A lot of people have the misconstrued idea that an energy drink will aid them in either staying awake to get work done, or to give them that kick to keep on going but that’s not entirely true because although you might have a kick of energy, what its actually doing to your body is way worse.
“What you don’t reach for is as important as what you do,” says New York City-based nutritionist Cindy Moustafa. “Energy drinks are often loaded with sugar and way more caffeine than coffee, which can cause jitters and heart racing. Even if it says sugar-free, it’s loaded with chemicals and it’s in no way beneficial to your health…I would advise staying away from them as much as possible.”
That morning brew guarantees a jolt to start any day, but one mug alone can’t fight off drowsiness for hours on end. And if you’re struggling to stay awake, it is probably time to start thinking about what you’ve been putting into your body lately.
From as long as we can remember we were told “eat your veggies” and as children we never really understood why but as we grow up we can see the changed in our body and mind when we pack those veggies in. If you’re a busy person you could have crunchy, nutritious kale as a salad for lunch, but if you’re looking to change things up, consider trying another dark leafy green. Spinach is known as brain food and there’s a reason for that.
“Spinach is loaded with lutein, folate, and beta-carotene,” Florida-based dietitian Tara Gidus tells Real Simple. “These nutrients have been linked with preventing dementia. I know neurologists who recommend eating spinach at least three times a week.” Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for staying focused during the day, aside from the obvious (getting sufficient zzzs at night), but fortunately, there are healthy foods that can optimize your concentration and increase energy levels.
If you’re in desperate need to boost your productivity during the day, these 5 foods will be your best friends:
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, not only does it give you the first boost of energy to start your day, but studies have shown that breakfast eaters are at lower risk for obesity, hypertension and diabetes, in comparison to those who prefer to skip it. While it might be tempting and easy to grab some cereal or a doughnut, it’s crucial to start your day on the right note so you can stay focused and avoid packing on the pounds. Experts say that eating oatmeal, which is low in calories and will help you feel fuller longer. Oatmeal doesn’t have to be boring, you can load up on fresh fruit for a touch of sweetness or cinnamon for some spice.
Need some sweet in the AM? “Dark chocolate boosts serotonin and endorphin levels, which are associated with greater concentration,” says Natalie Stephens, clinical dietician. “It’s also a source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, such as potassium, copper, and magnesium, which can work with a healthy diet to control blood pressure. It’s also lower in fat and sugar than milk or white chocolate, which is better for diabetics and really anyone interested in cutting back on sugar intake.”
In 2013, a study concluded that those who drank two cups of cocoa every day for a month had improved blood flow to the brain, performing better on memory tests.
Sometimes all you really need is a glass of water to kick off the day “Thirst and dehydration can cause fatigue,” says Moustafa. “If you reach for a cup of coffee or an energy drink, it will actually dehydrate you further, causing you to feel worse later. Many people cannot actually tell the difference between thirst and hunger, if you find yourself feeling hungry a lot during the day, have a glass of water and wait 10 minutes before eating, you will find most times your hunger will stop.
“Salmon is a concentrated source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help rebuild brain cells, slow cognitive decline, and also strengthen the synapses in your brain related to memory,” says professional health coach Lori Shemek. “The protein in salmon contains amino acids, which are essential for keeping your brain focused and sharp. Look to add salmon where you can to maximize your brain power.”
If you find yourself feeling drained by mid-day, think twice before grabbing another cup of coffee, too much caffeine can cause headaches, which will only damage your concentration. Green tea has always been hailed as a coffee alternative, “Green tea does contain a more modest amount of caffeine balanced by the amino acid theanine,” says celebrity nutritionist JJ Virgin. “Studies show theanine improves mental alertness and focus. If you need that afternoon pick-me-up, green tea is your ticket.”