Brain Boosting Foods to Excel at Work
By Joanne Richard
You are what you eat – especially at work. If you’re missing deadlines, dragging yourself to meetings and can’t focus, your diet may be to blame.
The foods you eat – and don’t eat – have a major impact on brain power and workplace productivity. Forgoing breakfast and living on coffee until your lunchtime food-court visit is more than likely sabotaging your performance and drive.
Keep in mind your brain is a hungry organ that consumes more than 20% of all oxygen and nutrients so it’s to your advantage to fuel it properly. That promotion could very well be fed by your next meal of salmon and leafy greens.
Aside from getting a good amount of sleep, if you find your energy lagging throughout the day, you can probably blame your diet. “Nutrient deficient food, and food that is too high in sugar will slow you down, affecting your concentration and productivity,” says holistic nutritionist Lisa Tsakos, at Nu-Vitality Health & Wellness.
Your brain is constantly working overtime, yet you barely give it a thought. So think about this: If you want to be at the top of your office game, focus on foods that matter to your grey matter. For better concentration and improved thinking power, your brain needs mighty nutrients, including B vitamins, omega-3, probiotics, choline, and antioxidants.
Boost your brain power with these food suggestions from Tsakos, @NuVitalityHW:
- Go fishing! Fish is the classic brain food. Salmon, along with sardines, and other cold-water fatty fish, are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, a key player in powering-up memory and cognition.
- Bring on the blueberries. This antioxidant-rich food protects the brain from cell-damaging free radicals and staves off cognitive decline. Benefits have been observed from eating just a ½ cup of blueberries a week.
- Good morning, protein. A protein-rich breakfast wakes up your brain, promoting alertness. Skip the boxed cereal or toast; start your day with a protein shake, leftover chicken or eggs.
- Chew on this. When your focus begins to fade, chew some peppermint gum, a mint leaf from your garden, or make a cup of peppermint tea.
- Get cracking! Eggs are rich in L-tyrosine, which helps to produce dopamine – a booster in cognitive function and improved mental alertness, memory and motivation. Hard cooked eggs are a quick and easy to take to work.
- Gas up your brain with chickpeas, one of the richest food sources of vitamin B6. Other sources of B6 include fish, other legumes, potatoes, chicken, and sunflower seeds.
- Get your greens on! Dark leafy greens, particularly spinach, are rich in B vitamins and folate, which feed mental health. And because leafy greens are easy to digest, they don’t divert energy and blood flow away from your brain when you’re trying to work.
- Coffee, tea or water? Hydrate your brain with water, the best brain booster of all the beverages. That mid-afternoon headache and productivity slump might be from a lack of water and too much coffee.
- Green tea improves productivity and focus, and mood too. Best of all, it doesn’t overstimulate your nervous system the way coffee does so you can work late and still get a decent night’s sleep.
- Spicy foods will put more pep in your step than a bag of chips. Spicy foods raise your body temperature and increase metabolism, giving you an immediate energy boost.
Looking to kill your performance? These 10 foods will do it, says Lisa Tsakos, of nu-vitality.com:
- French fries: Eating a high-fat meal at lunch dooms your brain. Digestion uses up a lot of energy, diverting power away from the brain.
- Pasta: Another mental downer is a carb-rich meal like pasta or a bready sub. Serotonin increases, bringing on drowsiness. Napping not allowed if you’re focused on a raise.
- Diet Coke: Aspartame, the artificial sweetener commonly used in sugar-free drinks, is basically a chemical that overstimulates neurons, damaging and even killing them off. Memory be gone!
- Mr. Noodles: The food additive monosodium glutamate (MSG) found in many instant noodle dishes also does your neurons in, impacting learning and memory, and bringing on fatigue and headaches too.
- Cookies: They seem innocent enough but beware that classic energy rush you’ll get followed by a crash and a big drop in concentration afterwards.
- Bread: Loaded with carbs that can make you feel sluggish, and gluten which is linked to brain fog, pass on that hot, cheesy garlic bread if concentration is critical to your afternoon tasks.
- Hamburgers: Favourites packed with saturated fat, like the fat found in hamburgers, will likely serve up impaired cognitive function, decreased memory speed and increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
- Trans fats: By far one of the worst ingredients for interfering with memory recall. If your mind has gone blank during a critical moment, blame that trans-fatty doughnut or muffin you wolfed down mid-morning.
- Junk food: Put down those chips. Back away from that chocolate bar. A 2015 Australian study found that older adults eating junk food diets had smaller brains – need we say more!
- Bananas: You’re feeling sleepier! That’s what magnesium-rich foods like bananas do. Eat a banana when you want to relax, not when you need to focus on company numbers.