Brain Food: Eating to Feed Creativity and ClarityThe mental image of a hard-at-work author sitting at a desk with computer, or pen and paper, or typewriter, often seems to include a half-full bottle of whiskey...or a steaming cup of coffee...soda cans...even a smoking cigarette. And, in my world, there's always chocolate too.
But in reality, those items (except for the chocolate! Really! Read on...) serve only to give one an artificial high or boost, and in the end cause more problems than they're worth--even if they help you get through that project.
Ask Stephen King. (Or read his book On Writing.) He talks about using artificial substances to promote his writing. Anyway, I digress....
I know there are times when I have to finish a project (or a word count or page count) and I need to push myself. I used to turn to Diet Coke and chocolate, or anything I could grab from the kitchen. Comfort (ie, junk) food. Anything quick and easy to keep me going. I'd worry about health and losing weight later.
But in the last year I've realized that eating healthier actually keeps my brain fresher, it also provides more clarity and inspiration. It makes writing easier!
I've given up my Diet Coke (cold turkey), and not only has my skin never looked better, but I sleep better at night...and I feel better.
Here are some examples of what I call "brain food" that can help you keep your mind sharp and clear, and give you a natural boost when you're working those long hours to get a project done. (Although...a good night's sleep of 7-8 hours is of paramount importance too.)
1. Get rid of the caffeine and artificial sweetners. (I know. I can hear your groans from here. But it helps...trust me.) If you get off that artificial high, you'll feel better and sleep better in the long run.
If you need caffeine, drink green or white tea. Sweeten it with a bit of honey or natural sugar, or even agave nectar. Green and white teas are loaded with anti-oxidants...and they seem to help people lose weight. A win-win situation, don't you think?
Stash brand tea is some of my favorite.
2. Eat whole foods. That is, eat foods that are still in their original form. Berries--especially blueberries (they're truly a wonder food!) are a great brain food, but they're no good if they're smashed up in granola bars or dried with a lot of sugar, or canned in syrup.
3. Ginseng, peppermint, and ginger are great options for clearing the mind. You can add them to tea (by ginger I mean the fresh root you find in the produce section, not the powder you add when you bake) or buy supplements. I love a peppermint tea in the morning: it clears my sinuses too, and it smells so good.
4. Omega 3 Fatty acids. You're hearing a lot about them, and there's a reason for it. They're healthy and they keep your brain clean. You can either eat a lot of fish and/or sunflower seeds, and some nuts, or you can take supplements to help you get enough of the Omega 3 fatty acids.
5. Whole grains. (This goes back to the "whole foods" concept.) Not that spongy white bread you get in the store...look for breads or flatbreads that list "whole grain" or "whole wheat" first on the list of ingredients.
6. And, yes, chocolate. (Yay!) But make it dark chocolate, and don't overdo it. By dark chocolate I mean chocolate with at least 60% cacao in it. (It'll say on the package if it is.)
Here's a great slideshow at WebMD.com that shows you how beautiful Brain Foods are--see the variety of color and texture? If you're eating a rainbow of foods, you're doing well.
Here's one of my favorite quick recipes for a breakfast smoothy:
+ 1 cup skim milk
+ 1/2 banana
+ handful of frozen (without added sugar) blueberries or strawberries (fresh is fine, too, of course)
+ a teaspoon (or the insides of a capsule) of ginger or ginseng
+ Toss it in the blender, and you have a fabulous smoothy that includes healthy dairy and brain food.
(You can substitute unsweetened soy or unsweetened almond milk too.)
Green Smoothie Energy Drink
+ 1 cup water
+ half an avocado
+ an apple
+ fresh sprouts (broccoli)
+ generous handful of spinach
+optional: a bit of spirulina (a seaweed supplement that comes in a powder; don't add too much if you don't like the taste of seaweed--no more than a half teaspoon)
+ Toss all in a blender and have a very green smoothy.
I also like to make this for lunch:
+ couscous (1 cup of instant cooks in five minutes)
+ black beans, drained
+ cut up avocado
+ pine nuts
+ cut up veggies--spinach, red or yellow peppers, broccoli, tomatoes--whatever you want, and the more the merrier!
+ fat-free feta cheese
+ Mix it all up and add a sprinkling of balsamic or tarragon vinegar. Yummy and smart!
What are some of your favorite brain foods? Share! I'm always looking for great recipes.
Colleen Gleason. Visit my personal blog for more fun and frolic!