Need an afternoon sugar fix?
That’s not uncommon. But rather than vending machine or convenience store sweets, think about “nature’s candy”—that is, fruit. Besides delivering healthful fiber, vitamins, and hydration, fruit is a delicious source of a simple form of natural sugar, glucose.
Fruit is also satisfying since so many options are available to suit your taste! Berries, especially blueberries, are my number one choice, and I bring them with me to the office. Research has shown that those little blue powerhouses can offer protection from free radical damage and the effects of age-related diseases such as dementia. So next time you’re having that sweet tooth craving, reach for fruit to boost alertness and focus—naturally.
Eat to protect your long-term brain function!
Rich in omega-3 healthy fats, fish could be the best protein for overall brain health. And the positive effects of consuming fish are not just on the brain’s physiology but its function, too! Linked to lower rates of dementia and mental decline, a diet that includes fish may help to enhance memory, especially as we age. Unquestionably a smart food choice (pun intended), it doesn’t take much effort to eat the suggested amount of “brain food”: two servings weekly.
Foods that improve mood
Food is certainly linked to mood and emotion—and some important nutrients that are easily available in common foods can actually boost mood. Look for ways to include these regularly to avoid crashing:
- Selenium. You can find this in Brazil nuts (only a few!), brown rice, lean beef, sunflower seeds, and seafood. Besides helping with mood regulation, selenium also protects your body from free radicals, so eating these foods can be a good way to promote immune function as well as mental health.
- Beta carotene. This nutrient can also help with mood balance. Think “orange” to identify the colorful foods that are loaded with beta carotene. Carrots are the usual pick, but it’s also found in pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe.
- Folate. Your brain cells need this B vitamin, and it balances mood as well. Leafy greens are an excellent choice to boost folate. It’s also found in asparagus, lentils, and lima beans.
- Flavonoids. That word may not sound delicious, but what if I were to say “dark chocolate”? The flavonoids, so rich in my fave treat, add alertness and general wellbeing. A little is all it takes.
Feeling tired and sluggish?
Don’t reach for junk foods full of processed sugar and sodium. They might give you a quick energy fix, but that can backfire, leaving you even more lethargic later on. Instead, fill your meals and snacks with foods that boost your energy and vitality in a more sustainable way. Some components to look for include:
- Protein and fiber. Your body needs both these nutrients. But combine them and you stay satisfied and energized longer, actually preventing eventual sugar crashes. Try chia seeds. These tiny powerhouses of protein and fiber are easily mixed into a drink, pudding, or shake, or sprinkled on foods for a satisfying crunch.
- Vitamin B12. So many of us are deficient in this nutrient and don’t even know it, and that deficiency increases with age. That can lead to sluggishness and poor memory, among other issues. Eating meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products—for example, wild-caught salmon, sardines, lamb, and feta cheese—will provide this essential nutrient.
- Magnesium. This mineral is necessary for energy production and blood sugar control and can prevent and treat migraines, hypertension, and much more. Include pumpkin and sunflower seeds, leafy greens like spinach, almonds, yogurt, and bananas in your diet to be sure you’re getting enough.
Have you just added some of these optimal-health foods to your shopping list? (Check!) As you can see, many smart options are readily available at your market or restaurant. I hope these ideas have gotten you started thinking how to choose foods that help you power through your day in a comfortable, stress-free, and productive way—and keep you on a smooth path toward your overall wellness goals, too!