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Creativity has been described as “a phenomenon whereby something new and valuable is created.” A story, a joke, an idea, a concept, a masterpiece – they all stem from creativity. Even something as simple as experimenting with a new recipe or building a fort with the kids requires bursts of creativity. But sometimes it can feel that our creativity is decidedly lacking. Our brains may even feel somewhat…sluggish.
It may be that your diet is affecting your creative talents. Excessive salt, sugar or trans-fat intake or a diet high in processed foods can leave our brains as lethargic as our bodies. Fortunately, there are measures we can take to boost our brain power. The following list of foods is not only delicious, but has been proven to increase brain function and ultimately, creativity.
Carbohydrates are essential to keep your brain running at optimal levels. Nutritionists recommend eating a variety of whole grain foods, because they provide a steady supply of fuel over a longer period of time. This, in turn, ensures sustained creativity (no afternoon slumps):
- Whole Grain Bread – unlike processed white bread, whole grain bread still contains key nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, protein, and fibre.
- Oats – oats are rich in complex carbs which are broken down into glucose, which in turn powers your entire body, including the brain.
- Quinoa – high in iron, which is vital for optimum brain function, as the brain takes in about 20% of our blood oxygen.
- Brown Rice – Unlike white rice, brown rice is a good source of B-vitamins like riboflavin, which helps to produce energy for brain cells.
- Amaranth – Amaranth is loaded with calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and B vitamins. It is also high in protein and abundant in lysine, an essential amino acid missing from most grains.
Essential fatty acids play a vital role in productive brain function, helping your brain to build new (creative!) pathways:
- Seeds – Seeds contain an abundance of things that will help to boost your brain functionality, such as thiamine, zinc, Vitamins A and E, and Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
- Nuts – High in protein and vitamin E, eating nuts helps prevent poor memory and improves concentration levels.
- Oily Fish – The ultimate brain food, oily fish (such as sardines, salmon, trout, etc.) has the essential Omega 3 fatty acids crucial for the health of our nervous system.
- Avocados – rich in oleic acid, which helps to build up the coating of insulation found in white matter of the brain. This coating helps information travel at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour.
- Olive Oil – full of “good fats”, olive oil has been shown to improve visual memory and verbal fluency in adults.
As well as feeding your brain, you need to protect it. These antioxidant-rich foods keep our brain cells healthy by shielding them from free radical damage.
- Berries – Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries…any sort will do! They all have creative boosting properties as well as helping to improve memory function.
- Kale – This ‘super food’ is known for many health benefits, including its ability to help the body with hydration and the transport of oxygen – vital for optimal brain function.
- Broccoli – Rich in vitamin K, broccoli helps to improve cognitive abilities. The potassium in broccoli also assists the brain in healing and improving itself.
- Spinach – Packed with iron, this green leafy vegetable helps to improve memory, concentration and mental functioning.
- Green Tea – A fantastic alternative to coffee, green tea is rich in antioxidants and studies have found that it helps improve memory, especially as we get older.
As well as stocking up on complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids and antioxidants, the following foods have been found to boost brain creativity.
- Dark Chocolate – Studies have found that eating dark chocolate (70% cocoa) helps boost blood circulation to the brain for up to three hours, as well as fighting fatigue.
- Chicken – Chicken meat is high in protein and tyrosine, which is necessary for the production of the chemicals dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine which all assist in mental alertness.
- Water – Composed of approximately 80% water; our brains need to be kept well hydrated to continue functioning at optimal creative levels.
- Eggs – Compact parcels of protein, eggs also contain choline, an important nutrient for the brain.
- Ginseng – Used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine, ginseng has proved to be an effective tonic to stimulate the mind and boost blood flow to the brain.
A balanced diet, rich in ‘brain food’ is one of the best ways to improve our creativity. Remember, our body is fuelled by the food we eat, and that includes our brain. A good source of complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids and protective antioxidants (not to mention some rich, dark chocolate!) will all contribute to boosting our creative ability and overall cognitive function.