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.
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.
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!
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?
Berries: 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.
Avocado: 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)
Broccoli: 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.
Bananas: 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!
Eggs: 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.
Fish: 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.
Chocolate: 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.