“You are what you eat.”—Traditional English-language axiom.
You probably know by now that staying hydrated and eating well are excellent ways to ensure high levels of productivity, because the better you feel, the easier it is to be productive. But did you know that specific foods and beverages can actually make you more productive than normal when eaten regularly and in moderation? (<--Click to Tweet) Some of the items on the productivity list make intuitive sense, but you might be surprised by a few of them.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at seven of my favorites. Standard warning: I’m no doctor, so don’t take this as medical advice. However, none of these foods and drinks will hurt you, when consumed in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.
1. Salmon. You’ve probably heard “fish is brain food,” and that’s true. All fish contain omega-3 fatty acids crucial for brain and heart function, but salmon and cold water fish like deep-sea tuna are especially rich in these natural nutrients. The iron and B-complex vitamins in salmon don’t hurt, either, because they increase your blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity.
2. Berries contain natural, damage-fighting antioxidants called flavonoids. The rule of thumb is the darker the berry, the better it is for you: so think blueberries, blackberries, and black cherries. But a handful of any kind of berries is an excellent choice, since they’re lighter on fats than most foods and the natural sweetness is better for you than processed sugars. They can also improve memory and coordination and may fight both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
3. Eggs score high in choline, a B-complex vitamin that aids reaction time and memory. Is it any wonder they are a traditional breakfast food?
4. Caffeine acts as a stimulant, increases alertness, and helps you power through your work. I often joke that coffee is my Number One productivity tip, and there’s some truth there. Black tea can also help.
5. Green tea guards your nervous system through so-called neuroprotective effects. Maybe that’s why veteran green tea drinkers seem so serene.
6. Spinach and other dark green, leafy vegetables are chockful of calcium, vitamins, trace elements, and especially iron, an element integral to getting oxygen to the brain and increasing cognitive control. It’s also good for your memory. It won’t make you super-strong, though—Popeye’s creators based his powers on a misplaced decimal point in an outdated textbook.
7. Dark chocolate. We’ve left the best for last! Most of us have long since realized that chocolate has a soothing effect on the stressed-out nervous system, but as it happens, dark chocolate is especially good for you. It contains antioxidants and other active ingredients, including a relative of caffeine, theobromine, which enhances brain power by increasing focus and concentration. Milk chocolate may give you a sugar rush, but it can also increase your reaction time and some aspects of your memory.
Mighty, in Moderation
None of these foods will make you a superhero, but they can certainly help you get as close to that fantasy as humanly possible—and you might be surprised just how productive you’ll be once you find the right mix of “superfoods.” Just remember: all things in moderation. Too much Starbucks and chocolate will make you a jittery mess, and too much anything will slow you down. Limit yourself to the proper intake for each of these foods, and you’ll find yourself healthy and fruitful productivity-wise.
© 2016 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored seven books, including Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (January 18, 2016). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and in 2015 was inducted into its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401 or visit her website.