5 brain boosting snacks to help you beat the afternoon slump!
You know that feeling around 3 pm when your brain is dying and stomach churning, and there's still so long to go until dinner. So you have a coffee and a chocolate bar, lollies or a bliss ball to pick yourself up physically and mentally and after being hyper for a little bit, your brain and willpower give up. You are even more sluggish, and the sugar cravings are so intense that you'd be willing to chew up a sugar cube. This is because you just set yourself on a blood glucose rollercoaster that is so hard to get off once you are on it. More sugar you eat, more sugar you crave because your blood glucose levels are too high triggering a huge insulin release causing your blood sugar to drop…. And besides experiencing all these energy highs and lows, this state is also the best for accumulating some unwanted fat.
Foods high in sugar don't just affect the release of insulin and your energy levels; they also affect your gut and the state of inflammation in your whole body, which has an immense impact on your brain function. This is because some key brain chemicals are produced in the gut such as serotonin (90% produced in the gut), dopamine and GABA. Serotonin is a natural antidepressant that also plays a key role in regulating your mood, appetite, sleep, memory and learning. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter of desire and motivation and GABA is your calming brain chemical that improves focus and reduces anxiety, stress and inflammation. So if your gut is out of whack, you will end up being anxious, moody, forgetful, unmotivated, unable to focus and just feeling generally blah.
Foods and habits that are bad for your gut health:
- eating processed foods
- eating too much sugar or artificial sweeteners
- accidental chemical consumption, such as lingering pesticides on unwashed fruit
- drinking two or more alcoholic beverages per day
- medication, such as antibiotics and pain killers
- poor dental hygiene, which allows bacteria to grow out of balance in your mouth
- high levels of stress or anxiety, which can weaken your immune system
The state of hydration is another key factor in your brain performance. Only a slight state of dehydration will lead to a decline in your visuomotor, psychomotor, and cognitive performance and memory and to increased tension/anxiety and fatigue.
If you want to be energized and alert both physically and mentally, there are few simple nutrition hacks you can implement in order to stay focused, cravings-fee and lean. Besides staying away from anything that could upset your gut, there are some natural brain-function-enhancing supplements you can add to your diet to get the extra kick without compromising your health and waistline.
We used all our brainpower knowledge and came up with the top five brain boosting afternoon foods that are easy to make.
1. Matcha muffin with a cup of green tea
2. Chia Parfait
3. Chief Collagen Bar & Chief Meat Bar
4. Egg 'muffin'
5. Brainpower smoothie – add mushroom powder, turmeric, berries and protein powder maybe
Matcha Blueberry Muffin
Blueberry muffin with your afternoon coffee… so tempting. A regular blueberry muffin has around 350 kcal, 55g of carbs and approximately 30g sugar!!! That's a hell lot of sugar! This kind of treat is not just going to hinder any fat loss efforts; it's also going to send you on a sugar hype followed by a considerable energy slump and cravings. But, as always, there's a way around it. Our matcha blueberry muffin contains only about 161 kcal and 7g carbs of which 4g is sugar. It also has the added brain-boosting benefit of green tea. It's a win-win situation.
Recipe (makes 4-6):
• 1 cup almond meal
• 2 eggs
• Stevia (again, sweeten to your liking)
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 2 tablespoons matcha powder
• ¼ teaspoon baking soda
• ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
• 1 cup berries (optional)
- Combine almond flour, baking soda, stevia, matcha and cinnamon in a bowl
- In a separate bowl, combine the eggs and vinegar
- Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients (time to add berries if you wish), mixing until combined
- Scoop into muffin cups and bake for 15min, or until slightly browned around the edges
- Let them cool and enjoy!
This ancient superfood is packed with essential brainpower nutrients such as omega-3 essential fatty acids, antioxidants, protein, calcium, iron, potassium, vitamins A, B, E, and D, as well as other minerals. Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain 10 grams of fibre, 6 grams of protein, more calcium than milk, more omega-3s than salmon, more iron than spinach, and more antioxidants than blueberries, which makes it one of the best brain-nourishing foods that will also keep you hydrated.
I like to use my parfait in an empty big glass candle jar (from a large Glasshouse candle) because it looks pretty but feel free to use any glass jar or container.
4-5 tbsp chia seeds
½ cup almond milk
½ cup fresh berries
½ sliced banana
50g sheeps milk yoghurt
1tsp honey (optional)
1tsp crushed nuts
Put chia seeds in the jar and top up with almond milk
Let soak in the fridge for few hours or over night
Place a layer of bananas on the top
Add a 1cm layer of yoghurt on the top and little bit of honey
Add a layer of berries
Add a layer of yoghurt and rest of the baby
Sprinkle with nuts
Chief Collagen Bar
If you are time poor and can't manage to make your treats this bar is another excellent pick-me-up option. It comes in two flavours, Cashew Shortbread, Peanut Butter, Lemon Tart and Hazelnut Brownie and despite testing precisely the way they sound, each bar has only 2g of sugar and absolutely no artificial ingredients! If that wasn't good enough, these bars contain collagen peptides that are beneficial to your gut health as well as joints and skin and all the other connective tissues.
An egg is another food beneficial to your brain function due to the high levels of vitamins B6 and B12, folate and choline. Choline is a critical nutrient in the synthesis of acetylcholine, one of the neurotransmitters regulating your mood and memory. Make sure you eat the yolks, as there's no choline in the white. The white is high in protein though….so eat the whole egg ;-) B-vitamins and folate are essential for optimal brain health including synthesizing brain chemicals, regulating sugar levels in the brain and preventing depression. One egg a day will keep a bad mood away!
Egg Muffins Recipe:
- Five eggs (to have one per day)
- Bacon or ham (can replace with salmon or zucchini slices)
- Salt, pepper
- Fresh herbs (basil or dill go well with this dish)
- Coconut oil spray
Cut bacon/ham in 5cm thick slices
Spray a muffin tin with a coconut oil
Lay the slices around each muffin cup
Fill each with one egg and top with salt, pepper and herbs
Bake for 20-25min on 170-200 Celsius (depending on your oven; keep checking)
You can also add chopped up veggies of choice. Bacon first around the cup, vegetables on the bottom, then top up with an egg. You can also make these without bacon or ham, just with veggies and eggs.
Use zucchini slices instead of turkey
Ditch the turkey and add some shredded grilled/steamed salmon with the veggies
Brain Power Smoothie
As mentioned earlier, some healthy natural supplements will give you the extra kick and make you more alert and focused. Lion's Mane mushroom powder or Cordyceps powder by Four Sigmatic are our two best picks. Lion's Main can improve your memory and may assist with higher and longer concentration levels. Cordyceps is not a stimulant as such, but it will help you to maintain constant energy levels as it activates the body's energy production in the cells.
Cinnamon is excellent in lowering your blood sugar levels, and it's also beneficial to the gut health. Berries are full of antioxidants preventing inflammation, and you already know why chia seeds are right for your brain.
If you can tolerate coffee well, you can also add it in to create this superpower smoothie.
- 1/2 small, frozen banana
- 1 cup of frozen berries of choice
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 cup almond milk
- 1 scoop Nuzest Clean Lean protein powder (or any low sugar protein powder free of artificial additives and fillers)
- Lion's Mane mushroom powder or Cordyceps powder by Four Sigmatic
For extra hit add:
• 1 shot espresso or matcha powder
Check out the sample packs here.