We all know certain foods contribute positively to your physical health, and some foods contribute positively (in inches) to your waistline. But did you know that some foods can support brain function—and maybe even make you a better writer?
Antioxidants, like those found in fruits and vegetables, offer disease- and age-fighting power to keep your creative impulses firing at top speed. Blueberries are said to be especially powerful.
Omega-3 fatty acids (from fish oil and flax) are said to boost your brain’s gray matter. That’s like building muscle in your mind. Prepare to do some heavy mental lifting…or just impress people with your mental calisthenics.
Choline is a nutrient found in egg yolk or milk that can help ward off senility. Choline also keeps your memory going strong, so you can actually remember whether your character was wearing a red shirt twenty pages ago or a blue one!
Folic acid: One study found that adults taking regular folic acid supplements demonstrated better cognitive function, especially in memory and critical thinking. So if you’re really having trouble getting past a problematic plot point, it may be time to supplement!
Chocolate lovers rejoice! According to WebMD: “A study by food scientists found that the antioxidant concentration in a cup of hot cocoa was higher than that found in either red wine or green tea.” Of course, getting your antioxidants from veggies (sans whipped cream, fat, and added sugar) may be a better bet. But next time your spouse gives you “that look” for drinking hot chocolate, you can say “I’m doing it for my brain!”
Green tea is good for your brain. People who drink green tea regularly fare better mentally when it comes to aging. This is happy news for writers—especially if you’re the type who stays up into the wee hours working on a manuscript; your green tea can multitask by keeping you both awake AND young! Plus, moderate amounts of caffeine are said to boost concentration as long as you don’t overdo it.
Sugar. No, we’re not talking about the powdery white dusting on donuts, or the stuff that your grandpa dumps in his coffee until it’s thick as sludge. Nor are we talking about fake sugar substitutes. Your brain may not love what we call “sugar,” but it does love glucose. Glucose is what your body makes out of sugar and carbs. And a little lift in glucose can boost your concentration and alertness. Just be sure that when you reach for sweet, you’re reaching for healthy sweet: blueberries, oranges, etc. Your brain will get its glucose fix and some antioxidants too!
Breakfast. We know you don’t want to admit it, but your mom was right. Breakfast counts. Eat a moderate breakfast with protein and whole grains, and you—like countless human guinea pigs—may find that your concentration gets a boost. Just don’t eat too much or you’ll get sluggish.
Supplements. There’s a lot of back and forth these days about supplements. But research suggests that vitamins B, C, E, magnesium, and beta-carotene may be helpful.
Do we even need to say this? We’re creative writers, not nutritionists. So you should hear yourself saying “What’s up, Doc?” before you alter your diet to power your brain.
Still, common sense doesn’t require a medical degree. So eat right, sleep deeply, and drink plenty of water.
And if you don’t know what it means to eat right, take your cues from Michael Pollan (author of In Defense of Food), who takes all the food advice out there and breaks it down into three simple rules:
1. Eat REAL food (as opposed to “food-like substances”).
2. Not too much.
3. Mostly plants.
A healthy body usually brings about a healthy brain. And that makes for powerful writing!
QUESTION: What is your favorite healthy brain food on this list (or on your table)?
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I like to start my day off with a berry smoothie in the morning. So I guess that works on 2 counts! Fruit and breakfast. I’ve also read that a cup of coffee in the morning is actually good for your mind as well. But keep out the sugar substitutes. A little real sugar in the morning never hurt anyone!
I try to have salad a few times a week…you know, the kind of food where you can recognize and pronounce what you’re eating.
I eat eggs for breakfast as often as possible, but that was always for the protein so I’d keep alert and awake and energetic,. But hey, now I can ward off senility too. Who knew! I hope that doesn’t make my writing LESS interesting, haha
I have a great book–called The Literary Gourmet–Menus from Masterpiece (A collection of Unforgettable meals from World Literature with Recipes and Little-Known Culinary Facts).
Some days I like hearty oatmeal with fruit in it and a some nuts, prepared by simply pouring very hottish water over it and waiting a few minutes. You can also prepare oatmeal by letting it soak overnight. I sometimes make muffins with good wholesome ingredients. A couple of days a week I have free range eggs with whole grain homemade toast, tea, and a piece of fruit. Quick, easy, and healthy.
I, too, do not like putting something unnatural in my body like fake sugar. Yes, it’s supposed to be calorie free, but somehow it just seems wrong. So I get my chicory coffee in the a.m., with breakfast. And I do love my milk—not the watery stuff. Which also somehow seems wrong that you pay just as much for diluted milk as you do for regular. Not that I’m complaining!
Green tea is nice, but there’s something about Earl Grey that just gets me going even more than other black teas.
I make myself a cup of hot chocolate every other day, so it feels like a treat I can look forward to as a mid-morning snack. The other days, I have a slice of meat wrapped around a piece of celery. I never get tired of that either. If I run out, I give myself an ounce of my favorite cheese…
Dear new writer, make a list of all the suggestions offered in this column, and try them each for a week. You’ll be surprised how inspired you’ll become!
Lunch meat wrapped around celery sounds pretty good.
Peanut butter around celery is good also.
I’m a firm believer in the power of nature – fantastic post, and I’ve heard the same things said about these foods quite a lot, so the info here looks accurate to me. Add a healthy dose of cardiovascular exercise to eating right, and you could even become smarter (proven by a medical doctor).
Cool article; I enjoy that you are branching out from writing-only topics while still keeping things related 🙂
My favourite food on this list is chocolate, of course! I eat pretty healthy food otherwise, and I think another thing that helps me concentrate is exercise! Getting out for something as simple as a walk can really stimulate my brain – it helps me to be more creative, and wears my body out properly so I don’t feel antsy when I sit down to write for long periods 🙂
Thanks for the comment, Madicienne! Exercise is very important for a writer (even more important than eating chocolate!). When a body isn’t receiving enough exercise, the mind is affected as well, not to mention, as you said, how uncomfortable you feel when sitting for long periods. Be active, be healthy, and get plenty of sleep. Your writing will thank you!