Brain-boosting Foods To Eat At Your Desk

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Wiring your brain for a full day of desk-bound work/studying can be a challenge, and whoever said it’s totally natural to spend the majority of your day glued to a screen obviously hasn’t ever tried to use Microsoft Excel on an empty stomach. In such situations, food really is your saviour and it’s therefore so important to choose snacks that are going to keep you perked up throughout the day and maximise your concentration levels.

We spoke to Frida Harju, the in-house nutritionist at health and fitness app Lifesum (and did a little, erm, research of our own) to find the best desk-friendly snacks for a busy day of work, revision or study. We’ve looked up the nutrition and analysed the cost, transportability and general deliciousness too. Honestly, sitting at your desk all day never looked more appealing…

Dark chocolate

Great news for all you chocolate fiends: chowing down on some dark chocolate (85%, soz) halfway through the day is a great way to increase alertness and concentration as several studies show. Frida agreed and told us that ‘dark chocolate produces endorphins and serotonin, which boost concentration and improve memory. It is also a good source of antioxidants and minerals like potassium and magnesium, which contribute to controlling blood pressure.’ And why do we need to opt for the darker stuff? Well Frida adds that ‘while dark chocolate has less sugar and fat than other chocolates, you should still be mindful of the calories and not overindulging.’

Cost (3/5): I mean an apple is a quarter of the price, but forget that. Transportability (5/5): Whoever put chocolate in bar format is a genius. Deliciousness (5/5 ): No expansion on this needed.

Bananas

The mighty banana needs no introduction except…nope, no introduction needed here. Frida tells us: ‘This is a great snack to have at hand when you need a boost halfway through the day. Bananas are rich in potassium, which is essential for keeping the brain concentrated, while also helping your nerves and heart work smoother; a 2008 study found that school children who ate bananas during lunch had higher levels of concentration than those who didn’t. Bananas are also a good substitute to sweets, if you feel like you want something sweet halfway through the afternoon.’

Cost (5/5): Super cheap. Transportability (1/5): The only time we stop short of declaring the banana worthy of its own public holiday is when we have to discuss its transport issues. Too many times have we opened our bags only to find a mushy mess where our fruit-hero should have been. However, banana cases are now a thing, so that’s good. Deliciousness (4 /5): We won’t hear a bad word said against them.

Almonds

Nuts are a great pick-me-up, and having around ten almonds a day can do great things for your health, as well as your levels of concentration and your mood. Frida said: ‘almonds contain riboflavin which not only boosts brain activity, but can also reduce the risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s. Almonds also contain phenylalanine, which is instantly absorbed by the body and works to produce adrenaline and dopamine. These two hormones leave our body feeling relaxed, whilst also improving reflexes, increasing alertness and improving memory.’

Cost (2/5): Not as bas as the exotic pistachio, thank god. Transportability (5/5): Nuts + packets = desk friendly Deliciousness (4/5 ): We’d love to smother them in salt/chocolate but that might override their nutritional benefits…

Tomatoes

Frida said: ‘Having a few cherry tomatoes a day to snack on can be a great way to improve your concentration. Tomatoes have a positive long-term effect on the brain so by eating a portion each day you are investing in your health. Tomatoes contain an antioxidant called lycopene, which prevents free radicals from damaging brain cells. By avoiding cell damage, your attention span, memory and problem solving skills will be preserved and enhanced.’ Who knew, eh?

Cost (2/5): Pennies. Transportability (2/5 ): Tupperware is the only way to prevent tomato-gate in our bags Deliciousness (3/5): We know people who snack on tomatoes whole, but we prefer them in a salad (or even better in a pizza).

Blueberries

There’s no fruit that makes us happier than the humble blueberry – not least because they’re seasonal and eating them instantly reminds us that summer is around the corner. Frida also explained that the berries have been labelled a ‘superfood’ due to their high levels of poly phenols, antioxidative and anti-inflammatory compounds saying that they ‘positively impact the nervous system and brain function, helping to combat memory loss and improve your mood.’ Result! She added that ‘polyphenols could also potentially prevent the progression of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.’

Cost (4/ 5): Pretty cheap – when they’re in season that is. Transportability (4/5): Easy to pack into a box, just don’t drop ‘em on your clothes. Deliciousness (5/5): Er, who doesn’t like munching on these mouth-staining berries?

Chickpeas

So you might not have considered the chickpea as a brain-boosting snack, but we’re telling you that you should. Frida loves them because they’re packed full of magnesium, ‘which, like potassium, speeds up the message transmission between brain cells and relaxes blood vessels, helping to increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.’ (So far so good). She adds: ‘If you have time in the evening, make homemade hummus by blending chickpeas with lemon juice, tahini, garlic and olive oil. You can then take your hummus into work and eat with carrots and celery’. Erm, sounds incredible.

Cost (2/5): Dirt cheap. A kilo costs under £2. Transportability (3/5): Again, you need to seriously up your Tupperware game to make this a snack option. Deliciousness (4/5): Chickpeas are great as a home-made hummus, or in a salad.

Oily Fish

Those cod liver oil capsules your Granny takes? Yeah they really are worth the ew-factor, but if you like fish you can eat the real thing next time you’re in need of a brain boost. Frida tells us that oily fish is scientifically proven to improve brain power and boost concentration. She told us: ‘The nerve fibres that send messages between brain cells need to be insulated by a fatty substance called myelin, and a recent Northumbria University study found that essential fatty acids such as omega-3, found in oily fish, help build myelin. Try making mackerel on toast or taking a can of tuna into work to eat as a snack.’

Cost (2/5): Oily fish is generally a lot pricier than your standard cod, but you can get tins of mackerel for 66p from Tesco, and tuna for a little more. Transportability (1/5): Better invest in some good Tupperware for this. Oh and you’re going to be stinking out your library/office once that lid comes off… Deliciousness (3/5): We love the distinctive flavour of oily fish but it’s not really a crowd-pleaser is it?

Pumpkin Seeds

Eating a handful of pumpkin seeds each day will provide you with the recommended daily levels of zinc which is vital for increasing brainpower by enhancing memory and focus as Frida kindly informs us. She added: ‘Pumpkin seeds are packed with nutrients your brain will love such as proteins, amino acids, minerals, vitamins and complex carbs. Have them halfway through the morning, or around four in the afternoon to stop yourself feeling hungry and giving your brain a boost.’

Cost (2/5): Under £1 for 100g which is very doable Transportability (5/5): Plastic bag, paper bag or Tupperware – it’s win-win either way Deliciousness (3/5): They’re best sprinkled over something, we reckon

Dates

Cultivated since around 6000 B.C. the super-sweet date comes from the date palm tree and contains high levels of fibre which are known to aid digestion and relieve constipation. Dates are also rich in potassium and magnesium (both of which aid a good night’s sleep) and because they’re also high in natural sugar, dates can offer you the perfect pick-me-up during a mid-afternoon energy slump. Try snacking on them whole, or in cold-pressed date-ball-form, like the date bars and nibbles from Nakd. (Our favourite flavour is Salted Caramel FYI, which we can’t believe doesn’t actually contain any real sugar).

Cost 4/5): 200g of fresh dates comes in at around £2. About the same as chocolate, we guess. Transportability (5/5): Easy peasy. Deliciousness (5/5): At 66g of natural sugar per 100g for a bag of dates, you’ll be licking your lips with every mouthful. And the Nakd bars are like dates 3.0

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