There are many foods that increase brain activity. Chances are you’ve heard of the benefits of berries, whole wheat, and salmon. Hopefully you are including these healthy foods in your diet on a regular basis. However, it can be quite boring trying to rotate the same superfoods in and out of your diet in an attempt to keep your brain functioning as highly as possible. Because of this, we’ve compiled a list of foods that increase productivity and motivation. We believe you will find some new options, and learn a little bit about the benefits of each food.
If you start your day off with a serving of whole grain oats, you will feel all morning long thus avoiding being distracted by hunger before lunch. You’ll also get an additional boost from the slow release carbs, iron, and vitamin B. If you don’t have time to boil water and cook in the morning, try these overnight oats recipes or simply blend some oats into your morning smoothie. Just steer clear of the instant variety that is low in fiber and full of sugar.
Oysters are high in protein and full of brain boosting omega 3s. They also contain hard to come by minerals such as copper and zinc that your body needs to function. Oysters also contain huge amounts of iron that can stave off the feelings of fatigue and weakness that accompany low iron levels. If you decide to add oysters to your diet, remember to stick with the environmentally friendly, farmed kind. Try oysters steamed in a vegetable broth with tomatoes, coconut milk and Thai green curry paste.
Peanuts are inexpensive, tasty, and filling. They are also extremely versatile as they can be eaten on their own, added to trail mix, pureed into peanut butter, added to Asian noodle dishes, or cooked into soups and stews. Peanuts have protein and fiber that will leave you satiated and able to concentrate on the task at hand. Peanuts also contain vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects brain health. Keep dry roasted peanuts mixed with dark chocolate chips in your desk for a quick snack whenever you are tempted by the vending machine
Coconut oil has been praised for benefits ranging from improving mouth health to facilitating weight loss. What many people don’t know is that the MCTs contained in coconut oil is literally fuel for the brain and nervous system. Not only does this make coconut oil a productivity and motivation producing food, it is a great addition to the diets of those who are avoiding any form of sugar. Also, unlike other oils, coconut oil does not break down into harmful chemicals when heated. Try taking a teaspoon of coconut oil prior to an intense task or workout, or replace your cooking oil with coconut oil the next time you make a stir fry.
Sardines and other small fish are high in healthy fats that your brain needs to focus. Because small fish have a very short life cycle, they do not pick up the toxins that are often found in other high fat fish such as tuna and farmed salmon. Small fish such as sardines are also highly sustainable. The high protein and vitamin B12 content in sardines also contribute to keeping you energized and full for long periods of time. Try eating sardines on top of a green salad with a vinaigrette dressing, or on top of a slice of avocado toast.
Cauliflower contains choline. This is a B vitamin that your brain needs to develop. Studies are now showing that consumption of cauliflower can reduce memory loss that is often attributed to age. Mothers who consume cauliflower while pregnant might have babies with higher cognitive function than those who do not. This high fiber veggie is also high in fiber and very filling. Cauliflower can be roasted with salt and oil as a stand in for high carb popcorn, riced and sautéed for an amazingly passable ground beef substitute, or pureed and served in place of mashed potatoes.
Every once in awhile, a boost of sugar and some hydration is just what your body needs to feel focused, motivated, and able to stay on task. The best way to get this is to ignore the sugary sodas and corn syrup based ‘fruit drinks’, and grape a glass of orange juice instead. Your body and brain will feel the impact of the fructose almost immediately, while your body enjoys some refreshing and energy sustaining hydration. Fruit juice may not usually be the best choice. After all, you are better off eating fruit in its whole form so that you get the fiber along with the juice and sugar. It is, on rare occasion, the best choice when you are truly feeling lethargic.
Like cauliflower, eggs are another source of the brain boosting, B vitamin choline. However, the benefits don’t stop there. Egg whites are full of high-quality animal protein that your body uses so efficiently, and that keeps you feeling full. Egg yolks are full of fat that also boosts energy and increases the amount of time during which you feel able to concentrate and stay on task. Eggs are also inexpensive, convenient, and easy. Hard boil some at the beginning of the week and store for convenient snacks and breakfasts, salad toppings, and sandwiches. You can also quick scramble eggs with spinach, black beans, diced chiles, and wrap them in whole wheat tortillas for simple breakfast burritos.
Unless they are fans of sushi, seaweed isn’t something that most people would consider adding to their diet. What a shame. To begin with, seaweed is full of iodine. This is a chemical that your thyroid needs in order to function properly. If your thyroid is malfunctioning, you will feel lethargic, tired, and weak. This is hardly any way to stay productive and motivated. In addition to providing iodine, seaweed has potassium, iron, magnesium, and other minerals with a proven track record of improving brain function. Vegetarians who eat seaweed on a regular basis can get the B12 they need without supplements. Seaweed can be consumed in salads, miso soup, and sushi taken in pill form, or simply eaten as those yummy roasted seaweed snacks found in the international foods aisle of your local supermarket. In fact, try replacing your next bag of chips with salty seaweed snacks. You’ll fix your craving for something salty, and reap all kinds of health benefits.
Everybody is talking about the culinary and health benefits of fermented foods that increase brain activity, but the Koreans have known this secret for centuries. This delicious and spicy blend of fermented cabbage and chilies is arguably the most beloved dish among Koreans. In fact, it is virtually unheard of for a dinner to be served without an offering of this spicy condiment. So, what can Kimchi do to keep you motivated and productive? First, kimchi is full of good probiotic bacteria. This keeps your digestive tract healthy. This contributes to an overall feeling of well-being along that increases your ability to stay productive.
Photo credit: Michael Stern