In our clinics we are often asked: "What are the best foods for energy and concentration?" This could be from the busy parent, stressed out office worker, or even exam-stressed teen. During our busy days – whether at work, school, or home – preparing a healthy meal is often the last thing that comes to mind. And this is exactly where we make a mistake, with a kind of grab and go attitude towards our food.
With this in mind, we have put together what we believe are the eight best foods for energy and concentration. These foods will help you work optimally in terms of both mood and energy levels.
What is very interesting is that many of these foods are also on our list of the "Top 7 Top Weight Loss Friendly Foods". So you will win on all fronts by putting them on your weekly supermarket list.
Remember to prepare these the night before so you will be armed and ready when you are hungry. Then sit back and enjoy the new energy and focus that you and your family will experience.
The eight best foods for energy and concentration
Salmon is hailed as being high in "good fats" (omega-3 fatty acids), which are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and their ability to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Since omega-3 fatty acids support brain function, they are a recipe for success for increasing productivity.
An adequate supply of omega-3 fatty acids supports healthy cell membranes, which means your brain cells are communicating well and you are ready to focus and learn. Aim for three servings of fatty fish (including tuna, mackerel, or sardine) each week.
Why not try our Saucy Salmon with Mango Salsa?
2. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds not only satisfy cravings, but also increase energy. The zinc content strengthens your immune system, while the high magnesium content promotes rest so you can concentrate better on the task at hand. Because pumpkin seeds are loaded with both protein and healthy fat, they provide longer-lasting energy so you don't feel drained or hungry shortly after you eat.
The best way to involve them? Sprinkle them on salads or add them to your morning porridge. I like having a handful after a workout as I know they are high in protein, which means they help repair and regrow my muscle mass.
3. Leafy vegetables
Mixing spinach or kale into your morning smoothie is not only a smart way to eat more vegetables, but it can also make you more productive. Leafy green vegetables are a low-calorie source of B vitamins, which are essential for energy production. The best way to upgrade your greens is to try with every meal – spinach leaves with your poached egg for breakfast, tender stem broccoli in a salad for lunch, and fried kale with fish for dinner.
As you increase your leafy greens, you will experience noticeable productivity and a boost of energy. What's all the hype about kale? Known as a superfood, in addition to manganese, calcium, copper, potassium, iron and phosphorus, it contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, including A, K, C and a number of Bs. It is also high in beta-carotene and antioxidants, one of which they are believed to be good for our skin and mind. Better still, it's pretty cheap, with a pound bag that costs less than a fiver!
Try Jodie's fabulous "Crispy Kale Crisps" recipe for a wonderfully healthy (and surprisingly satisfying) replacement for regular chips.
4. Green tea
Leafy vegetables aren't the only green food that helps say goodbye to that foggy brain. It is believed that green tea also helps to increase focus. In fact, studies have shown that green tea actually promotes increased blood flow to the heart and brain. Not only that, but it also contains antioxidants that can protect your brain from cell damage and keep your mind healthy as you age.
Some people worry that it is a caffeinated drink and that they may already be drinking a lot of tea and coffee, but there is nothing to worry as the caffeine levels are actually very low (around half a cup of coffee). You can find more information about the health benefits of green tea here.
As a personal favorite of mine, these nuts are not only filling and very versatile (I eat them as a snack, in salads, or even roasted and served on a curry) but also incredibly useful for keeping your mind focused. They are rich in monounsaturated "good fats", vitamin E (important for healthy skin), magnesium and protein. Almonds are also high in copper, a mineral that is essential for healthy brain function. And because of their decent fiber content, they make the ideal snack (high protein, tick; high fiber, tick!) To keep you full longer.
Also, a surprising amount of people don't seem to know that healthy fats like nuts, avocado, fish, olives, and olive oil can actually help your heart by lowering the bad kind of cholesterol in your body.
We are all aware of the recent obsession with expensive "goji berries," but there are many more berries that are just as good and not half as expensive. Not only are strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries delicious, all of these berries are also fantastic for increasing your focus and increasing productivity.
Berries provide just enough sugar for energy, but they're also loaded with fiber, so instead of causing your blood sugar to crash, they will slowly increase your blood sugar. If motivated, we recommend that all of our customers always eat their fruits with a source of protein. So try Greek yogurt with berries or a small serving of cheese with a handful of blueberries for a great snack.
Another great way to boost your energy levels is to make a berry-based smoothie with some extra protein like hemp or pea protein for a great afternoon boost.
When motivated, we don't encourage eating lots of carbohydrates to increase productivity, as we know that too many (especially processed, white carbohydrates) will only temporarily increase your energy levels, followed by a sharp dip. But oats are a big exception to the rule. While we still urge our customers to watch out for their portion size (which is usually a quarter of the amount of porridge they used to eat!), We know that oats are a wonderfully healthy whole grain product that provides sustainable energy.
The fact that oats are so high in fiber means your blood sugar is more likely to stay stable longer (in other words, you won't experience a sugar roller coaster the way you would if you had a plain white bagel for breakfast).
When you add the B vitamin content of oats, you are well on the way to helping your body use its energy properly without the dreaded slumps.
Try Jodie's overnight oats, full of healthy berries (like above) and sweetened with stevia.
Bet you are surprised to find cheese on our list! Well, in moderation, cheese can be a smart addition to your diet that will help you get through your day. Cheese, especially Cheddar cheese, contains conjugated linoleic acid (or CLA), an omega-6 fat that helps release energy from fat stores, boost metabolism, increase muscle strength, and improve exercise resilience.
It's also a great source of protein for long-lasting energy, and provides iron, calcium, and B vitamins (including B-12) to aid productivity. It's high in calories, however, so keep your serving size to about an ounce (roughly the size of a matchbox or domino).
What are the worst foods for zapping energy or giving us “brain fog”?
We selected four foods that have been shown to affect cognitive functions and energy levels, as well as increasing levels of inflammation in the body.
This is a big no-no for anyone who is concerned about doing well at home or at work, both physically and mentally. Therefore, if possible, ban them all together (especially if you are also watching your waistline).
- Sugary drinks
- Shop bought cakes and pastries
- Frozen, processed dinners
- French fries and fries
Now – don't waste your time – include our eight best foods for energy and concentration in your daily / weekly shopping and enjoy the energy buzz!