When the clock strikes 2 p.m., and you still have a few hours left until it’s time to hitch a ride home, do you struggle to muster up the energy to push through the afternoon? Perhaps you try going for a walk around the block or blow off some steam on Instagram. Maybe you do a mini-stretch at your desk or even make a visit to the nearby coffee shop. While all of these tactics technically could jolt some energy, the best way to strategize your focus and productivity is via your tummy.
After all, proper nutrition doesn’t just do wonders for your overall health, but it’s a huge contributor to your brain function. During the hottest season of the years, certain wonders from Mother Nature offer the right nutrients to spark creativity and supercharge your attention span. By implementing these superfoods in your breakfasts, lunches or snacks, you’ll set yourself up for a full working day of success.
Rachel Daniels, MS, RD, the senior director of nutrition for Virtual Health Partners say these blue powerhouses are low in calories, but high in benefits. Featuring vitamin C and K, fiber, and antioxidants, you can recover faster from any inflammation you experience. (Like after a summer rooftop rager, maybe?). “There are some studies that have shown that blueberries can help promote lasting brain health, memory and focus. Have a cup of blueberries on their own, mix some with a small plain yogurt, or freeze your berries before you bring them to the beach for a cool-down snack,” Daniels suggests.
Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, a nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition says these tiny nibbles can do wonders for your tummy woes in the summer. Since many people are guilty of overindulging in not-so-great-foods when the sun hangs out longer, incorporates some of these plant-based, omega 3 fatty acids into your diet is smart. They contain tons of iron, and they help alleviate constipation when it strikes. You can sprinkle them into your oatmeal, smoothie or yogurt for easy snacking.
Head to the produce section of your local grocery store and you’ll find a plethora of tomatoes in the summer, available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. During the sticky, warm days of summer, Daniels says these fruits are at their peak ripeness, making them a superfood of the season. What’s most notable about these beauties is their high lycopene content. This antioxidant has been associated with a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and improved skin health.
Daniels also notes they are low in calories and carbs, but drenched with water, so they offer that much-needed quench when it’s #hot outside. “Keep your hydration, energy, and overall health in check this summer by snacking on some tomatoes,” she continues. “Smaller varieties, like cherry tomatoes, make a great snack. Mix a bunch of varieties into a salad or Caprese platter, chop them up for some bruschetta, or dry them in the oven to make tomato chips with herbs and spices.”
Considering there’s nothing quite like a freshly-caught filet on a hot summer day, it’s probably not difficult to convince you to eat more fish. However, if you need some extra fodder to justify the often high-price tag of this protein choice, consider the major benefits of the sea. As Dr. Robert Graham, MD, MPH, the founder of FRESH Med NYC and a Functional Medicine Specialist for Physio Logic Integrative explains, the omega-3 fatty acid component of fish makes them a key for brain health.
This is especially true for specific types, like salmon, mackerel and sardines. “A diet with higher levels of these fats have been linked to slower mental decline and may play a vital role in enhancing memory, especially as we age. For brain and heart health, eat two servings of fish weekly,” he recommends.
Surprisingly, Moreno says most people don’t eat beans daily, even though it’s recommended. How come? She explains this plant-based form of protein contains vitamin B and prebiotic fiber, which nourish probiotic organisms within our guts. “They’re quite filling and are a perfect starch component of a meal, as opposed to, say, rice, which one can easily eat several cups of. Instead, try eating several cups of beans and you’ll notice a change!” she adds.
Packed with the right kind of fats and tons of nutrients that improve brain health, concentration and memory, Dr. Graham says Instagram’s favorite veggie meme is actually a superfood. “Avocados are 75 percent monounsaturated fats, which is the healthy fat found in olive oil. Monounsaturated fats aid in the production of acetylcholine which is the chemical in the brain responsible for memory and learning,” he notes. So when in doubt? Some smash avo isn’t so bad after all!
In general, Daniels think bell peppers are an often-underrated food — not only in health benefits but in taste. During the summer, they’re at their prime, offering a high vitamin C content and other perks, like assisting with iron absorption and preventing anemia. If you are worried about your eye health, you might want to double-up on this veggie since it contains carotenoids that contribute to eye health, Daniels adds.
“Slice up bell peppers or purchase mini peppers for a good crunchy snack. You can dip them in your favorite dip, like hummus or tzatziki, grill them, or use them as a pepper boat for a bread- or cracker-like effect with tuna or chicken salad,” she suggests.