Brain Food to Fuel your Workday
The best foods to eat and snack on to maintain focus and energy throughout the day.
We’ve all done it – overindulged at lunchtime and then felt the mid-afternoon slump, right? When you can barely keep your eyes open and suddenly that workspace bean bag has never looked so appealing…
But deadlines (and bills) mean few of us can afford the luxury of an afternoon nap – especially when you’re in the workspace or office. You won’t impress anyone by snoring loudly with a trickle of dribble coming out of the side of your mouth!
So, how do you avoid the afternoon (or mid-morning) slump? Well, most of us have a cycle of eating food, getting an energy boost and then slumping. So it can make a lot of sense on a tough, long working day to eat smaller amounts, more often, while also ensuring you’re eating the right things.
Here’s a quick guide to a few of the things we all should eat more of; not only to maintain a constant, steady energy flow but also to keep our brains well-oiled.
You need nuts and seeds
Don’t do what we do and plough through a giant bag of salted peanuts – portion control is key! When we say nuts and seeds, we’re talking about 30 grams of raw nuts a day – that amount should fit in the palm of your hand. One amazing thing about nuts is they look like what they are good for. Easy, right? Walnuts are good for the brain. Almonds for the eyes.
Throw in chia, hemp and flax seeds, and you’ve got yourself an energy bomb fit for a marathon runner.
In fact, the ancient Aztec civilisation made the first record of Chia as early as 3500BC, and it was one of the main foods in the Aztec diet. They believed chia seeds gave them supernatural powers. In Mayan, chia actually means strength.
Nuts and seeds are packed with vitamins and minerals, good fats and omega 3s, which have so many benefits there’s too many to list here.
There seems to be a constantly shifting body of opinion on whether coffee is good or bad – but we’re going to place ourselves in the good camp. The double whammy of caffeine and antioxidants really will help to keep you alert and on top of your game. But we’re talking Americano or espresso here. Don’t go off for a caramel mocha latte thinking it will keep you alert. Those creamy, calorie-laden treats are more akin to a dessert than a sustainable energy booster.
Caffeine keeps your brain alert by blocking adenosine (a chemical messenger that makes you sleep), boosts feel-good chemicals like serotonin and helps improve concentration.
Long-term coffee consumption has also been linked to a reduced risk of neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
And, if you don’t like coffee or are allergic, you can try green tea, which has most of the benefits of coffee with the added advantage of natural ingredients which help reduce anxiety and make you feel more relaxed.
Go bananas for fruit and veg
Bananas – and a lot of other fruits – are packed with energy-giving nutrients. If you feel a mid-morning wave of tiredness, grab a banana. If you can’t face the journey home, or fall asleep on the tube and miss your stop, have a banana. They’re an excellent source of carbohydrates, potassium and vitamin B6, all of which boost energy and they are a staple in our coworking spaces (along with a bunch of other amazing fruits!).
Another amazing fruit is apples which provide a slow, sustained energy release, thanks to their rich content of natural sugars and fibre. Apples also contain a lot of antioxidants, believed to slow down the digestion of carbohydrates, so slowing the release of energy.
A handful of strawberries is equally amazing for your energy and brainpower.
Need we mention avocadoes here? Unless you’ve had your head buried for the last five years, you’ll know they are full of good fats, B vitamins and fibre.
Brown rice is nice
Don’t grab that cheese sandwich and a bag of crisps for lunch.
Try brown rice, quinoa or oatmeal. OK, you might have to cook at home the night before, but there are also lots of places that serve these grains for breakfast or lunch.
Oatmeal is a whole-grain cereal that contains soluble fibre (which helps slow down energy release in food) and is rich in vitamins and minerals like B vitamins, iron and manganese.
Brown rice bursts with fibre (more than white rice) and manganese, a mineral that helps generate energy. Its slow-burn energy release helps regulate blood sugar levels and avoid those energy spikes and troughs.
Quinoa is popular for its high protein content, but it’s also good for slow-absorbing carbs, fibre and holds a significant amount of vitamins and minerals – including energy-producing powerhouses like manganese, magnesium and folate. All of these nutrients are used by enzymes to produce energy.
Your lunch – in energy and brain food terms – will also benefit from some sweet potato and leafy greens. Basically, as we said above, you’re looking for several small portions of energy and nutrient-dense food throughout the day.
Be wary of the wide number of ready-made bars available in stores; not only are they pricey, but often full of sugar and other hidden nasties. It’s best to spend some time learning a little more about nutrition, and discover what works for you.
Hydration, of course, is key too. The best thing to do here to work out how much water you actually need in a day, based on your weight and exercise levels and reach that target. Water, of course, works a miracle on us humans.
It aids digestion, carries oxygen and nutrients around the body, stabilises blood pressure and heartbeat and potentially lowers the risk of future diseases.
Combine healthy eating with drinking a good amount of water and your mind and body will thank you for it!
At Areaworks, we’re firm believers in improving mental and physical health, especially in the workplace. Our coworking spaces always have a plethora of fruit available, as well as a great selection of waters, teas and coffee. Come and tour one of our spaces to see it for yourself!