Brain Health: Foods to Boost Your Productivity
It’s four o’clock. The afternoon slump has officially hit. You’re struggling to keep your eyes open. You’re exhausted – dog-tired even. And your brain is well and truly fogged up. “Just another Wednesday”, you sigh. But it really doesn’t have to be. Fuelling your body and mind 7-days a week is much easier than you think. The secret? Your diet. So, here’s some food for thought (literally): the best food to boost your productivity.
Jewelled. Succulent. Delicious. Berries aren’t only mouth-wateringly moreish; they work wonders for your noggin, too, thanks to their rich anthocyanidin (a powerful antioxidant) credentials. These potent plant compounds have shown enormous promise in supporting cognitive function, with many experts touting them for bolstering memory, neural function, and coordination i. As a rule of thumb: the darker the berry, the higher its antioxidant content. Hence, blueberries really steal the show when it comes to brain health. Always keep your office fridge stocked up with these beauties – they’re powerhouses for productivity.
When tiredness strikes, swap your sugary pick-me-up for a handful of brain-boosting walnuts. These gnarly, earthy, crunchy guys are the numero uno nut for your noodle. They boast high concentrations omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to improve cognitive performance and even prevent age-related cognitive decline ii. Just a quarter cup of walnuts packs 100% of the recommended daily intake of DHA. Sprinkle on porridge, overnight oats, salads, or munch on them straight from the pack. Be sure to stash a pack in your desk drawer.
This velvety fruit is your one-stop-shop to keeping your grey matter happy and healthy. The humble avo is chock-full of nutrient-dense monounsaturated fats, which support blood flow around the body and brain. Forget an apple a day – a growing raft of scientific research proposes eating an avocado a day is a scrumptiously simple way to rev up your brain cells, improving productivity and overall focus iii. Smash on wholegrain toast with chilli and lime, slice into salads, or simply eat straight off the spoon (we won’t judge!).
Want the caffeine pick-me-up without a side order of jitters that comes from drinking coffee? Look no further than green tea. Besides giving you a gradual energy boost, experts from the University of Basel now believe this nourishing beverage can also improve cognitive function – and its especially proficient at enhancing memory iv. Instead of guzzling the java on you, fix yourself a cup of green tea. Added bonus: this herbal hero is full of antioxidants that nourish your skin and complexion, too.
Chocolate lovers rejoice: you can now have your dark chocolate and eat it, too – all in the name of supporting your smarts. This indulgent treat is immensely satisfying for both your sweet tooth and overall cognitive function. Researchers have been attributing the brain-boosting benefits of dark chocolate to its high cacao content, which packs a might antioxidant punch. In one study, participants who drank a potent cacao drink for three months demonstrated improved memory function and changes in the brain associated with age-related memory decline v. Amazing, right? Face the afternoon slump with two squares of quality, 70% dark chocolate.
Oily fish is brimming with noggin-loving omega-3 fatty acids to keep your mental performance on point. Salmon is the most abundant in these brain-bolstering compounds. Research suggests the essential fatty acids found in salmon can support all areas of cognitive function, ranging from memory to mood vi. To reap the benefits for your grey matter, aim to eat around 2-3 portions of salmon every week. Not a salmon fan? Don’t worry – sardines, mackerel, and anchovies serve up a delicious amount of omega 3, too.
Sure – water isn’t a ‘food’ per se, but it still deserves pride of place on this list. H20 is enormously beneficial for fuelling your brain and enhancing productivity. Did you know every single function in your body relies on water to work optimally? In fact, your entire existence is 70 per cent water. Unsurprisingly, then, if you fail to adequately hydrate your body, you will suffer the consequences: brain fog, lack of motivation, and exhaustion – a recipe for productivity crisis. Aim to drink 8-10 glasses of aqua every single day. Always have a reusable bottle on your office desk, too– a visual reminder to keep your fluids topped up.
One powerful weapon in your brain-boosting arsenal is breakfast. And there’s no better breakfast brain food than eggs. These little guys are brimming with tons of grey matter goodness: B vitamins, folate, and choline. Choline is especially brilliant mental floss. It’s a macronutrient your body uses to create acetylcholine – a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate memory and mood. Eggs also boast impressive levels of vitamin B12, which support sugar levels in the brain and aid with brain chemical synthesis. Scrambled, poached, boiled – eggs are the ultimate brain food, regardless of how you choose to prepare them.
Like salmon and avocados, chia seeds are chock-full of the brain-benefiting nutrients, omega-3. These essential fatty acids aid with optimal cognitive function, in particular, memory and concentration. That’s not all – chia seeds are also teeming with antioxidants, which work hard to combat free radical damage in your noggin. Oh, and did we mention they’re protein powerhouses, too? Another essential compound to keep your brain fighting fit. Power-up your porridge, salads, and smoothies with a sprinkling of these little guys.
This spice is really having its moment of late – and for good reason. The active compound in this beautifully golden root, curcumin, supports brain function in a host of ways. According to research, curcumin helps to protect long-term cognitive function, memory, and mood, as well as combating degenerative processes in the brain vii. Now here’s some delicious food for thought: why not add a dash of turmeric to your scrambled eggs for a double whammy of brainpower goodness? Pro cooking tip: for optimal absorption, turmeric is best eaten with its best pal – a healthy fat source.
Kent, K., Charlton, K., Netzel, M. & Fanning, K.(2016). Prenatal and Food-based anthocyanin intake and cognitive outcomes in human intervention trials: a systematic review. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 30(3), 260-274.
Poulose, S., Miller, M. & Shukitt-Hale, B. (2014). Role of Walnuts in Maintaining Brain Health with Age. The Journal of Nutrition, 144(4), 561S-566S.
Avocado Consumption Increases Macular Pigment Density in Older Adults: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. (2017). Nutrients, 9(9), 919.
ScienceDaily, (2018). Green tea extract boosts your brain power, especially the working memory, new research shows. Available online: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140407101545.htm [Accessed 30 Nov. 2018].
Columbia University Irving Medical Center, (2018). Dietary Flavanols Reverse Age-Related Memory Decline. Available online: https://www.cuimc.columbia.edu/news/dietary-flavanols-reverse-age-related-memory-decline [Accessed 30 Nov. 2018].
(2008). Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature reviews, Neuroscience. 9(7), 568-78.
Kulkarni, S., Dhir, A. & Akula, K. (2009). Potentials of Curcumin as an Antidepressant. The Scientific World JOURNAL, 9, 1233-1241.
Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.