We are often asked in our clinics, ‘What are the best foods for energy and concentration’? This could come from the busy parent, the stressed office worker or even the exam-pressured teenager. Often during our busy days – whether at work, school or at home minding children – preparing a healthy meal tends to be the last thing on our mind. And, as a result, that is exactly where we go wrong, with a ‘grab and go’ kind of attitude to our food.
With this in mind, we’ve put together what we believe to be the Eight Best Foods For Energy And Concentration – these foods will help you operate at your very best, both in terms of mood and energy levels.
What is very interesting is many of these foods also feature on our ‘Top 7 Top Weight Loss Friendly Foods’ list also, so you’ll be winning on all fronts if you pop them on your weekly supermarket list.
Do remember to try to prep these the night before, so you’re armed and ready to go when hungry. Then, sit back and enjoy the renewed energy and concentration levels that both you and your family will experience.
The Eight Best Foods For Energy And Concentration
Salmon is praised for being rich in ‘good fats’ (omega-3s), known for their anti-inflammatory properties and ability to help reduce the risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Also, because omega-3s support brain function, they’re a winning formula to boost productivity.
An adequate supply of omega-3s will support healthy cell membranes, meaning your brain cells will communicate well so you’re ready to focus and learn. Aim for three portions of oily fish each week (including tuna, mackerel or sardines).
Why not try making our ‘Saucy Salmon with Mango Salsa’?
2. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds not only satisfy a craving, but they will also boost energy. The zinc content will help boost your immune system, while the high magnesium content will promote calmness, so that you’re better able to focus on the task at hand. Also, because pumpkin seeds are loaded with both protein and healthy fat, they’ll offer longer-lasting energy to keep you from feeling drained, or hungry, soon after you eat.
The best way to include them? Sprinkle them on salads or add them to your morning porridge. I love to have a handful after a workout as I know they’re high in protein, meaning they’ll contribute to the repair and regrowth of my lean muscle mass.
3. Leafy Greens
Blending some spinach or kale into your morning smoothie isn’t just a smart way to eat more veggies — 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 up your greens is to try to include them at each meal – spinach leaves with your poached egg for breakfast, tenderstem broccoli in a salad at lunch and some stir-fried kale with fish at dinner.
By upping your leafy greens, you will experience a noticeable productivity and energy boost. So what’s all the hype about kale? Known as a superfood, it provides a host of vitamins and minerals, including A, K, C and a range of Bs, in addition to manganese, calcium, copper, potassium, iron and phosphorus. It is also high in beta-carotene and antioxidants, believed to be great for our skin and our mind. Better still, it’s quite cheap, with a kilo bag costing less than a fiver!
Try Jodie’s fab ‘Crispy Kale Crisps’ recipe for a wonderfully healthy (and surprisingly satisfying) substitute to regular crisps.
4. Green Tea
Leafy greens aren’t the only green foods that will help say goodbye to that foggy brain; green tea is believed to help boost focus too. In fact, studies have shown that green tea actually promotes increased blood flow to the heart and brain. Not just that, but it also contains antioxidants that could help protect your brain from cellular damage, helping to keep your mind healthy as you age.
Some people worry that it is a caffeinated drink, and that they may already be drinking plenty of tea and coffee but there’s no need to be concerned as the caffeine level is actually very low (about half of a cup of coffee). For more about the health benefits of green tea, read here.
A personal favourite of mine, these nuts are not just filling and very versatile (I eat them as a snack, in salads or even toasted and served on top of a curry), but also incredibly useful in helping to focus your mind. They are high in monounsaturated ‘good fats’, vitamin E (important for healthy skin), magnesium and protein. Almonds also supply plenty of copper, a mineral essential for healthy brain function. And, due to their decent fibre content, they provide the ideal snack (high protein, tick; high fibre, tick!) helping to keep you full for longer.
Also, a surprising amount of people don’t seem to know that healthy fats — such as nuts, avocado, fish, olives and olive oil — can actually help your heart by lowering the bad type of cholesterol in your body.
We’re all aware with the recent obsession with pricey ‘goji berries’, but there are many more berries which are just as good, and not half as expensive. Not only are strawberries, blueberries and blackberries delicious, all of these berries are fantastic for enhancing your focus and boosting productivity.
Berries supply just enough sugar for energy, but they’re also loaded with dietary fiber, so they’ll raise your blood sugar slowly, instead of causing a blood sugar crash. At Motivation, we recommend all our clients to eat their fruit always with a source of protein – so try greek yoghurt topped with berries or a small one ounce serving of cheese with a handful of blueberries as a great snack.
Another great way to boost your energy levels is to make a berry based smoothie with some added protein such as hemp or pea protein for a great mid-afternoon boost.
At Motivation, we don’t promote eating lots of carbs to boost productivity as we know that too many (especially processed, white carbs) will only cause your energy to temporarily surge, followed by a major dip. But oats are a big exception to the rule. Although we do still urge clients to watch 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 wholegrain which offer sustained energy.
The fact that oats are so high in fibre means that your blood sugars are more likely to stay stable for longer (in other words, you won’t experience a sugar rollercoaster, like you would if you ate a plain white bagel for breakfast).
Add to that the B vitamin content of oats, and you’re well on your way to helping your body use its energy properly, without any dreaded slumps.
Have a go of Jodie’s Overnight Oats, full of healthy berries (as above), and sweetened with stevia.
Bet you’re surprised to find cheese on our list! Well, in moderation, cheese can be a clever addition to your diet that will help you power through your day. Cheese, especially cheddar cheese, contains conjugated linoleic acid (or CLA) which is an omega-6 fat that helps release energy from fat stores, boosts your metabolism, increases muscle strength and enhances exercise endurance.
It’s also a great source of protein for long-lasting energy and supplies iron, calcium and B vitamins (including B-12) to support productivity. It is high in calories, however, so keep your serving size to about one ounce (roughly the size of a matchbox or a domino).
So what are the worst foods for zapping energy, or for giving us ‘brain fog’?
We’ve picked four foods that have been shown to impair cognitive function and energy levels, in addition to elevating the levels of inflammation in the body.
These are a big no-no for anyone concerned about performing well, both physically and mentally, at home or at work, so ban them all together if possible (particularly if watching your waistline too).
- Sugary drinks
- Shop bought cakes and pastries
- Frozen, processed dinners
- Chips and french fries
Now – no time-wasting – include our eight best foods for energy and concentration in your daily / weekly shopping and enjoy the energy buzz!