7 Brain-Boosting Beverages to Sip on Foggy Mornings (Besides Coffee)
The best way to make your brain into a powerhouse is to get a solid 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep, but sometimes that is just not in the cards. Here are seven beverages that will help energize you in the morning.
Studying, working long hours, or staying mentally engaged with your kids at home requires a steady flow of brainpower. The best way to make your brain into a powerhouse is to get a solid seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep, but sometimes that is just not in the cards. There are also marathon (video) meeting days or back-to-back chores that simply require a little extra support to manage. The good news is that there are a bevy of bevvies to enhance your energy—and help clear your brain fog—during those long hours.
You might have heard of drinking lemon water in the morning for better digestion and skin health (although this is debatable). But you might not know that lemons contain high levels of potassium, which allows more oxygen to reach the brain and improve functioning. Water—with lemon or not—has the additional benefit of being extremely hydrating, which keeps your brain and entire body running optimally.
"Mild dehydration produces alterations in a number of important aspects of cognitive function, such as concentration, alertness, and short-term memory," explains Rebecca Ditkoff, MPH, RD, CDN, and founder of Nutrition by RD. "I find that if I’m feeling sluggish or foggy-headed in the afternoon, a big glass of lemon water reenergizes my mind and helps me power through the rest of the day."
“Beets are rich in nitrates, which help with the dilation of blood vessels and subsequently increase blood flow to the brain, which may improve mental and cognitive function,” explains Ditkoff. "This means increased cognitive function in the present, and potentially reduced risk of dementia in the future." This effect may be multiplied when beet juice is combined with exercise, so consider drinking up 30 minutes before a workout.
Green tea is another popular beverage that has been used for centuries as a cognitive enhancer. "Green tea has the same benefits from caffeine as coffee does, with the added bonus of the amino acid L-Theanine," explains Ditkoff. On its own, L-Theanine can decrease anxiety and increase dopamine production. Combined with caffeine, it’s a powerful way to improve brain function and also mitigate some of the jitters you might get from other caffeinated beverages.
In addition to being delicious, berries, like strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and acaí berries, can help with long-term brain health and age-related memory loss. "Berries are rich in antioxidants, which protect cells from damage, and can even change the way neurons in the brain communicate," explains Ditkoff. An easy and healthy way to get your daily dose of berries is to blend up your favorites into a smoothie for breakfast or a snack, and sip your way to a better memory.
Mushrooms are a serious nutritional powerhouses, containing antioxidants, fiber, and B vitamins. But did you know that certain mushrooms can benefit your brain, as well? Studies have shown an improvement in cognitive abilities in people who consume medicinal (not psychedelic!) mushrooms regularly. Lion’s mane mushrooms, named for their shaggy appearance as they grow, are especially potent in this regard. Lion’s mane mushrooms contain two compounds that stimulate the growth of brain cells: hericenones and erinacines. “A study from 2011 demonstrates Lion’s Mane may be helpful in prevention in decline of cognitive dysfunction”, says Ditkoff. “However, something to keep in mind is that we still need more research as there are few research studies focused on humans as most valuable studies have been conducted on mice.” It can be hard to find Lion’s Mane mushrooms in culinary form, so many people choose to buy the powdered version and mix into hot water, coffee, or a smoothie.
One of my coworkers credits his insane productivity to the fact that he drinks or eats super dark chocolate after lunch every day. I used to think this was just an excuse to eat dessert on the regular, but it turns out his chocoholic argument actually holds some weight. "Cacao is rich in flavanols, which can help preserve and improve cognitive functions from memory to attention to learning," Ditkoff says. Just make sure your hot chocolate uses dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa to reap the benefits.