How to Eat for Productivity


“Change your attitude. Change your habits. Change your life.”
We all have heard the power of attitude. But, did you know that changing your attitude can be as easy as changing your diet? It’s true! Research has shown that foods have a direct impact on how we feel, how we handle situations, and, yes -even our memory. So if you are feeling just the tiniest bit more forgetful than normal, or just want to feel more energized, read on.

Come on get happy!
Coffee. Go ahead and grab that refill. Research shows women who drank two to three cups of caffeinated coffee a day were about 15% less likely to become depressed. This may be because of the caffeine, which helps increase dopamine and serotonin transmission within just 30 minutes of drinking. How’s that for instant happiness?

Yogurt. Not only a good source of protein, a study found that women who ate probiotic yogurt twice a day were calmer when shown emotional pictures. Yogurt helps because the gut and the brain have regular chats via the vagus nerve, so good bacteria may help in spreading the chill-out message.

Berries. Go load up on some bright red, blue, and blackberries. Research has shown 500 mg of polyphenols (equivalent to about 2 cups of blueberries) act on GABA, which help regulate the excitability of your brain cells. Excitable cells may overreact to stress, which can lead to depression down the line.

AVOID: Saturated fats. In a study, rats that were fed a diet high in saturated fats were less goal-oriented than the control. Saturated fats have been shown to have a direct relationship with depression. So try to limit these fats found in cheese and processed foods as much as possible.

Stress Less
Walnuts. Walnuts are the nuts that are the highest in Omega-3s. Some research has suggested that getting adequate levels of Omega-3s in your life can make you more flexible to how you handle stress. Also walnuts have been shown to help protect against stress regulators such as high blood pressure.

Black tea. Black tea can help lower cortisol levels which stress affects. Also, drinking a cup of black tea may help you recover from stressful events more quickly. So go ahead and get into the daily ritual of taking an afternoon tea time.

Avocados. Get your daily dose of potassium here! Avocados have a ton of potassium, 1 cup has over 700mg! Potassium has been shown to help reduce blood pressure. So don’t feel bad about adding this healthy fat to some of your meals.

AVOID: Did you know that highly processed sugar and carbohydrates can actually make you feel more stressed? Ironic since these are the foods we usually crave when stressed out. But, these food options can lead to a huge sugar spike and drop-off, which actually will harm you in the long run. 

Boost of Energy
Water. Have you had your 8 cups of water today? If not, you may be drooping (literally) at work. Research notes that if you’re dehydrated your stamina goes down by approximately 25%. So drink up!

Banana. Get ready for this yellow energy booster. The ratio of starchy carbohydrates, natural sugars, and fiber make this fruit a go-getter. Your brain relies on the glucose (sugar) in your blood for energy while the carbohydrates help you think clearly and remain focused while the fiber helps keep the energy sustained. How’s that for a superfood?

Mackerel and other sea foods. Seafood (especially Mackerel) are high in all B vitamins but especially Riboflavin (B2). Riboflavin is important for energy because it assists in energy production and metabolism. It also has the added bonus of supporting healthy skin, hair, and nails. So be sure to choose a fish option at least 2 times per week.

AVOID: Fatty meals. Do you ever notice how sluggish and zapped you feel after eating a huge lunch? That’s because high-fat meals stay in the stomach longer, which diverts blood away from our brain and other vital organs. So think with your brain, not your stomach, on your next lunch choice.

Memory Surge
Honey. Just a tablespoon of honey can help the brain work! Research shows that small amounts of honey can help reduce depression as well as increase brain function. So add some to your morning oatmeal or your afternoon tea.

Ginseng Root. Ginseng root has been known to improve memory, but it’s not just hearsay, it’s actual truth. Digesting this root does actually help brain function. In fact, research shows that this root can improve mental performance in people with Alzheimer’s disease. For best results, make sure that it is Panax ginseng root.

Chocolate. Like you needed another reason to indulge. But, flavanols found in cocoa beans may improve blood flow, lower blood pressure and increase activity in the part of the brain involved with memory. But watch out for the calories and sugar! For best results, take 750mg flavanols, which is equal to about 6 tablespoons cocoa powder (70 calories), 1.5 ounces baking chocolate (270 calories) or 4.75 ounces dark chocolate (750 calories).

AVOID: White sugars in soda and candy. A 2013 study reported that people with even slightly elevated blood sugar levels have a higher risk of dementia. So stay away!

Below is a great recipe to bring to work, to help get those productivity juices flowing.

Honey & Basil Walnut Crusted Salmon

  • ~3/4 lb. wild salmon
  • 1 T ground mustard
  • 1 T honey
  • 1-2 T fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 c. raw walnuts, roughly chopped

Rinse and dry salmon. Cut into 2 pieces. Place on a baking sheet that has been prepared with a little olive oil. Mix together the mustard, honey, basil and garlic. Spread over the top of the salmon.

Sprinkle 2 T walnuts over each fillet – season with a pinch of salt and fresh black pepper. Bake for for 10-15 minutes @ 400F or until the surface of the salmon flakes easily with a fork.

I served the salmon over a bed of homegrown greens dressed lightly with olive oil and balsamic, quinoa, and creamy chevre – tasty!

Serves 2.

Petra Colindres is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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