New year, new you. These words mark January with their definite call to take action in our lives. Achieving our goals, whether they be related to fitness, our career, or simply doing more of what makes us happy, puts demands on our time and focus. Since there’s only so many hours in a day, we all strive to make the most of it. However, being as productive as we wish to be can, more often than not, be a challenge. Apart from setting realistic expectations for ourselves and taking charge of our priorities and schedule, being well-rested and keeping our mind sharp goes a long way when it comes to reaching our goals.
Part of the things that can help us achieve an ideal state of productivity is — not that surprisingly — our food choices. Eating a varied diet rich in whole grains, plant-based protein, healthy fats, and fruits and vegetables is the key to good health and also the secret to be able to tap into a neverending source of energy. Aside from fueling our bodies with macronutrients, plant-based foods also provide vitamins and minerals essential to keeping our cognitive functions and metabolism revved up.
Curious about which micronutrients can help you think faster, focus more, and overall keep you jostling with energy to be your most efficient productive self? Here are 7 of the main ones along with delicious vitamin-rich recipes from the Food Monster App!
Spiced Black Bean and Roasted Jalapeño Guac Tostadas/One Green Planet
As the fourth most abundant mineral found in our body, magnesium is essential to our overall health. It plays a role in over 300 enzymatic reactions including adenosine triphosphate (ATP) metabolism which is key for energy production. Magnesium is also required for protein synthesis, nerve transmission, neuromuscular conduction, and regulation of muscular contraction.
Including sources of magnesium into our diet such as beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, dark leafy grains, and banana, is a good way to prevent headaches and fatigue which can halt our productivity. Magnesium’s role in the production of neurotransmitters in our brain also means that it’s essential to our cognitive functions and can help us achieve a better focus throughout the day.
Not sure what to make to get your fill of magnesium daily? We suggest adding this Brown Rice Casserole, this Toasted Coconut Kale Salad With Tofu and Brown Rice, and this Hearty High-Protein Lentil, Kidney Bean, and Chickpea Chili to your repertoire of dinner and lunch recipes.
Gingerbread Oatmeal With Warm Cranberry Orange Sauce/One Green Planet
Part of the B-complex, vitamin B6 plays a role in the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates which is evidently paramount to keeping ourselves fueled up. Vitamin B6 is also directly involved in brain processes with its deficiency linked with seizures, migraines, depression, and cognitive impairment.
Making sure you get your fill of this B-complex vitamin every day will help your thinking stay sharp as it’s important to brain glucose regulation and is key to the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and GABA which are neurochemicals related to attention, alertness, and mood regulation.
Want to make sure you stay on top of your goals? Good sources of vitamin B6 include whole grains, fortified cereals, beans, lentils, soy products, and nuts and seeds. We suggest trying out this Tofu and Chickpea Polpette With Marinara Sauce, this Crispy Coconut Tofu With Bok Choy, and this Red Lentil Curry With Black Tahini and Roasted Cashews for dinner to get all the B6 you need.
Kale and Pumpkin Salad/One Green Planet
Calcium may be good for our bones but it turns out that it’s also essential for our brains and productivity. The mineral plays an important role in synaptic plasticity, the cellular process by which we learn and memorize. Its involvement in neuronal activity means that not getting enough calcium can potentially slow down our thinking and impact our attention.
If you aren’t sure how much calcium you need or how to get it on a plant-based diet, we suggest checking out The Importance of Calcium and How to Get Enough Without Dairy. In short, including dark leafy greens, fortified plant milk, soy productions, and nuts and seeds into your daily meals will cover your needs.
Searching for delicious recipe ideas featuring calcium-rich foods? Try out this Sweet Potato Soup With Kale and Crunchy Pine Nuts, this Tuscan Kale and Mushroom Stuffed Spaghetti Squash Bake, and this Sunrise Nourish Bowl.
Tempeh Goreng: Indonesian Spicy-Sweet Tempeh/One Green Planet
Found in foods like beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds, zinc is a mineral that plays an essential role in our central nervous system across our lifespan. It supports our brain functions through its modulating effect on neuronal metabolism, synaptic activity, and neuronal plasticity. In other words, zinc is a key mineral to add to our diet if we want our brain to stay sharp. In fact, a deficiency in zinc has been linked with decreased cognitive performance and is also thought to impact the development of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Some of our favorite zinc-rich recipes include these White Bean and Pumpkin Veggie Burgers, these Veggie Protein Burritos, these Charred Corn and Black Bean Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, and this Quinoa and Beet Salad With Hazelnuts.
Spinach Salad With Barley Bacon/One Green Planet
Folate or folic acid is part of the B-complex vitamins and as such is an integral nutrient for our brain functions. Eating enough of dark leafy greens, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, which are all high in folate can help us focus on our daily tasks as the vitamin is involved in neurochemical synthesis and increases blood flow to our brain.
One-Pot Coconut Dal With Spiced Cauliflower/One Green Planet
Apart from its important role in supporting our immune system, vitamin C is also key in keeping our energy levels up. It is involved in the modulation of glutamate, dopamine, GABA, and cholinergic neurotransmitters which are all part of cognitive functions related to arousal, attention, and learning.
Thus, eating foods high in vitamin C such as dark leafy greens, bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli and citrus fruits can help us maintain our focus and increase our productivity.
We suggest making this Miso Cauliflower Cashew Alfredo With Kale and Peas, this Kale Pesto Pizza With ‘Goat’ Cheese, this Fried ‘Riced’ Broccoli Bowl, and this Eggplant and Bell Pepper Caponata to get all your vitamin C needs covered. Your taste buds will thank you too!
Along with vitamin B6 and folate, vitamin B12 is perhaps the most commonly known B-complex vitamin. Its essential nature for our brain functions makes it an unavoidable vitamin. As such, you have likely heard about the severe symptoms such as nerve problems, vision loss, and heart palpitations that can ensue from a vitamin B12 deficiency. However, not getting enough B12 can also manifest in more subtle ways. From weakness, lethargy, and inability to focus, deficiency in this vitamin can severely impact our productivity.
In fact, vitamin B12 is at the very basis of our ability to think, reason, and do anything at all with our brains since it is involved with myelin formation, the fatty insulated substance that surrounds our neurons and permits effective communication between our brain cells. What’s more? Vitamin B12 also impacts the production of neurotransmitters that give rise to our ability to pay attention and focus on tasks.
Although the best and safest way to ensure that you get plenty of vitamin B12 is through adequate supplementation, including foods enriched with the vitamin in your diet is also a good avenue. Some plant-foods containing B12 include enriched plant-based milk, vegan cheeses, nutritional yeast, and algae.
If you want to get some B12 through your meals, we recommend trying out this Lemon ‘Parmesan’ Pasta (pictured above), this Smoky Chipotle Mac and Cheese, and these Sunflower Seed ‘Rice’ Nori Wraps for dinner tonight.
Endive Salad With Crispy Chickpeas/One Green Planet
Want more tips and tricks to stay productive as well as amazing recipes to fuel your active lifestyle? Here are a few articles that might interest you:
- 10 Foods That Can Help You Boost Your Productivity
- The One Food You Need to Fuel Your Workout
- Detoxifying and Nutrient-Rich Recipes to Kick off Your Health Goals!
- Improve Your Health in 2018 With These 5 Beverages
- How to Stay Motivated on a Plant-Based Diet for a Lifetime
- Nourish Your Body and Satisfy Your Munchies With These 15 Raw Vegan Snacks
- The 15 Best Veggie Bowls to Keep You Nourished
If you’re looking for more delicious recipes featuring vitamins and minerals that will help you lead a healthy and productive lifestyle, then we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
Lead image source: Shutterstock
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