Working from home can significantly affect your productivity. With lots of distractions around, it can be hard to stay focused, and procrastinating in the midst of a heavy workload can in turn increase stress.
Of course, distractions from work are sometimes out of our hands, however by making some personal changes to your daily routine you can have a less stressful and more productive working day.
One of the major factors which can affect our productivity is our diet. As much as we all love snacking on biscuits with a cuppa, if we changed our habits slightly and added in a healthier brain boosting snack or meal, our concentration level and motivation for work could considerably improve.
Here we have 8 meal and snack ideas which include brain boosting foods, packed full of amazing nutrients.
Poached Egg and Avocado on Toast
This is a classic breakfast choice and an Instagrammers’ favourite; however, eggs and avocado are also extremely beneficial to our brain’s function and overall health.
Avocado is great at increasing brain activity in the short term. Containing omega 3, omega 6 and fatty acids they can improve blood flow to the brain, helping you to keep alert. They also contain vitamin E which protects the brain from long-term free radical damage.
Eggs are also high in vitamins, containing lots of vitamin B-6 and B-12 as well as other compounds such as folic acid and choline.
The choline which is rich in egg yolk is essential in promoting the memory boosting brain chemical acetylcholine. Research has also found that the B Vitamins in eggs, help to prevent brain shrinkage and cognitive decline. Reducing the homocysteine in blood, the vitamins can reduce the risk of having a stroke, cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s.
Having a good memory is essential for keeping organised and completing various tasks throughout the workday so it is worthwhile waking up ten minutes earlier in the morning to make a nutritious breakfast such as poached eggs and avocado on toast.
Banana Berry Smoothie Bowl
On the topic of nutritious breakfasts, smoothie bowls topped with seeds can be a great way to start the day. Filled with berries, this breakfast provides a high number of antioxidants which can be vital for brain health.
Antioxidants have been found to have multiple benefits. These include reducing stress, improving the communication between brain cells and increasing plasticity which boosts learning and memory. Blueberries are particularly effective at improving short term memory loss. They have also been found to protect vision, which is important as this is needed for efficient computer use. The antioxidants found in most berries can also delay neurodegenerative disease.
Additionally, sprinkling seeds over your smoothie bowl, particularly pumpkin seeds, can boost your mood and increase your thinking skills. The magnesium in these seeds is essential for learning and increasing mood levels, the high level of zinc enhances memory, whilst the iron prevents against brain fog.
As previously outlined, berries and seeds contain vital nutrients for brain function, and an easier way to get this in throughout the day can be through homemade granola bars.
To make granola bars, you need 100g of oats plus however many nuts, seeds and dried berries you’d like to include (make sure this is about equal to the amount of oats or only slightly over). Toast the oats, nuts and seeds in the oven for ten minutes, remove and then stir together in a pan with 100g butter, 100g muscovado sugar, cinnamon and 3 tbsp of honey. Then add the fruit, pour into a greased baking tray and cook for 30 minutes on gas mark 3/ 140 C. Once cooked, cool and slice into bars.
Once you make these, you’ll have enough granola bars for the whole week.
Mixed Nuts (unsalted)
Linking on to the above recipe, nuts can also be a great addition to granola bars or can be enjoyed as a quick snack on their own. Nuts are high in fat, but these are good fats that are great in moderation, and only a handful will provide you with great brain boosting nutrients.
Each specific type of nut is rich in its own brain enhancing properties. For example, cashews contain a good level of protein, iron, zinc and magnesium which means they are thought to improve recall and delay, age-related memory loss. Meanwhile, walnuts are a great source of omega 3 which also improves brain function and is linked with decreasing stress as serotonin levels are raised.
Rich in vitamin B3, pecans are great for fighting fatigue, as they enable access to the energy in food. Pistachios on the other hand are the only nut to contain good levels of lutein and zeaxanthin which help to protect the eyes.
Salmon with Wholegrain Rice and Steamed Vegetables
Great for filling you up at lunch time, a meal like this is a great balanced option which contains fantastic properties in each element.
The most important part of this meal is the low GI wholegrain rice, as it provides a steady supply of slow releasing energy to the bloodstream, to keep you alert throughout the day; in contrast to refined sugar which only provides a short burst of energy. Therefore, filling up at lunchtime should improve concentration and reduce irritability throughout the rest of the afternoon.
The salmon is also a great food choice, providing our body with essential fatty acids, including omega 3, which we can’t produce ourselves. These fats are vital for a healthy brain function, they help our joints (which is extremely beneficial to those working in the same position all day), and they can also improve our general wellbeing, as they are linked to relieving depression.
Finally, Broccoli is packed with vitamin K, which enhances cognitive function. It is also high in glucosinolates, which enhance our brain and memory, reduce stress and can lower the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases. Other vegetables such as kale and asparagus also have similar brain boosting properties.
Chicken and Tomato Wholewheat Pasta Bake
As previously mentioned, wholegrains are a great source of slow bursting energy and that includes whole-wheat pasta. Pairing pasta with other nutritious ingredients can make a tasty and well-balanced lunchtime meal.
Add a high protein ingredient to pasta like chicken is great, as chicken is rich in B vitamins which are essential in protecting the brain from degenerating. Vegan sources of B vitamins include soya, nutritional yeast and nuts.
Finally, including tomatoes in your pasta dish can also prevent brain degeneration as they contain lycopene which protects against free radical damage to cells.
Houmous and Crudities
Houmous paired with crudities is a fantastic snack to have either in the morning or during the afternoon to provide you with energy if you’re craving food.
The chickpeas which are the main base of houmous are a complex carbohydrate and also provide protein. They are ideal for cognitive health as they contain high amounts of magnesium which speeds up the transmission of messages to the brain. It also helps to relax blood vessels and thus improves blood flow to the brain.
Pairing the houmous with pepper, carrot and cucumber sticks, increases your vitamin intake, whilst pairing with a wholegrain pitta will keep you energised even more.
2-3 Squares of Dark Chocolate
Chocolate is everyone’s’ favourite treat, but we all know that eating too much can be bad for us. However, eating the right kind of chocolate in moderation can actually benefit your brain function. Dark chocolate in particular contains a lot of flavonols from the cocoa beans which is found to improve blood flow to the brain, improving its function. The natural caffeine in cocoa also helps to stimulate the brain in the short-term. So, the higher the percentage of cocoa in the chocolate, the better it is for you (in moderation).
What we choose to eat is personal for all of us, however it is great to understand the foods we can incorporate into our diets to improve our brain function and overall health. These foods in particular, are great for the very thing which gets us through the working day; our brain.