5 Foods to Make You Smarter and More Productive

Holistic Nutritionist and Entrepreneur in Residence Maria Marlowe gives her five must-eats for #WomenWhoWork, plus a special brain boosting smoothie recipe.

From Maria: A pill to make you smarter and more productive? That may only exist in the movies, but in real life, you can boost your brain, improve your memory and lift mental fog, with the right foods—and without the side effects. Here are 5 foods that studies show, may make you smarter and more productive:

5 Foods to Make You Smarter and More Productive

1. Walnuts

It’s apropos that these nuts are shaped like brains, since they contain ALA, an omega-3 fatty acid, and a variety of antioxidants that may boost brain function. Studies of animals suggest eating walnuts regularly may improve learning ability, memory, and motor development while reducing anxiety. They may also be beneficial in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s. They’re great on top of oatmeal or crushed onto salad, and alone, they make a satisfying snack. Aim for 1-1.5 ounces a day.
5 Foods to Make You Smarter and More Productive

2. Blueberries

Think of blueberries as brain-berries, as their unique antioxidant and phytonutrient profile is extremely supportive and protective of the brain. Studies have shown that blueberries have the ability to reduce inflammation in the central nervous system, which alleviates cognitive decline due to aging or disease. They are most well-known for their ability to enhance memory, and slow its impairment due to aging. In the summer, eat fresh blueberries as a snack, or use them to top breakfast bowls. Frozen blueberries in smoothies or healthy desserts the rest of the year are a great choice, and maintain similar amounts of key antioxidants as their fresh counterparts. Aim for about a cup a day.

 

5 Foods to Make You Smarter and More Productive

3. Dark leafy greens

Dark leafy greens, like spinach, kale, collard greens, arugula and chard, are all nutritional powerhouses, so it’s no surprise they support brain health. In a study involving 950 participants, researchers found that those who consumed 1-2 servings (1-2 cups) of dark leafy greens a day had the cognitive ability of someone 11 years younger than those who consumed none. Improved cognitive function means you’ll be able to solve problems faster and remember things more easily. Their brain boosting power is thanks to their potent and varied vitamin, mineral and antioxidant content, which may help reduce inflammation and improve your brain health. The easiest way to make greens, like kale, Swiss Chard, or spinach, taste good, is to sauté them with a little garlic and olive oil. Arugula and baby greens make great salad choices, or you can get more adventurous with this kale and chile salad or my favorite kale and avocado salad. Aim for 2 cups a day at minimum.
5 Foods to Make You Smarter and More Productive

4. Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are rich in minerals, including magnesium and zinc, which is used in the formation, growth and repair of brain cells. Insufficient levels of zinc have been associated with lowered learning ability, apathy and lethargy, while adequate zinc may reverse these issues. Aim for about an ounce a day, which you can add raw to salads, or for a snack, try this Roasted Pumpkin Seed recipe.

 

 

5 Foods to Make You Smarter and More Productive

5. Water

Water may not be a food, but it’s one of the most important things you should be putting into your body. It helps your body perform in tiptop shape, removes waste and aids circulation. Being dehydrated makes you feel tired and can negatively affect your performance—you’ll have a foggy brain and won’t be able to think as well. (In fact, that groggy hangover headache stems from dehydration.) Drink at least 8 glasses (about 1.5 L) a day. Try adding these five brain-boosters to your diet, and you may find yourself moving into the corner office in no time.
5 Foods to Make You Smarter and More Productive

Brain Booster Smoothie

Get all of the brain boosters in one shot with my Brain Booster Smoothie recipe:
1 cup water ¼ cup walnuts 1 banana 1 cup blueberries 1 cup baby spinach Blend on high for 30 seconds to 1 minute.


For more from Maria, read her recent columns on the site or get more recipes and nutrition tips at mariamarlowe.com.