As someone known for her frequent trips to Buffalo Wild Wings (#WingNightWithWhitaker) and is known by name at the local Las Margaritas, you could say that I am a foodie to the max! I love going to new restaurants, spending quality time with family and friends over a meal, and recently have discovered how much I love cooking (I find it to be relaxing). I have learned how to balance my “treat-yo-self” meals with eating healthy foods that empower me not only physically, but mentally as well. While there is no magical formula that says, “I will turn into Superwoman if I eat this,” there are certain foods linked to fueling concentration and focus. Now is the perfect time to restock your snack stash; check out my best takes on foods known for boosting brainpower.
What’s the Brain-Fueling Food? Avocados
The Science Behind the Power: I have been told that this vine describes me well because I love food so much, ESPECIALLY avocados. What’s not to love? Dubbed “the world’s most perfect food” due to numerous health benefits, avocados are known for keeping blood sugar levels steady and enhancing blood flow—increasing concentration levels. Not only do avocados improve cognitive function, but they help prevent blood clots in the brain, as they contain high levels of vitamin K and folate. Some may steer away from the fruit due to its high fat content, but the fats are monosaturated, meaning they are actually “healthy” fats.
Fun Ways to Feast: Some of my favorite ways to eat avocados are cutting them into chunks with seasoning (think olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper, and/or salt), making my own guacomole to eat with chips, or adding avocados to whole-grain toast (which hits another brain food on my list!)
What’s the Brain-Fueling Food? Carrots
The Science Behind the Power: Not only are carrots great for enhancing your vision, but they will also enhance your efficiency at work! “How Carrots Can Help You to be More Efficient at Work” talks about the power of performance that carrots give. Flavonoids are a fancy word for nutrients, and carrots have the flavonoid luteolin in them that improves brain health. The Vitamin B9 in carrots will heighten your energy (if you’re feeling adventurous, substitute your morning cup of coffee for a cup of carrot juice one day). Also, the more orange the carrot is, the higher the carotene levels. Carotene is known for preventing the deterioration of cognition.
Fun Ways to Feast: My favorite way to eat carrot sticks is to dip them in blue cheese dressing. Dips and dressings, like hummus and peanut butter, are a popular addition to carrot sticks; check out this list if you want further carrot inspiration.
What’s the Brain-Fueling Food? Berries
The Science Behind the Power: While I am more of a strawberry kind of gal, all berries are known for having brain-enhancing benefits. Whether your preference is blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries, berries have high levels of antioxidants. Foods with high antioxidant levels typically are high in fiber, low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and are good sources of vitamins—making berries not only good for your brain, but for your body. Research shows that berries (in this study, specifically blueberries) improve motor skills and short-term memory.
Fun Ways to Feast: Eat berries by themselves or find creative ways to implement them into your diet. I suggest topping your whole-grain cereal snack with berries, or sprinkling them onto a salad at lunch to give you a boost for the rest of the day.
What’s the Brain-Fueling Food? Salad
The Science Behind the Power: I know, salad is not technically a “snack.” However, I am not talking about salad in the traditional sense, but more about leafy greens in general. Leafy greens, like spinach, contain potassium, which accelerates the connections between neurons. When these connections are made, your brain becomes more responsive—increasing focus! B-vitamins, which help with memory, focus, and overall brain health, are also more frequent in leafy green veggies.
Fun Ways to Feast: If you’re looking for a variety of ways to incorporate leafy greens into your diet, check out 10 Salad-Free Ways to Eat More Healthy Greens (kale chips for the win!) I personally love grabbing Chick-Fil-A for lunch and saving my superfood side as a mid-day snack; the side is a Broccolini & kale blend topped with a maple vinaigrette, dried sour cherries, and a roasted nut blend. Yum! Also, many people add dressings, like ranch or blue cheese, to their greens. I would advise using dressings in moderation. Health benefits are minimized when you only have a few veggies drenched in a pile of fatty dressing!
What’s the Brain-Fueling Food? Dark Chocolate
The Science Behind the Power: As a self-proclaimed chocolate lover, I couldn’t create this blog without advocating for the consumption of delicious dark chocolate. The tiny amount of caffeine in dark chocolate is just enough to amplify mental awareness. Magnesium is also found in dark chocolate, which can help you de-stress and focus on important tasks. Flavonoids in chocolate have been found to improve blood flow to the brain, no matter one’s age. In “9 Proven Brain Benefits of Dark Chocolate,” Deane Alban writes about the different pros of eating dark chocolate (which I am DEFINITELY okay with participating in).
Fun Ways to Feast: I am looking forward to trying all 10 suggestions on this list of the best dark chocolate bars currently available…the problem will be not eating all of them in one sitting! Trail mix is also a great way to mix in chocolate with another one of my go-to brain power snacks─nuts.
What’s the Brain-Fueling Food? Nuts
The Science Behind the Power: While they should be eaten in moderation, nuts consist primarily of unsaturated fats that are extremely beneficial for your health! Research shows three tree nuts in particular—pecans, walnuts, and cashews—are highly linked to elements of brain health such as recall and memory; however, all types of nuts are beneficial for your overall health. Nuts are also rich with essential oils and amino acids (both of which enhance focus) and Vitamin E (which is associated with improving cognitive decline).
Fun Ways to Feast: An easy, no-preparation snack is buying pre-packaged packets of nuts. Since they are pre-packaged, you don’t have to worry about counting out a serving size! Or, if you’re looking for variety, try different flavors of nuts; this Planter’s Peanuts Pack is available in six flavors, from salted caramel to chipotle.
What’s the Brain-Fueling Food? Whole Grains
The Science Behind the Power: What even IS a whole-grain, anyway?! Whole-grain foods consist of all of the nutrients of the entire grain seed in its original proportions. This means that even if the grain has been processed in any way, the product should still deliver the same balance of nutrients found in the original seed. Therefore, whole grains have a nutrient content that is typically high and will keep you energized and focused. Whole grains are also proven to lower bad cholesterol, which reduces plaque buildup and enhances blood flow. And we know what enhanced blood flow means…higher concentration levels!
Fun Ways to Feast: SnackNation released a list of “Whole-Grain Snacks You Haven’t Tried in 2020” that I can’t wait to taste. Popcorn has also been titled as the “world’s most perfect snack food;” no, not the buttery kind, but drizzling olive oil over the kernels is a delicious, savory snack.
What’s the Brain-Fueling Food? Sunflower Seeds
The Science Behind the Power: I’m a big fan of sunflower seeds because they take me back to my childhood. I have vivid memories of being the only girl on my baseball team surrounded by boys spitting sunflower seeds constantly! Sunflower seeds aren’t just for the ballpark though; the Vitamin E in sunflower seeds keeps your brain in tip-top shape. They actually have so much Vitamin E that a quarter cup of the seeds will provide more than 80% of the Daily Value you need! The magnesium content will also keep you calm and focused.
Fun Ways to Feast: Similar to nuts, it’s easy to find pre-packaged seeds that already have a serving size planned out for you, saving you time! If you’re looking to use your chef’s hat, there are plenty of sunflower snack seed ideas out on the World Wide Web. The title for this recipe was eye-catching; I can’t wait to try “Honey I Roasted the Sunflower Seeds!” These Sweet & Salty Sunflower Seed Snack & Sunflower Seed Energy Bites recipes also look as if they would hit the spot.
Catch me in the kitchen preparing all my snacks (and filling my Amazon cart too…guilty as charged). Hopefully, you read this article and have some newfound inspiration for your next grocery-store run. Stock your pantry, eat yummy foods, and feel empowered.
Wondering what to wash your brainpower snacks down with? Try these beverages to raise your mental-processing powers.
- Water: Make sure to stay hydrated to avoid brain dysfunction. Working on a task that requires large amounts of concentration? Add lemon to your water; the scent is proven to improve performance when concentration is needed.
- Coffee: The caffeine will give you the pep in your step you need to focus well. I like adding a dash of cinnamon to my coffee, as the smell of the spice has been shown to increase alertness.
- Tea: Whether you prefer green tea, fruit tea, peppermint tea, or any tea in between, teas often have been linked to calming nerves and enhancing levels of focus while working.
- Carrot Juice: As I mentioned in the carrots section, carrot juice will heighten your energy due to high amounts of Vitamin B9. If you aren’t a big fan of carrot juice, try veggie juice instead to increase mental awareness.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Hi! My name is Marah Whitaker (think Laura with an M). I am the Marketing Assistant for UTC Center for Professional Education. During the workday, I spend time writing blog posts, creating content for social media, developing email campaigns, and building relationships with our customer base. During my free time, you can find me getting lost in a good book, having spontaneous dance parties, playing piano, and going to Buffalo Wild Wings on Wing Night. Professionally and personally, I aspire to live by the Mr. Feeny quote, “Dream. Believe. Try. Do Good.” I strive to use my passions to serve others and contribute positively to the world around me.
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