Most of us get a little peckish outside of meals. Rather than reach for the chips or chocolate, however, there are all kinds of snacking options that are great for not only dispelling the hunger pangs, but also boosting your brain power and helping you to make the most of your day.
Blueberries or blackcurrants
Fruit in general is a great way to snack, but for people who are trying to concentrate (at work, perhaps, or when studying), blueberries are an even better choice. Research shows that blueberries are actually quite effective at improving short term memory loss.
Another berry that’s easy to eat as a snack and readily available is blackcurrants, which are rich sources of Vitamin C. For the busy worker, that’s a useful booster indeed, as research into Vitamin C shows that it’s particularly helpful in regulating and managing anxiety and stress… and blackcurrants just happen to be one of the very best sources of it.
A mixed handful or two of nuts is a great-tasting snack, and easy to have on the desk as you’re working. It’s also great for brainpower. Nuts offer a great boost to energy levels, thanks to the rich natural oils in them, and they also come loaded with Vitamin E. Vitamin E has been linked to the prevention of cognitive decline, particularly in the elderly, so getting into a good habit of having high levels of Vitamin E in the diet is a good idea from a young age.
It’s not the most appetising vegetable in the world, but broccoli is loaded with yet another vitamin; this time Vitamin K, which is known to improve brain power and cognitive functions. It also helps protect your body’s acetylcholine… which might not mean much unless you’re a biologist, but low levels of acetylcholine has been linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Munching on a sardine or two, or grabbing a quick sushi roll that contains salmon or bluefin tuna, is a brilliant snack for improving brain function. Fish is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which is linked to improved memory in healthy young adults.
If you can’t eat fish (and many people are allergic), it’s a good idea to speak to a nutritionist about omega-3 fatty acids. There are alternatives, though outside of seafood it’ll often need to come in the form of a supplement, which doesn’t make for a great snack, but is nonetheless important.
Eggs contain a number of useful B vitamins, including B6 and B12, as well as folic acid. These vitamins are particularly useful for the elderly, as a study suggest that those that have high intake of B6, B12 and folic acid also experience less brain shrinkage than those that don’t.
Eggs are easy to prepare and eat as a snack, but they’re not the only sources of these vitamins. You can also go with chicken, many types of fish, and greens.
Many of the above foods are designed to provide long-term benefits (or reduce risks), but there are plenty of snack options for improving mental performance (as well as digestional health) in the immediate term, too. Wholegrains, which are a low-GI food, provide a boost of glucose that is only introduced to the bloodstream slowly (thanks to being low-GI). This means that whole grain food will help you perform at your best throughout the day.
Wholegrain cereals, bread and pastas are all good choices here. Just be sure to avoid the white alternatives. All of those are high-GI and will have the exact opposite effect to what you’re looking for.
All of the above are foods you should be snacking on to improve your mental activity, but to finish things off, here’s one you should avoid – caffeine. In small doses, caffeine can increase alertness and reaction times, but if you have too much of it, you can become jittery, which will have the opposite effect.
One or two cups of coffee is more than sufficient. Don’t forget that caffeine is found in tea, too. It’s there at a much lower rate, but nonetheless, two to four cups of tea should be your upward limit. Also, avoid drinking either just before bed. The stimulation to the brain can make good sleep hard to come by, and that can mean that the next day is a write-off.
Keep it regular
Finally, don’t allow snacking to replace proper meals. Your wellbeing will be at its best, and you’ll get the most out of your day, if you stick to a schedule of three proper meals at similar times each day.
In 2014 Adrian quit his job and opened a painting business called MrPaint. Adrian is a strong believer in the ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ principle and backs this up by being a competitive track cyclist here in Australia.