We all know that what we put into our bodies affects all of our bodily functions, but when we start to feel blocked, jumbled, or sleepy we all too quickly turn to coffee and energy drinks. Coffee in moderation is fine, but too much caffeine can have the opposite effect from what we want. Energy drinks contain far too much refined sugar and artificial chemicals that, while they may taste great, tend to throw off the body’s homeostasis. But don’t let those winter blues, that writer’s block, or that post-work break slump get you down. Here’s a list of plant-based foods to clear your mind, give you energy, and improve your focus.
Blueberries– These precious tiny berries have the amazing ability to increase blood flow to the brain. According to studies, flavonoids in blueberries improve your reasoning, decision-making, numerical abilities, and verbal comprehension. (So basically, best things to eat before your SATs, young dumplings). Eat a handful of blueberries before work or an interview–and for best results, incorporate them into your diet to actually increase your learning capacities in the long term!
Some favorite blueberry recipes: Vegan Blueberry Sour Cream Pancakes
Oolong Tea– This delicious, earthy black tea has been a staple of Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda for centuries. Containing an important amino acid called L-Theanine, Oolong tea makes us feel more awake for longer than a cup of coffee does, while also increasing alertness in the frontal lobe of the brain. In fact, studies even show that oolong tea can delay brain degeneration due to aging, and reverse cognitive impairment.
Raw Cacao– Long overlooked, raw cacao is actually the most antioxidant rich food known to date on the planet! It also contains something called phenylethylamine chemicals which interacts with the adrenal glands leaving us feeling alert, focused, and more importantly, excited! (Wondering what’s the difference between raw cacao and cocoa? Quite a bit, actually).
Try these cacao recipes: Raw Vegan Sexy Chocolate Bark
Avocados– These omega-3 rich fruits can lower blood pressure which in turn help out our daily brain functions. Looking towards the long-term, avocados are also a fantastic source of Folate, the nutrient responsible for preventing the tangling of nerve cells associated with memory diseases such as Alzheimer’s. One avocado contains 30% of your daily recommended value of folate.
Vegan avocado recipes!: Best Guacamole Ever
Pumpkin Seeds– One handful of pumpkin seeds gives you your recommended daily intake of Zinc- which sharpens out cognitive processes and critical thinking skills. Zinc is one of the nutrients that are most commonly found in animal sources; vegans and vegetarians can also look to sesame seeds, cashews, lentils, quinoa, and chickpeas for zinc.
Pumpkin seed recipes to try: GF Vegan Gnocchi with Pumpkin Seed Pesto
Maca Root– Studies have shown that this South American root has the ability to give the body time-released energy by increasing oxygens levels in the blood and regulating the thyroid to expel the energy in consistent doses. While Maca is not native to the States, it can found in powdered form in most health food stores- it’s a great addition to a smoothie, a bowl of oatmeal or some home-baked granola bars!
Vegan maca recipes: Raw Cacao Maca Hot Cocoa
More healthy eating: 24 Best Foods to Boost Your Libido
Photo: Tracy Hersh; Mary Hood; Sorina Fant