Eat more chocolate, get more sunlight. You’re going to like this list of things your brain needs to perform at its best.
By Drake Baer
The things we put into our bodies have a gigantic effect on the way that we feel. While it’s obvious that a salad for lunch will give us more energy in the afternoon than a plate of cheese fries, there’s a whole range of consumables–via eating, drinking, or otherwise–that can boost your alertness, awareness, and productivity.
Some of these things you’re probably already doing, like drinking tea. Some of these things you’re not getting enough of, like sunshine. Some of these things you didn’t expect.
What you need: Caffeine + Theanine to get relaxed and alert
If you know how to use it well, caffeine can help you remember things. Drink too much of it, and caffeine can leave you feeling jittery or crashed out. That’s because caffeine needs a friend: theanine, an amino acid that reduces anxiety.
How to get more: Thankfully, the caffeine and theanine super combo is readily present in one of the most-sipped beverages the world over: the black and green varieties of tea. So have a few cups a day.
What you need: Sunlight for a sunny disposition
The most and least obvious of the things we need more of is sunlight. About 10% of Americans wrestle with Seasonal Affective Disorder, a sense of lethargic sadness that comes with shorter autumn and winter days. The best way to hedge against SAD–and the everyday gloominess being burned into you by your office’s iridescent lights–is to simply get more sun.
How to get more: Take a walk outside, as early in the day as possible.
What you need: polyphenols to keep your neurons happy
Turns out there is some wisdom to a chocolate binge: there’s a class of antioxidants inside cocoa called polyphenols. They lend chocolate a lot of its mood-enhancing ability–this is because, research suggests, they stimulate the same brain receptors that anxiety medications work on.
Add that to the list of chocolate’s benefits, like decreasing the chance of stroke, diabetes, and heart disease while increasing blood flow.
How to get more: If you’re not doing so already, keep some dark chocolate near your desk.
What you need: Omega-3s to give your brain fuel
While the brain accounts for only 2% of our body’s weight, it takes up 25% of our total glucose production. This is a long way of saying that our brains are hungry hungry hippos inside our heads–and if they don’t get fed, they get distracted.
Our brains especially love to nosh upon foods rich with omega-3 fatty acids since they’re so nice to our neurons.
How to get more: Eat more nuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and fatty fish like salmon.
What you need: Creatine to pump your brain up
This is the weirdest one: Creatine, beloved by body builders, is good for your brain, too. Studies suggest that creatine boosts memory and attention span.
How to get more: Add a creatine supplementation to your morning smoothie.