January 7, 2014

5 Brain-Boosting Foods to Fuel Your Workday

You know how it is — you mean to eat healthy and then you get a phone call or an email with an urgent request and before you know it, a couple hours have passed and you’re hangry and fumbling for a couple of dollars to grab chips and a soda from the breakroom vending machine. Which means you can expect to crash in about an hour. The vicious cycle continues…

If you’re like most Americans whose New Year’s resolutions include eating better, particularly at work, you’ll want to read this list of foods that have been linked to strong brain health and function to keep yourself fueled, even when things get chaotic.

Breakfast

breaking bad bacon 50
Happy bacon birthday, Walt

Mom was right — breakfast is the most important meal of the day, not because she said so, but because science. After sleeping (youare getting your requisite eight hours per night, right?), your blood sugar levels are low from fueling your brain and other systems while you slept, so eating first thing in the morning replenishes the necessary glucose and other nutrients your body needs to be active. Eating breakfast can also help you avoid tempting higher-calorie foods later in the day. A recent study from Imperial College London in the UK found that fasting (e.g., not eating breakfast) increased the appeal of high-calorie foods and the amount you eat at lunch, which means that eating breakfast can help you make healthier choices later in day. For smart breakfast ideas, check out these suggestionsfrom New York Knicks and Juilliard School nutritionist Heidi Skolnik.
Oily Fish

You usually hear “omega-3s” in the same breath as “salmon,” and for good reason: salmon has 1.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids in every three-ounce serving — half of your weekly requirement. These fatty acids support brain health by providing the padding that insulates your brain’s circuits. As you learn and develop new skills, your body further insulates those circuits until they become automatic (for more information and the implications of this process, check out Daniel Coyle’s fascinating book, The Talent Code). Salmon isn’t the only fish bearing these essential fatty acids, though. Anchovies, mackerel, sardines and herring are also high in omega-3s, and if fish isn’t your favorite, try adding flax seeds or walnuts to your morning oatmeal (see Breakfast above).
Nuts

 Popular Squirrel
Should have bought the party size

When break time rolls around, nuts are one of the best choices to satisfy that snack urge and give your brain a boost. Walnuts have been linked to better memory and brain function, and they’re also a source of healthy fat and protein to protect your heart. Just an ounce a day is enough to reap these benefits, and for variety, also consider pistachios, almonds and hazelnuts, which have their own health perks.
Beans

Besides being cheap, beans are super nutritious. One serving provides 7-8 grams of protein and 7.5 grams of fiber, plus a steady amount of glucose to fuel your body. To boot, black beans have anthrocyanins, antioxidant compounds that improve brain function.

Coffee

Agent Dale Cooper

Damn fine cup of coffee

Studies have repeatedly shown coffee’s health benefits, in addition to its deliciousness, from antioxidants to decreasing insulin sensitivity (good for dieters and very good for type 2 diabetics and pre-diabetics). But good ol’ caffeine is still one of the best reasons to drink coffee — just one cup (no more than four per day) is enough to sharpen your concentration so you can focus on that monster of a spreadsheet. Other great sources of caffeine? Green tea (fresh-brewed) and dark chocolate.