your mother didn’t tell you at every available opportunity, then health magazines certainly did; you should eat a balanced diet to stay fit and healthy. However, were you also aware that there are certain foods that can boost your brain power and make you feel happier?
Known collectively as ‘power foods’, eating these foods can bring a variety of benefits, from improving reaction times and memory, to lifting your mood, and reducing stress. Because of this, they’re a great way of increasing your productivity; particularly at work.
Alison, Content Marketing Specialist at Officevibe, says:
“Employee wellness is essential for all organizations to consider. Not only are healthier employees more productive, but when you show your employees that you care about their physical and emotional health, they will repay your organization with loyalty and hard work.
“At Officevibe, we have healthy lunches delivered to the office three times a week! This helps to ensure that employees receive a balanced diet that allows them to focus and feel good.”
Samantha Lippiatt, Director and Co-founder of Health and Fitness Travel, also advises the importance of grabbing a healthy bite to eat to improve your productivity. She says:
“A body without food is like a car without fuel… except that is where the analogy ends. A body is far more complex. Our brains need specific nutrients to function productively, so source them from whole-grains, low-fat protein and plenty of fruit and veg. Smaller, more regular meals also take far less energy to digest, helping you to avoid that dreaded post-lunch lull.”
Monika Pietrowski, Travel and Wellness blogger, and owner of Mymonpie, also adds:
“I’ve been living as a digital nomad for over a year now, so maintaining energy and keeping productive is a big factor when travelling so much and running your own business.”
“How do I stay productive? With a killer morning routine to set me up for the day! I start each day with lemon water and apple cider vinegar because not only does it flush out yesterday’s toxins, but it kickstarts my metabolism and helps digest the nutrients from my food that day.”
Want to know what foods you should be eating (and what you should be avoiding) to get the most out of your workday? Here are some of our top tips, as well as some of the best power foods to incorporate into your work lunch…
Watch your caffeine intake
First and foremost, don’t overdo it on the caffeine (no matter how temping it may be to have just one more cup of coffee)!
Although caffeine can improve your memory and make you more awake, drinking too much in a short amount of time can cause unpleasant side effects, including headaches and nervousness. It’s also not unusual to experience that dreaded 3pm slump after drinking too many coffees in the morning.
Our advice? Stick to a few cups of coffee a day, or go for decaf or green tea as an alternative. Although green tea still contains caffeine, it’s a significantly lower amount, and it also brings a variety of health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease.
Shawn Geitner, CEO of Beleave Teas, says:
“Herbal teas are a great way of boosting your mood and well-being. However, it’s extremely important to know what’s in your cup when trying to get the most health benefits, flavour, and aroma from your teas and herbals. On our website, we classify our teas by their type and wellness attribute, such as Energy, Anxiety and Stress Relief, Probiotic, and Heart and Cholesterol.”
“We now also offer Tea Sachet options for our teas. These are perfectly portioned, easy, and portable, which makes them perfect for the office!”
Don’t eat too many carbs
If possible, you should try not to have a large carb-heavy lunch. This will slow your digestion and make you feel sleepy and sluggish, thus reducing your productivity for the rest of the working day!
As Neil O’Conchuir of Neil OC Performance says:
“In my experience working with real people, I have found low carb to be the most effective way to eat for fat loss. For years we have been told not to eat fat, but from where I’m sitting I see people have far better results in much shorter time by upping the (healthy) fats and cutting the carbs.”
Aodhan MacCathmhaoil from internet startup waster.com.au puts a lot of focus on staff health and of course productivity. From his experience – eating less gluten (ideally none) really improved focus and productivity in the afternoon.
“I used to really crash in the afternoon after having sandwiches for lunch – and would need coffee to pick me up. I have definitely seen improvements from eating more salads for lunch.”
Bernadette Bisseling of The Food You Eat adds:
“Vitality is the essential element of productivity, and vitality is the fruit of the harmonious exchange of energy and information between individuals and their environment.
“The foods we eat play an essential role in our life force. By eating process food in excess, our body produce toxins that inhibit the free flow of life force and therefore inhibit our productivity.”
Wilhelmina Ford from Parenting Imagined went on to say
“I think productive behaviour has to do with habits and the repetition of the good habits, and over time you will come productive because it becomes a habit.”
However, it’s not just carbs you shouldn’t consume too much of. Although power foods are very good for you, it’s vital to remember that everything should be eaten in moderation. Not only will a big lunch be harder to digest, which could make you feel tired and uncomfortable, but a small amount of hunger can actually be beneficial to you.
As a study published in the PLoS Biology journal shows, a degree of hunger may help you to stay alert due to your basic need to find food. So, while we don’t recommend skipping breakfast, you should try to keep your snacks to a minimum to give your productivity a boost!
What power foods should I be eating?
“These superfoods are packed full of the good stuff (such as fibre and antioxidants). Because of this, we benefit from improved mood and mental wellbeing, as well as happy gut bacteria.
“One Foost tip is to add some banana or warmed frozen berries to your morning porridge, as this will provide a colourful kick-start to your day. Also, remember that fruit and veg make great snacks. Take an apple or banana, cucumber or even a tub of cherry tomatoes to work with you.”
Research has shown that eating purple coloured fruit (such as blueberries) can help to prevent the development of Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinson’s by ‘soaking up’ the harmful iron compounds that contribute to these diseases. Berries can also increase productivity by improving your memory and motor coordination.
As berries contain antioxidants, they offer protection against the free radical damage that contributes to brain fog, memory loss, and related neurological disorders. Free radicals are caused by exposure to stress and air pollution, amongst other things.
As well as being very trendy, avocado is a great source of the vitamins that your brain needs to function, including vitamin C, E, K and B6. It’s also high in potassium, which lowers blood pressure, and folate, which helps your body produce and maintain new cells.
Because of the brain-boosting vitamin E it contains, avocados can help to reverse the memory loss in Alzheimer’s patients, as well as prevent the formation of tangled nerve fibres that are associated with the disease. (source)
Pete Rawlings from This is Neat is quite the fan of avocados:
“Fat has had a bad rap for decades, but the consumption of good fats are essential, especially for the brain as they promote good blood flow.”
Because this leafy green vegetable is high in vitamin K, it can also play a key role in preventing Alzheimer’s as patients are often shown to be deficient in the vitamin. This is because it helps to keep your brain sharp as you age by speeding up its cognitive functions. The vitamin also aids the formation of neuropathways, which enables you to learn.
Another advantage of broccoli is that it contains Choline, an essential nutrient which has been proven to boost memory. In fact, research has discovered that those who eat a lot of broccoli generally tend to perform better on memory tests.
We all know that fruit is good for you, but bananas are a particularly great choice as they’re high in two very important minerals; potassium and magnesium. These help to improve brain function by ensuring enough oxygen is being delivered to your brain, as well promoting proper electrical activity between nerve cells in the brain. (source)
Bananas are also great mood boosters that can aid sleep, and this is because they contain tryptophan, an essential amino acid, and vitamins A, B6 and C. Tryptophan aids in the conversion of serotonin, the mood boosting hormone, which will help to make you feel more motivated!
Like broccoli, egg yolks contain a high level of Choline (126 mg per large yolk, to be exact), which is essential for ensuring the normal functioning of all of the cells in your body, including the signalling functions of cell membranes. Because of this, eating egg yolks can also help to improve your memory.
Additionally, when Choline levels are low, individuals are more likely to experience feelings of anxiety. Therefore, eating egg yolks could help to reduce stress and lift your mood.
Oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, contain high levels of the essential fatty acids (EFAs) that you need to maintain your general health and well-being (including a healthy heart and adequate brain function). However, EFAs can’t be made in the body, so they need to be obtained from your diet.
The EFAs oily fish contains can also help to manage stress levels, as well as helping us make serotonin, the mood-boosting hormone.
Good news, chocolate lovers; eating the sweet stuff is actually considered to be beneficial to your brain (although it’s still important to consume it in moderation, of course). Not only does dark chocolate contain flavonoids, which is proven to lower blood pressure, but they also improve memory and concentration. (source)
It’s not just dark chocolate you can happily tuck into, though! Eating milk chocolate will also give these benefits; one study even found that eating 85g of milk chocolate improved people’s scores in memory, problem solving and attention span tests.
Nuts and seeds:
A number of studies have found that certain nuts, such as walnuts, improve cognitive performance, and this is thanks to their high concentration of DHA (a Omega-3 fatty acid).
Harry Sherwood, Co-Founder of Consciously.Org, says:
“Although many people are afraid of the fat in these foods, they’re actually incredibly important for cardiovascular health, brain health, and ensuring the proper absorption of certain vitamins.”
So, now that you’re aware of the some of the best power foods, how can you ensure you incorporate them into your lunch? As Christian Baker, the CEO and Co-Founder of Upside Nutrition, advises, make your own food at home! He says:
“By preparing healthy and fulfilling meals at home and bringing them to work with you, you’ll be much more likely to have an energetic and productive day. This is compared to eating whatever foods are put in front of you, or whatever foods you can grab from your nearest cafe or restaurant.”