What we eat can either boost our mental capacity and creativity, or it can hinder it, leading us to feel fatigued and distracted. Because food is so critical to our wellbeing and our ability to be productive, it is important that we make sure to get the proper nutrients to boost our concentration and ability to think outside the box.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on keeping their energy levels and mental focus high during the day so that they can feel accomplished and productive at work. The ability to concentrate is also important for relationships, as people like to feel as though they are being heard by their close network of supporters. The ability to think and act creatively is a terrific asset, as it allows the mind to play off of inspiration and novelty, and it creates opportunities for new adventures, projects and goals. When we close our minds to exciting modalities and concepts, we are shutting the door on potential growth and accomplishments. Here are thirteen nutrients that can enhance our focus and creativity during the day. With the right meal and mindset, we will be better able to excel in our work and social commitments and reach our own personal expansion.
1. Complex Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates provide our bodies with a surge in energy, as well as a rich source of fiber to keep our mental awareness high for longer periods of time. "Your brain needs glucose, which comes from carbohydrates, to function properly; without it you may find it hard to concentrate," advises Keri Gans, MS, RDN, CDN, a spokesperson for America's Better Sandwich, over email with Bustle. "I suggest that my clients eat a well-balanced breakfast consisting of 100% whole grains, lean protein and healthy fat to start their day on the right track," she adds.
Protein not only keeps our brain sharp and our energy levels high, but it also keeps us full and reduces cravings. By being less hungry during the day, we are better able to concentrate on our work. "Protein is an essential nutrient for maintaining energy and focus," says Eugene Kang, CEO/co-Founder of Country Archer Jerky Co., over email with Bustle. Enjoy a snack of beef or turkey jerky in the day, or eat some nuts or hard boiled eggs.
3. Omega 3s
Experts say that omega 3s can reduce inflammation in the brain and thus enhance our ability to concentrate, retain information and think creatively. Rich sources include fish, such as salmon and sardines, walnuts, chia, hemp and flax seeds, and even romaine and leafy greens. "Omega-3 supplementation increases red blood cell (RBC) deformability, or the ability of red blood cells to bend and contort in small space, allowing more oxygen to reach tissues and areas such as the brain," says Andrew Aussie, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Coromega over email with Bustle.
4. Other Healthy Fats
It's not only omega 3 fatty acids that provide brain benefits, but other healthy fats, such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, have been shown to lower inflammation in the brain and promote proper cell functioning and communication between the brain and the rest of the body. Great sources include avocado, coconut oil, nuts, and grapeseed oil. Pair with fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D, E and K, to maximize absorption.
Hears to another reason to eat dark chocolate! The flavanols in dark chocolate, as well as the promotion of serotonin, the "feel good" hormone, boost our endorphins and ability to concentrate. Plus, it has a hint of caffeine to give us that extra jolt of energy and focus. When we are feeling happier, we are also more likely to think creatively and be more open minded. Other sources include colorful fruits, such as berries, red wine and green tea.
6. Gallic Acid
Experts say that blueberries can reduce Alzheimer's and dementia and enhance our mental focus, brain health and memory retention. Thus, throwing a handful of blueberries into your morning Greek yogurt or oatmeal (two foods that are also high in protein and brain-boosting properties!), could help you start your day on a high note. Other foods containing gallic acid are berries, cashews, mango and green tea.
Research has shown that choline plays a major role in promoting brain health by keeping our cells less inflamed and younger. Egg yolks are rich in choline, so eating a hard boiled egg for a snack or enjoying an omelet for breakfast will help you get your fill of this prime nutrient. Plus, new research shows that eating egg yolks are not actually that bad for your cholesterol. Enjoy one or two yolks and swap the rest for egg whites to keep portions in check and still get benefits.
This amino acid has been found to improve brain function and boost creativity by increasing serotonin and dopamine stores, which can relax the brain and bust inflammation, and ward off aging and memory decline. Enjoy a cup of green tea for these properties, as well as other polyphenols and catechins that slow the aging the process and enhance our overall health.
Studies have shown the benefits of folate on treating depression and mental health disorders. If we are feeling low and unlike ourselves, we will not be able to concentrate on our daily tasks or feel inspired enough to let our creativity break free. By eating folate-foods, we can boost brain health and feel happier. Rich sources include leafy greens, whole grains, eggs, nuts and lean meats.
Experts have found that eating nitrates can prevent aging and mental decline, which can be especially beneficial for those of a higher age group. Nitrates increase circulation and perfusion to the brain to prevent cognitive aging. Beet juice is a prime choice, and it is also great for a pre-workout beverage, as it can lower blood pressure and boost endurance so that you can get even more out of your workouts.
Research has shown that a deficiency in potassium can result in brain fog and inability to think creatively. Our brains need potassium to function properly and to stay mentally alert, so if our levels are too low, we might find our energy to sag and our tendencies to be distracted and cognitively slow to be higher. Consume bananas, leafy greens, potassium, avocado and yogurt for great benefits.
According to experts, consumption of beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, may increase brain health and our ability to retain knowledge better. The properties found in this nutrient an slow the aging process and fight oxidative stress, which has been found to promote aging and cognitive decline. Enjoy foods containing the yellow-orange pigment, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, and cantaloupe.
13. Lutein & Zeaxanthin
These nutrients play a major role in supporting eye health and prevent macular-degeneration; however, the benefits don't stop there. They also enhance brain health and combat cognitive aging due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Rich sources include eggs, leafy greens, broccoli, zucchini, Brussels sprouts and peas.
No matter how much work you have on a particular day, keeping your brain chronically healthy and sharp will help you prevent onset of mental illnesses in the future and allow you to immediately stay focused and creative when necessary. By eating the right nutrients, especially first thing in the morning, you can feel more alert and inspired for the rest of the day.
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