Fatigue is a modern-day epidemic. The majority of us in the working class are plagued by exhaustion, day in and day out. You drink caffeine to get going, eat refined carbs for a midday boost, devour sweets to get that beloved sugar high, and then….crash! Brain fog rolls in and you can’t even finish your sentences or remember to pick your child up from school. (Maybe not to those extremes, we hope, but you get the picture.) This reckless cycle of over-caffeinating and overloading on what is considered “fuel” is actually depleting your body’s sacred energy reservoir. What can we eat to improve our mental clarity?
Foods That Improve Focus and Give You Energy
We’ve compiled a list of foods that you can eat daily to help sustain (or revive) your precious energy. You know you’re going to need it! Keep in mind that no single food possesses miraculous powers to keep you energized all day. Your overall diet should be considered when you add in foods that promote energy. If your diet is consistently unhealthy, you may not feel the energy of these foods to their full potential.
1. Chlorophyll-Rich Foods.
Chlorophyll is the green blood of plants. Nearly identical to our own blood, chlorophyll delivers an oxygenating energy transfusion into our bloodstream, providing our cells with long-lasting vitality. This of course optimizes our brain function. The darker the leafy green, the more chlorophyll within. Green up your life with a fresh salad or juice on a daily basis. Kale, Swiss chard, and arugula make fine components as do parsley, cilantro, and sprouts. At the next level, we have the nutrient-dense algaes such as: blue-green algae, spirulina, and chlorella, which are all conveniently available in powder form to spruce up your power smoothie. Wheatgrass is also one of the best sources of chlorophyll available. Shots, anyone?
Superfoods are just another way of saying that a specific food has a dozen or more beneficial properties in it. For example, a superfood typically contains high amounts of nutrients and phytochemicals. We chose three of our team’s favorite superfoods! They include:
- Maca is nothing short of magic. It has been cultivated and grown in the Peruvian Andes of South America for nearly 2,600 years. This super root has been used medicinally for centuries. Once harvested, it is then dried, powdered and eaten in a variety of ways. Maca is an amazing adaptogen and provides an abundance of energetic properties. Taken daily, it decreases stress levels, enhances strength and stamina, and boosts your libido. Our team enjoys about 1 tablespoon of this nutritious and nutty flavored root powder in smoothies, teas, nut milks, oatmeal and the occasional coffee.
- Cacao is chocolate in its raw bean form before fats, sugars, and other sweeteners are added during processing. Chocolate is probably one of the top ten words in my vocabulary. In fact, I don’t think a day goes by at the Annmarie Gianni offices where at least one team member is either dreaming of or eating copious amounts of it. How else would our customer support team have all of this crazy, wild energy? Okay, back to cacao. This Amazonian wonder is packed with magnesium (which increases brain power) and phenylethylamine compounds (PEA), which play an important role in increasing focus and alertness. The flavonols present in cacao also increase blood flow to the brain. Cacao is available in many raw forms including powder, nibs, whole beans, and butter. There are many raw, stone-ground, organic and vegan chocolate bars on the market, too. Bliss out on cacao!
- Bee Pollen is the new buzz for your brain. Products made from bee pollen are considered to be some of the most concentrated superfoods on the market today. High in B vitamins and all twenty-two amino acids, bee pollen is sure to pack you full with energy and ward off that fatigue. If you really want to get amped, try our team’s favorite here. Bee pollen is also found to increase the number of red blood cells in humans. More red blood cells=more oxygen=more energy! Time to bee energized!
3. Essential Fatty Acids
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in brain function. There are three types of omega-3 acids: ALA, EPA, and DHA, each of which has their own benefits. DHA is our highlight here, which is found in fatty fish such as wild salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, and trout. DHA is critical for brain memory and brain nutrition. Since we do not produce DHA in our bodies, we need to eat natural sources of it or take it in the form of supplements. Flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds and walnuts are teeming with ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), a healthy plant-based omega-3 that helps keep our brains sharp and vital. Try topping your daily salad with any of these healthy nuts and seeds to boost your brain power.
4. Healthy Carbs
Brown rice, sweet potatoes, or whole grains like oatmeal give you energy in the form of glucose. These brain-friendly complex carbs have a low glycemic index (GI), which is the rate at which sugar (from food) enters the brain and body cells. Eating low GI foods will keep your energy steady throughout the day. Other low GI carbs include legumes (chickpea, lentil, and kidney beans). Avoid sugarcoated cereals and sweet granolas, sugary juices, and processed breads. If you must eat a food with a high glycemic index (we all cheat with the sweet treat!), it is better to consume it right after a meal because eating it in conjunction with other foods will slow the entry of sugar into your bloodstream and brain, preventing a hardcore crash later on.
Recipe for Energy Balls
Let’s spring into summer on the right note! Eating some of these brain foods will boost your concentration, lift your mood, optimize your memory, and help you stay alert throughout the day. Here is an easy recipe that gives you a ball of energy on the go:
Raw Maca Cacao Energy Balls
½ cup of maca powder
½ cup of raw cacao powder
¼ teaspoon of Himalayan salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
¼ cup of almond milk (or your preferred dairy free milk)
1 cup raw almond butter (or another favorite nut butter)
2 teaspoons of vanilla
3 tablespoons of honey (add in some bee pollen, too!)
⅓ cup unsweetened shredded coconut or chopped nuts (optional)
Directions: Combine all ingredients (except the last one) in a food processor until smooth. Remove by spoonfuls and roll into balls on wax paper. Optional: Roll balls into a bowl of shredded coconut or chopped nuts to coat the outside. Store in the fridge for a few days.
How do you improve your mental clarity? What foods fuel your brain power?
By: Abby Stoecker, Licensed Esthetician (Graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition).
Iversen T, et al, Journal of ethnopharmacology, (1997) 56(2):109-16.
Wolfe, David. Superfoods: The Food and Medicine of the Future. North Atlantic Books; 1 edition (April 28, 2009).
Ley, Beth. Chlorella, The Ultimate Green Food: Nature's Richest Source of Chlorophyll, DNA and RNA. Bl Pubns (September 2003). http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/carbs.html