Top 7 Brain Foods to Boost Your Productivity
When you think of enhancing your productivity, chances are good that you imagine apps and digital tools. You might even think about lifestyle hacks, like ensuring you’re getting the right amount of sleep. However, the truth is that mental acuity and productivity can be improved in many ways, one of which is through nutrition.
The right foods can actually have an immense impact on your cognitive abilities, your energy levels, your ability to concentrate and focus, and a great deal more. Not sure which foods you should be incorporating into your daily diet? In this post, I’ll run through some of the most important items to add to your menu.
Why Does Nutrition Matter?
First, let’s touch on something other than foods to boost productivity. We need to address why nutrition plays such a large role in cognition in the first place. Given President Trump’s addiction to fast food and unwillingness to eat anything other than garbage, it would seem like you could eat anything and be just as productive. Sadly, the president is setting a terrible example.
Diet plays a central role in determining how well (or poorly) your brain functions. It supplies your brain with the nutrients and elements necessary to sustain life, to function properly, and to improve the speed with which neurons make new connections within your gray matter. In fact, nutrition impacts:
Your ability to focus
Your ability to think
Your emotional stability
The way in which you act
What’s more, some foods offer support and assistance for brain cells, improving your cognitive function over time and helping to ward off damage, but other foods can actually harm your brain’s health and can lead to a loss of cognitive function.
So, what foods do you need to be focusing on? What should you make sure you’re incorporating into your diet? Below, we’ll focus on some surprising foods that need to be part of your daily eating plan.
Water makes up about 80% of your brain’s volume. Without proper hydration, it begins to dehydrate. As it does, your cognitive function declines. Neurons do not fire properly. Your emotions go haywire. Your thought process becomes less logical. You lose your ability to focus and concentrate. It’s not a good state to be in, but so many of us seem to operate on the edge of dehydration, trying to force our brains to cope with a lack of water by supplying larger and larger doses of caffeine.
Put simply, every single chemical reaction in your brain, from the ability to recognize an object to the release of dopamine after working out, requires water. Your brain is water-dependent. Without proper hydration, you will suffer from:
In fact, a lack of proper hydration actually makes your brain physically shrink. In order to prevent that, you need to regularly drink hard water. What is “hard” water? Simply put, it’s natural water with all the minerals and natural electrolytes included. Purified water, like what you get in the plastic bottles from the store, doesn’t count.
Just about any fresh fruit will help you support optimum brain health. They combine a unique mixture of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients with natural sugars and fiber, along with water (surprise, surprise). Each of those elements plays an important role in brain function. Fiber helps keep you feeling fuller for longer, but also slows down the absorption of sugar into your blood. That in turn reduces the surge of insulin your body manufactures, which can actually lead to becoming diabetic (diabetes is almost always related to eating the wrong foods and failing to exercise properly). Of course, not all fruit is created equal. Some of those you should ensure make your personal list include:
Note that these should be fresh fruits when at all possible. They can also work well when dried. However, avoid sugar-coated options. The natural sugars found within the fruits themselves are more than ample.
You might be wondering why berries weren’t covered in the section on fruits. That’s because they deserve their very own entry in this post because of the incredibly wide range of benefits they can offer your brain and body.
To be clear, just about any berries are “must have” items on your menu. They’re packed with antioxidants that help improve brain function and preserve memory. They deliver plenty of glucose, which is your brain’s primary source of fuel, but they’re low on the glycemic index thanks to their high fiber content. That means they supply a good dose of natural sugar, but that your insulin levels don’t spike dramatically, supporting better overall health.
Berries have also been shown to slow cognitive decline in elderly individuals suffering from dementia, and seem to be particularly important for supporting a healthy hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning.
What berries, though? Feel free to add:
Each brings a unique benefit, plus they’re delicious to boot.
We’ve all heard that you should avoid nuts because of the fat content, but we need to recognize the difference in healthy fats and unhealthy fats. Put simply, fat is a vital nutrient for overall physical and mental health. You need it in order to survive. Diets that eliminate fat, or carbohydrates for that matter, are not sustainable and deprive your brain of elements it needs for proper cognition.
However, you do need to ensure that you’re getting healthy fats. Nuts offer that, plus omega-3 fatty acids – you don’t need to eat fish to get those, which is great news. This is particularly true for walnuts, but other nuts can also offer plenty of health benefits. Just remember that you should eat them in moderation. Use them as a treat, or to enhance other foods, rather than a meal in and of themselves.
Which nuts should you consider adding to your meal plan?
Dark, Leafy Greens
Okay, you knew this one was coming. Dark, leafy greens have been recommended by so many nutritionists that they’re almost a cliché. However, they’re a vital part of a healthy overall diet. They bring a whole lot to your mind and body without adding much in the way of fat or sugar. For instance, you’ll find that they’re packed with minerals and fiber, as well as vitamins and nutrients like iron. They’re particularly good for supporting mental health and your immune system.
Think that your only option here is spinach? Actually, there are plenty of options out there that you might not have considered before. They include:
If you haven’t heard of nootropics, I’ll give you a pass. They’re pretty new on the nutrition scene. What are they? They’re a combination of natural and synthetic compounds that are used to achieve an improvement in overall cognitive abilities. Think caffeine and you’re sort of on the right track. However, there’s much more you can do to support overall mental clarity and function than drinking another cup of java. You’ll find ingredients that include:
L – Theanine
Take Mind Lab Pro for instance – it’s my preferred nootropic formulation, and it is specially designed to help improve cognitive function while supporting emotional health and mood at the same time. According to the manufacturer, Qualia Mind “helps support mental performance and brain health. Specifically designed to promote focus, support energy, mental clarity, mood, memory, and creativity.”
The only problem with nootropics is that they cannot be found in nature in their pre-packaged form. You’ll need to purchase a formulation that you like and trust, and that can deliver the mental, emotional, and physical health benefits that you need.
Again, we’ve been warned to stay away from oils in our foods because of the fat content, plus the other unwanted effects they bring. However, when you look at human history, some oils stand out as supporting good overall health. Extra virgin olive oil and regular olive oil are two of these. Flaxseed oil is another good addition to your diet. All of these oils are very high in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamin E, monounsaturated fat that’s good for your heart, and other nutrients that support mental and physical health.
In the end, mental health and cognitive function is as much an effect of diet as it is a natural ability. Even if you have always been smart, driven, and able to focus, failing to support your mental health over time with the wrong diet will have serious repercussions. Eat right, think better, for longer.
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