When the afternoon hits and we reach for that third, nay fourth cup of coffee, it’s easy to overlook the full impact of the foods we choose. But being selective about what we consume is crucial because as the saying goes, you are what you eat.
At a meeting or an event, sluggish attendees won’t be very productive, and neither will sluggish planners. Here are the best foods for reinforcing focus, memory, energy and an upbeat mood. The next time you’re choosing an event menu, keep in mind these all-star ingredients. Plus, they can help with day-to-day energy slumps!
What to Eat
Avocados: As a monounsaturated fat, avocados promote healthy blood flow, which means good flow to the brain. This helps us think and improves general cognitive function. Avocados also contain vitamin K, folate and potassium—all known to help improve brainpower.
Berries, oranges, apples and bananas: Natural sugars found in fruit will curb cravings and recharge stamina. Blue berries in particular are chock-full of antioxidants and believed to establish healthy connections between brain cells. Oranges and apples are known to improve short-term memory and prevent memory loss. Bananas provide plenty of potassium, which helps nerve cells respond.
Fruits are great for snacks and desserts. It’s easy to sneak them into salads, as well. Just be careful of dried fruits, as they generally cancel out the benefits.
Dark chocolate: As with all good things, dark chocolate is very healthy when eaten in moderation. It has the right amount of sugar for a boost but not one as sharp as its sugary counterpart, milk chocolate. It can ease stress. And compounds in dark chocolate boost memory, attention span, reaction time and problem-solving skills by increasing blood flow to the brain. Dark chocolate is a perfect dessert component to wrap up an event.
Eggs: Not only are they rich in protein, but they also have high amounts of vitamin D, vitamin B12, riboflavin, selenium and lutein. Plus, they are a source of choline, which is thought to help with cognition. Eggs can be hard-boiled and thrown in a salad or used at a breakfast station.
Fermented foods: Fermented foods include miso, pickled vegetables, kefir, tempeh, kimchi and sauerkraut. These foods are regarded as fantastic probiotics (good bacteria for digestion). These microbes have many health benefits, particularly for our immune system, that are still being discovered. And we all know that stomach aches, pains and general discomfort can be extremely distracting.
Nuts: High in protein and healthy fats, and very versatile for cooking, nuts are great for an event menu. Macadamia nuts contribute to normal brain function, while almonds help restore memory. Walnuts also support memory retention and have anti-inflammatory properties.
Oily fish: Even though oily isn’t a term typically associated with healthy foods, fish is the one exception. Salmon, mackerel and kippers are all high in omega-3 fats, providing a major cognitive lift.
Quinoa: There’s a reason this grain has exploded in popularity over the last few years. Quinoa holds more protein than any other grain and it’s rich in amino acids. It can almost always replace rice, but it will keep you full much longer.
What to avoid
Consumption of sugary foods and white flour is like climbing aboard a glucose roller coaster: It’s the antithesis of stability. Foods such as bagels and pasta will have you on a quick up-down. Instead, the goal is to consume foods that offer a stable glucose intake.
Fats are difficult for our bodies to digest, and therefore they make us listless. Not to mention, foods high in unhealthy fats are usually high in other chemicals that weigh us down, such as starch and sodium.
Turkey and red meats might be filling, but they produce tryptophan, which boosts serotonin in our brains. While serotonin is awesome, it is the “happy chemical”—it puts us a little too at ease, resulting in low energy.
Soda might be a tempting choice for its caffeine, but both diet and regular drinks leave you drained. Regular soda is full of added sugar and the artificial sweeteners in diet soda might be worse. Often, artificial sweeteners contain aspartame, a controversial chemical that potentially has a long list of health consequences. The instant kick doesn’t last too long.
High-processed sodium is often found in processed snacks such as chips and pretzels.
Cheese is OK in very small doses. However, over-consumption of cheese exposes us to hormones and antibiotics that can increase toxins in the body. These toxins lead to a decrease in natural testosterone production.
Processed meat such as hot dogs, hamburgers, cold cuts and bacon generally have shocking amounts of sodium, hormones, preservatives and antibiotics—a recipe for lethargy, not to mention long-term damage.