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Does Coffee Boost Productivity? Plus 5 Other Brain-Boosting Foods

A woman drinks coffee on the couch

We all know that coffee is a great way to start the day. It’s energizing and helps us focus on the tasks at hand. But why exactly does that seem to happen? Here’s what you need to know about coffee and productivity, plus other foods that can boost your brain power.

Does Coffee Boost Productivity?

Someone pours coffee into a mug

If you start your morning with a cup of coffee, you’re not alone. Many people rely on this beverage to give them a boost of energy in the morning thanks to its caffeine content. But did you know that coffee can also help improve your productivity?

According to the Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychobiology, caffeinated beverages like coffee can help improve task performance and memory when combined with a source of glucose. Caffeine can also help improve focus and concentration, making it easier to get work done. If you’re feeling tired or fatigued, it can give you a boost of energy that will wake you up and get you more motivated to work.

While low to moderated doses of caffeine (80 milligrams to 300 milligrams, or one to three cups of coffee) per day can boost productivity, any more than that can actually offset any benefits by negatively affecting sleep and concentration.

It’s also important to keep in mind that coffee affects everyone differently. If drinking coffee upsets your stomach or makes you feel jittery, it probably isn’t going to boost your productivity.

Starbucks Ground Coffee

A popular medium-roast coffee that most people will enjoy.

What Are Some Other Brain-Boosting Foods?

There are quite a few foods out there that can benefit your brain. Here are some to add to your next grocery shopping trip.

Dark Chocolate

A dark chocolate bar next to a cup of coffee
Green & Black

You probably reach for a chocolate bar when you need a pick-me-up, but dark chocolate can actually help improve your productivity too. A study by the University of Nottingham found that people who ate dark chocolate had increased blood flow to the brain for two to three hours after consumption. This improved blood flow is associated with better cognitive function and can help improve task performance.

Dark chocolate is also packed with antioxidants and important minerals. Just be sure to choose high-quality chocolate that contains at least 70% cacao for the most benefits.

Green & Black's Organic Dark Chocolate Bar

High-quality, USDA organic, Fair Trade chocolate.

Fatty Fish

Two filets of raw salmon next to slices of lemon
Sea Wave/Shutterstock.com

Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. There are three main types of omega-3s: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found in nuts and some vegetable oils, while EPA and DHA are found in fatty fish and other types of seafood.

EPA and DHA are important components of cell membranes and play vital roles in many areas of the body, including the brain. Getting enough of these healthy fats can help with brain function and development throughout your entire life. If you don’t eat fish very often, you can take a fish oil supplement to ensure you’re getting enough omega-3s in your diet.

Sports Research Triple Strength Omega 3 Fish Oil

A top-quality supplement containing EPA and DHA fatty acids.


A bowl of powdered turmeric
Nature’s Nutrition

Turmeric is a yellow spice that’s commonly used in Indian cuisine. It’s also been used for centuries in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

Curcumin can help improve memory and cognitive function while also protecting the brain from age-related damage. One study showed that curcumin could actually improve memory and mood in people with Alzheimer’s disease or other age-related brain diseases.

Turmeric is easy to add to meals and works as a wonderful seasoning for chicken, fish, and other types of meat. It can also be added to tea or smoothies, or taken as a supplement.

Turmeric Curcumin Ginger Supplement

This supplement combines turmeric and ginger for maximum absorption.

Nuts and Seeds

Trail mix full of various nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are an excellent source of healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. They’re also packed with antioxidants that can help protect your brain from damage. A 2014 study found a higher overall nut intake was associated with better brain function in older age.

Almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are all great choices, as well as flaxseeds, chia seeds, and hemp hearts. A variety of nuts and seeds in your diet will offer the most benefits. You can add them to smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, salads, or just eat them on their own as a snack. If you’re looking for something to snack on, try a trail mix that contains a combination of various nuts and seeds.

Sunkist Omega 3+6 Trail Mix

This trail mix contains almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds.

Leafy Greens

A bowl of baby kale
Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock.com

Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are loaded with nutrients that can benefit your brain. They’re an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as folate. Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin that’s important for cell growth and development.

Because of the various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in leafy greens, these foods have been shown to boost your brain health and even slow down age-related cognitive decline. Add leafy greens to smoothies or juices, toss them into salads or omelets, or use them as a healthy side dish.

While nothing can replace whole vegetables, you can also take a greens supplement to get some of the vitamins and minerals if you have a hard time eating enough veggies every day.

Orgain Organic Green Superfoods Powder

Use this to supplement a healthy diet.

As if you needed another reason to drink more coffee, research shows that it can actually make you more productive. Here’s why that happens and other brain-boosting foods you should be snacking on during the day.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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