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Nathan Figg
  January 1, 1970

15 Fantastic Brain Food Snacks to Boost Productivity at Work

By now we have a pretty good idea of what constitutes a healthy diet: eat lots of fruits and vegetables, avoid added sugars, avoid low-quality carbohydrates, keep your protein lean, and try to stay away from processed food. And yet, when it comes to snacking at work, we seem to conveniently forget that tried-and-true advice. Potato chips, Cheetos, soft drinks, cookies—the latest data show that the empty calories from snack foods account for more than 30 percent of our daily calories. 

Of course, ditching the Doritos isn’t so easy. Snack foods are loaded with salt, sugar, and fat, a savory yet dangerous cocktail that keeps us reaching for more, especially when we are stressed out. In a fast-paced work environment, you often don’t have time to sit down for a full meal and must rely on snacking. How do you stay healthy while keeping up with your workload?

The good news is that snacks don’t have to be unhealthy—and they can even improve your productivity. 

15 Good Brain Food Snacks to Boost Productivity While at Work


Almonds are the second most popular nut in the world, after peanuts, and for good reason: they’re delicious. Eating these scrumptious morsels might feel like a guilty pleasure, but they’re actually extremely good for you. Loaded with vitamin E, B vitamins, potassium, calcium, and healthy monounsaturated fats, almonds have long been shown to promote a healthy cardiovascular system. But wait, there’s more: Almonds are also packed with antioxidants, which reduce oxidative stress—a disturbance in the balance between the production of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) and antioxidant defenses—while improving cognitive function. For best results, stash a tub of them in your desk, or slice them up over your salad.


Blueberries are constantly ranked among the healthiest foods on the planet, mainly because they are chock full of the antioxidants, which reduce oxidative stress on the heart and brain. In addition to lowering your “bad” LDL cholesterol and lowering the risk of diabetes, numerous studies have shown that people who regularly eat blueberries have slower rates of cognitive decline, meaning their brain stays healthy and nimble as they age. Keep a tub in the fridge at all times!


Walnuts are known as the “king of all nuts” for a good reason: They are one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Up close walnuts even look a little like a human brain, which makes sense considering how well they soothe the mind. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been proven to prevent cognitive decline while improving memory among other functions. Just don’t be that coworker who uses a nutcracker at the office or on Zoom meetings, so consider buying them pre-shelled!


Yes, the humble apple. They are so ubiquitous that it’s hard to believe they are one of the healthiest brain snacks out there. Apples contain quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that can block damage from free radicals, especially in brain cells. Quercetin can even help keep your cholesterol levels under control.

Tuna Fish

Looking for a protein-packed, low-calorie brain snack? Tuna fish is rich in nutrients, especially those coveted omega-3 fatty acids, which are proven to be nourishing for the brain. Be careful what brand of tuna you buy, however. While canned tuna is inexpensive and super convenient, the product is often low-quality and stored in unhealthy vegetable oils. Water-packed tuna may be a bit less tasty, but it’s much healthier. When shopping, opt for BPA-free cans and, if possible, brands that pledge to follow responsible fishing practices.

Sunflower Seeds

Often overlooked beyond the Little League crowd, sunflower seeds are regarded as one of the best brain food snacks you can eat. Loaded with brain-healthy vitamin E, sunflower seeds also contain thiamin, selenium, and choline, which are critical nutrients for memory function. Just try not to spit shells at your coworkers as they walk by.

Dark Chocolate

Chocolate?! you may be thinking. How can that be healthy?

Well, not all chocolate is healthy. As much as we love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, they are neither healthy nor brain-boosting. The same goes for most milk chocolate products you’ll see in line at the grocery store. However, high-quality chocolate with a cacao percentage over 70 can be quite healthy in moderation. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, and chocolate with the highest cacao content may even help boost cognition, memory, and mood. Dark chocolate also contains zinc, an essential mineral linked with brain health. Try to avoid chocolate that contains milk and added sugars, as these will easily negate any health benefits.

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Broccoli as a snack… seriously?

Yes, seriously. Broccoli is one of the healthiest greens on the planet, rich in fiber, protein, and essential vitamins and minerals. It also has vitamin K, which is associated with improved memory function. If munching on broccoli doesn’t meet your definition of a snack, why not use some hummus dip? Just be sure to use a decent-quality hummus that isn’t high in calories.


Mmmm, avocados. Rich in vitamin E, vitamin K, and potassium, not to mention healthy monounsaturated fats, avocados are perhaps the tastiest snacks for brain power. They also contain omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, which are critical for stabilizing blood pressure by stabilizing blood flow to the brain. These wonder foods can even lower your cholesterol. Toss them into your salad, slice them on a sandwich, or simply peel off the skin and enjoy them raw. Just remember that avocados are not a low-calorie food, so enjoy in moderation.


These breakfast staples also help turbocharge the brain thanks to their yolk, which contains the compound choline, which is associated with a lower risk of dementia later in life. Numerous studies have also shown that high-choline diets help people perform better on visual and verbal memory tests, likely due to its role in helping to produce the memory neurotransmitter acetylcholine.


This power green isn’t just for Brooklyn hipsters. A Harvard University study comprising more than 13,000 women found that eating lots of this delicious green leafy vegetable leads to a lower risk of cognitive decline. Toss it into your salads, soups, stir fries, or even munch on it raw. For an extra-delicious snack, stick them in the oven and turn them into kale chips—just remember to go easy on the oil and salt.


They aren’t much to look at, but these superfoods punch far above their weight. Beets are a natural source of nitrates, which is converted by the body into nitric oxide—a critical vasodilator that increases blood flow throughout the body. This makes beets great for people with high blood pressure, endurance athletes trying to harness every last molecule of oxygen in their lungs, but also office workers. Studies show that the improved blood flow to the brain improves focus and concentration.


Need a quick concentration pick-me-up? Look no further than the herb rosemary. One of the main chemicals in rosemary oil, eucalyptol, has been linked to increased brain performance. There are countless rosemary snack options, from rosemary-flavored sea salts to rosemary popcorn. Studies have even shown that simply smelling rosemary can temporarily increase your memory and focus.


Looking for a healthy brain food snack that you can eat unlimited amounts of without worrying about weight gain? Look no further than the produce aisle. Tomatoes are 95 percent water, so they first and foremost keep you hydrated. But studies show that the antioxidant lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, helps protect the brain from free radical damage, promoting healthy brain function while reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. You can also opt for a handful of delicious sun-dried tomatoes, just make sure you opt for products without added sugars and salts.


Ok, this last one isn’t technically a snack, but we saved this critical brain-booster for last because it’s so important. That’s because the odds are, as you read this, you are dehydrated. Three-quarters of adults are chronically dehydrated, resulting in everything from headaches to fatigue to difficulty concentrating.

Most people don’t drink until they’re thirsty, but the problem is that we begin to experience the effects of dehydration long before that point. One of the first symptoms is decreased productivity. For example, one study found that being just 3 to 4 percent dehydrated can lower your work performance by as much as 50 percent.

According to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the typical adult male needs to drink about a gallon of water per day, which comes out to a little over 15 cups. Women need about 11.5 cups per day. To make your water a bit more “snacky,” you can add some lemon or lime juice for a little zest.

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