Best Foods for Brain Health and Focus During the Workday

Nutritious meals and snacks contribute to a productive workday, so learn which foods can be beneficial to brain health and function.

10 min read
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The afternoon workday slump is a predictable reality for many workers. Every day, a few hours after lunch, energy levels start to decrease, focus and productivity drop, and yawns are stifled. Several factors may contribute to making employees feel tired and lethargic as they struggle to concentrate on tasks or remain motivated. 

Lifestyle elements such as lack of sleep and movement can contribute to this daily slump, but a big factor in afternoon energy is what's for lunch, and how the body is fueled throughout the day. Meal choices can negatively impact key areas of brain health like memory, focus, sleep, mood, productivity, and creativity. Eating regularly and choosing nutritious meals can help avoid that afternoon crash and improve overall performance

Why is it important to pay attention to brain health?

The brain is the body's hard drive. Coordinating thoughts, emotions, and movements, the brain stores information as it interprets sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. A healthy brain contributes to well-being and quality of life, including physical and mental health — which enables us to stay focused, make decisions, and adapt to new challenges. Brain health is essential for maintaining productivity and achieving success both at work and at home. 

How can foods contribute to better brain function?

Brains function best when bodies are fed regularly and with a variety of foods. Eating high-quality foods that contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants protects the brain from oxidative stress. Staying hydrated by drinking water regularly is another factor in brain power, memory, and performance.

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What ways of eating boost brain health?

Some well-researched dietary options for healthy brain and lifestyle include: 

  1. Mediterranean diet: The Mediterranean diet emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fatty fish, with moderate consumption of poultry, eggs, and dairy products, and limited intake of red meat and sweets. This diet is rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins, which are linked to improved cognitive function and reduced risk of dementia.

  2. DASH diet: The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products while limiting sodium, saturated fats, and sugars. Studies suggest that the DASH diet may help lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease by promoting heart health and reducing inflammation, especially for women. 

  3. MIND diet: The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay diet is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets, with a specific emphasis on foods that promote brain health. It encourages the consumption of green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine (in moderation), while limiting red meats, butter and margarine, cheese, pastries, and fried foods. The MIND diet is associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease and cognitive decline with age.

  4. Anti-inflammatory diet: Chronic inflammation is linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases. An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on foods that help reduce inflammation, such as fruits, vegetables, fatty fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and spices like turmeric and ginger, while limiting processed foods, sugary snacks, refined carbohydrates, and trans fats.

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What are the best foods for brain health?

Including a variety of brain-healthy foods can support peak brain function, memory, and cognitive performance — to avoid the afternoon slump, choose snacks and meal options that will provide sustained energy rather than a sugar spike. Hydrating with water throughout the day is another way to optimize your focus and concentration. Here are some optimal foods for brain health: 

  • Protect against inflammation: Sipping green tea, enjoying dark chocolate, and cooking up vegetables like spinach and kale are antioxidant-rich options. These foods help protect the brain from imbalance and inflammation, which can lead to cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases. 

  • Delay cognitive decline: Berries contain antioxidants, particularly flavonoids, which improve brain function and delay age-related cognitive decline. Regular consumption of berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, may help enhance memory, learning, and decision-making. They're also an anti-inflammatory snack. 

  • Support brain cell structure: Omega-3 fatty acids, found in salmon, trout, and sardines, as well as in walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds, are linked to brain health. These foods act like brain health supplements that support the structure of brain cells and may help improve brain function and reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline like learning new things, remembering, paying attention, and reasoning.

  • Boost neuroprotection: Certain herbs and spices have neuroprotective properties and may help improve brain health. Turmeric contains curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that may benefit cognitive function. Rosemary, sage, cinnamon, and ginger also have brain-boosting properties.

  • Increase cognitive function: Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and broccoli contain vitamins and minerals for brain health including folate, vitamin K, and antioxidants. These nutrients are associated with improved cognitive function.

  • Improve memory: Nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds are excellent sources of healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that support brain health. They may help improve memory, focus, and mood. Sunflower seeds, almonds and hazelnuts are also high in vitamin E, which supports good vision.

  • Promote alertness: Incorporating lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, tofu, and other proteins into your diet can support brain function and alertness. Protein is vital for communication between brain cells and promotes concentration.

  • Aid concentration: Whole grains like oats, quinoa and brown rice provide a steady supply of energy to the brain. They contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals that support overall brain function and help improve memory and concentration.

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Order healthy meals on DoorDash

Finding time to prepare or pick up a wholesome lunch for work is not always possible, but there are many options for takeout and delivery meals on DoorDash. Employees can search meals using ‘Healthy' as the category.

DoorDash for Business offers convenience and flexibility in the workplace. Whether with meal credits or picking their own food items in a shared group order, team members are able to choose meals that work for their health, dietary and brain power needs. 

In addition, with DashMart, local and fresh snacks and groceries can be delivered to your home office or workplace to have nuts, berries, and whole grain snacks on hand when energy levels dip. 

Prioritize nutritious lunches at work

Give your team the opportunity to make the right food choices to prioritize concentration, productivity, and memory. Lunchtime is a chance to take a break from desks and connect with colleagues, and your team will be happier as well as healthier. 

Check out the Ultimate Employee Wellness Checklist for ideas on how to invest in your employees' health, as well as your company's. Promoting healthy eating and work-life balance will strengthen company culture and optimal brain power.


Jenn Riek

Jenn Riek

Content Marketing, DoorDash