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20 Foods That Make You Motivated

By Cassandra Talmadge

J.G Holland once said, "The mind grows by what it feeds on," which is why getting motivated—and staying motivated—is all about the brain food.

Slaying your goals has never been more straightforward, and the science backs it up: If you consume garbage, you'll project garbage. (There is no polite way of putting this.) The truth is that getting motivated is easy. But staying motivated, even under the best possible circumstances, can be crazy difficult. For this reason, we've compiled 20 foods that increase focus, memory, and reaction time, as well as control stress and fight depression and anxiety. The healthy mind can commit, prioritize, eliminate distractions, and conquer—and it all starts with your diet. So load up on these foods during your next grocery run, and when cravings for junk food kick in, take a strategy out of this playbook on 25 Ways to Stop Thinking About Food.

1
Tuna

Tuna—and we don't mean "Chicken of the Sea"—contains 69% of your daily dose of vitamin B6, which is backed by endless research linking it to motivation. In fact, according to Japanese researchers, low dietary levels of vitamin B6 translate to a depressed mood. When we're depressed, we don't accomplish much. And that's not all; the University of Maryland Medical Center has use vitamin B6 as a way to both prevent and treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The developmental disorder is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity—all things that make accomplishing tasks and staying focused extremely difficult.

2
Spinach

Research from Harvard Medical School found that consuming green leafy vegetables (like spinach) slows the rate of cognitive decline. Bonus: Popeye's favorite food improves learning capacity and motor skills, as well as protects the brain from oxidative stress (which can cause Alzheimer's Disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Dementia).

3
Whole Grains

Aside from being an energy-boosting complex carb, whole grains are packed with folate. The B vitamin boosts blood flow to the brain and is sometimes used to treat bipolar depression. Not sure how to insert more whole grains in your diet? Check out these 50 Best Overnight Oats Recipes!

4
Blueberries

Whether you're trying to gain weight loss motivation or improve your focus and engagement, blueberries are one of the most lethal weapons. In fact, a recent study found that subjects who ate one cup of blueberries a day for two weeks scored significantly higher in classroom tests than those subjects who did not, likely due to increased brain cells in the region of the brain (the hippocampus) that's responsible for memory.

5
Pecans

When it comes to memory, brain development, depression, and post-workout fatigue, pecans pack a mighty punch because of their choline levels. In fact, according to research, athletes who took 2.8 grams of choline one hour before running ran faster times than when they ran without it (2:33 versus 2:38). If you're an endurance athlete, get munching, and don't forget to check out these 25 Best Foods for a Toned Body!

6
Sunflower Seeds

Depression and insomnia are two of the biggest roadblocks when it comes it getting and staying motivated. Luckily, you can naturally fight them both with a handful of sunflower seeds. Why? The magic tiny bullets contain tryptophan, an amino acid that's converted to serotonin in the brain.

7
Greek Yogurt

Yogurt contains tyrosine, an amino acid that produces both dopamine and noradrenaline, a neurotransmitter that mobilizes the noggin and body for action. We chose the Greek's version because it's brimming with muscle-building protein and calcium, which improves nerve function. In short: Get lean, alert, and happy with some greek yogurt!

8
Flaxseed

Whether you choose to sprinkle flaxseed into your smoothie or pancake batter, you'll be doing your goals a huge favor. The superseed boasts alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)—a healthy fat that improves function in the cerebral cortex or the area of the brain that processes sensory information.

9
Green Tea

Part of attacking your goals is knowing when to it's time to hustle and when it's time to regroup. A cup of green tea can do just that, thanks to catechins, which help you mentally chill out. The potent tea also helps you maintain a positive outlook, enhances memory, fights mental fatigue and boosts focus.

10
Grass-Fed Beef

Aside from being naturally lower in calories and void of sketchy hormones, grass-fed beef is packed with iron, a mineral that plays a vital role in being a go-getter. In fact, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women with healthy iron levels performed better on mental tasks and completed them faster than those with poor iron status.

11
Kale

Feeling kinda flighty lately? Whip up some kale chips. The manganese in the superfood increases concentration and brain function. It also contains amino acids that increase alertness and mood. What's more? One serving of the leafy veggie contains 1180% of the daily recommendation for vitamin K, which recent research suggests reduces the chance for mental decline.

12
Strawberries

There's no shortage of the ruby berries during June, and it's a good thing if you're feeling motivated. Studies show that consuming two or more servings of strawberry aid in memory function, thanks to fisetin, a flavonoid that promotes signaling pathways. Feeling a little overwhelmed lately? Try making a list while you nosh on your berries. Whether you want to remodel your home or run a marathon, you don't just wing it on game day. You're much less likely to forget what you write down!

13
Walnuts

Aside from amazing fuel for the brain (because of omega-3 fatty acids), walnuts help serotonin levels in the brain. Both our mood and our appetite are controlled by this chemical, making the nut a powerful weapon against binging, insomnia, depression, overeating and other compulsive behaviors. Guilty of overeating? Check out these 15 Easy Ways to Reset Your Diet.

14
Eggplant

Do you usually ditch the skin of eggplant? Don't. It contains a nutrient called nasunin, which enhances communication between brain cells, keeping you sharp and on point. To reap the veggie's motivating benefit, try slicing eggplant in half-inch pieces and roasting them with olive oil.

15
Pumpkin Seeds

Before you conquer your day, munch on a handful of pumpkin seeds. Available year round, just a few of these tiny guys deliver the full recommended daily amount of zinc. And guess what? Zinc gets your memory and thinking skills into top shape. The more alert you are, the better equipped you are to handle whatever is thrown at you. P.S. You don't have to wait till autumn to get your pumpkin fix; pick up a can of the pureed version and check out these 20 Healthy Pumpkin Recipes for Weight Loss!

16
Coffee

There's no reason to nix your cup of joe. In fact, coffee increases dopamine in the brain—the chemical that enables us to plan ahead and resist impulses so we can achieve our goals. Drink up!

17
Avocado

According to Kansas State University, avocados help keep brain cell membranes flexible and contribute to healthy blood flow, thanks to their unsaturated fat content. Moral of the story: Ask for extra guac.

18
Tomatoes

We've got a pretty good reason for you to throw fresh garden tomatoes into your salad, sauce, and onto your burger. Research suggests that lycopene, an antioxidant found in the fruit, protects the cells of your noodle from free radical damage, which causes inflammation. When brain swelling occurs, ADHD, anxiety, depression and brain fog are often the result. Speaking of inflammation, don't miss these 20 Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Weight Loss.

19
Dark Chocolate

By now you know that the right kinds of dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher) can protect you from cancer and even promote weight loss, but it gets better. Ever notice how much happier you are after a square of the divine cocoa? Dark chocolate increases the production of endorphins and serotonin in the brain, as well as triggers the release of dopamine. And aside from giving you bliss, flavanols boost blood supply to the brain, enhancing concentration and focus. A small amount goes a long way, so just have a little square and resist scarfing down the whole bar.

20
Water

The body is comprised of 73 percent water so it only makes sense that when our supply is low, we don't function properly. Even a mild case of dehydration impairs cognition. What happens to your body when you don't drink enough water? We become irritable, lethargic, and distracted. In order to slay your goals, you need to drink at least two liters of water each day. Bottoms up!


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By Jennifer Ashton, MD
ABC News Chief Women's Health Correspondent