If you want to get the most our of your day writing, then you've come to the right place.
Is there a best breakfast for creativity?
This question has been plaguing us for a little while now.
Often, we wake up, and no matter how much coffee was slug, we still can’t get those gears turning. I mean, it’s likely because we don’t eat at all in the morning, being so caught up with all our writing and furiously YouTubing “can you put coffee on an IV drip?”
And you thought we were just a writing competitions website.
Food for thought
But that got us thinking. Maybe it’s not the caffeine levels in our blood that are affecting our creativity. We couldn’t recall having been less, or more productive after eating, but maybe it did have some sort of effect. It certainly helps clear up the migraines, but could it boost creativity too?
With that, I closed down the seven YouTube tabs I had open, pulled up a fresh Google search, and got to work.
What is creativity?
Creativity, in essence, is the result of a chemical reaction in the brain. Sorry to burst your magical-channeling-of-cosmic-energy bubble. It’s actually not very simple, either (unless you’re a neuroscientist). Three distinct networks in the brain have been linked to creative thinking, as proved by a study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences called the ‘Robust Prediction of Individual Creative Ability from Brain Functional Connectivity’, or the RPICABFC if that makes it easier to remember - which of course it doesn’t.
Three is the magic number
Anyway, the three networks are the default network, which does most of your on-the-fly thinking and daydreaming, the executive control network, which is what comes online when we’re super focused, and the salience network, which helps detect us process environmental stimuli, as well switch between the default and executive control networks.
If that doesn’t make sense, don’t worry. Basically, what it means is that together, they create that illusion we’ve come to know as ‘inspiration’. The results of the study weren’t so much that they figured out how to boost creativity, but that based on the activity shown between these networks in the brain under fMRI scan, they could work out how creative a person’s ideas were. Which, if you think about it could be pretty useful… especially if you were trying to tell whether or not specific foods affect creativity.
We’ve got chemistry, right?
Further to the networks, we know that creativity is also controlled by neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that transmit electrical signals from one neuron to another. The two that affect our creativity principally are serotonin and dopamine. While they don’t directly cause creativity, they do have a big impact on it. Serotonin controls sleep, learning capability, and mood, and most people are more creative when they’re in a good mood, ipso facto more serotonin equals more creativity. A lot of people think serotonin makes you sleepy, but it doesn’t really - it just brings on an air of calmness. When paired with dopamine, it actually makes the perfect mood that’s conducive for creative work.
As for dopamine itself, which controls motivation, emotional response and pleasure, well - creatives, you know, the people who make stuff for a living (like us writers), have been proven to have higher dopamine levels than those who aren’t so creative.
In summary, higher dopamine and serotonin levels will result in elevated creativity, which we can now measure with an fMRI. Result.
And the point is?
Er… Breakfast. Yes. That’s right. We were talking about breakfast.
The question becomes, quite simply, what foods elevate the serotonin and dopamine levels in your brain then? Because those are the foods that will be helping with your creativity. They do say that a good night’s sleep will also help with the levels of both chemicals, but hell, we haven’t slept since 2013, and we feel… reasonably functional.
“Maybe some brain food will help,” he whispered longingly to himself, knowing deep down that he was already too helpless a case to be reanimated by dietary improvement alone.
I’ve got a little fishy…
We’ve all heard that fish is ‘brain food’, or at least that was the rumour flying around my house growing up.
But, there does seem to be some truth in this. That fix-all Omega 3 (despite being a fatty acid, which you know, sounds like two things that we’ve been told were bad our entire lives) is apparently a big help when it comes to brain power. Mackerel and Salmon are supposed to be the two best sources of this fatty acid, which aid brain function. And they also boost dopamine levels too.
Don’t worry, we’ll be going over some of the best recipes to incorporate these creative writing friendly foods into your diet, because despite being tortured writers, we’re also pretty good with a knife… Kitchen knife…
The cow says MOOOO
You’ll be glad to know that a major contributor to our dopamine levels is dairy. Milk, cheese, butter. The three staple foods of any insomniac. But no, seriously. Butter on toast, milk with cereal, and cream-cheese on bagels? That’s a dopamine rich, and therefore justifiable breakfast.
You must be nuts!
Nuts and seeds are also being hailed as creatively charged brain food that will boost your serotonin levels. A good source of Vitamin E, too, these little blighters help to keep cognitive decline at bay. They reckon just an ounce a day is enough. Walnuts are the best, if you were wondering, as they’re also packed full of Omega 3. Some even call them the salmon of the trees... Ok, no one calls them that, but if they start to, well, you heard it here first.
Steve Jobs claimed that his creative genius stemmed from his high fruit diet (or so says a blog I read). Tests actually show that fruit is high in tyrosine and amino acids, which help synthesise proteins and keep the brain in tip top shape. Blueberries are supposedly the best of all, packed full of antioxidants, which keep our cells in tip-top shape. They’re also high in dopamine, so it’s points all across the board.
Turkey is often hailed as a sleep-inducing meat due to the post-Christmas-Dinner snooze that seems to seize everyone just around the time that Love Actually comes on BBC One. But, it’s been proven that it’s simply overeating that brings on the tiredness, and that in normal, human sized doses, turkey does the opposite. It’s packed full of dopamine, which brings our mood up, and helps get the creative juices flowing. Eggs are also a great dopamine rich food. Does anyone smell sandwiches?
Now, like everything else, it seems (I’m looking at you, butter), carbs are suddenly good for us, but only if they’re complex. They help to release energy throughout the day, so now, potatoes (read: hashbrowns) for breakfast is seemingly a good way to go. Or, you know, oats…
It’s all Greek to me.
A main contributor to serotonin levels is gut-bacteria. Eating probiotic yogurt and high fibre foods can help boost the number of gut bacteria, bolstering your serotonin levels. Sunshine does too, but that would involve going outside, which isn’t exactly realistic now, is it.
Fat is back
Avocados are basically filled with fat, but good fats, like monosaturates and polysaturates. They also allow our bodies to absorb nutrients better because of their carotenoids, as well as reducing inflammation. On top of that, Coconut Oil is packed full of MCFAs (Medium Chain Fatty Acids), which are easy for the body to breakdown without releasing insulin. Supposedly, it combats sluggishness, and provides a mental boost because it can be used as fuel for brain cells. A 2004 study published in the Journal of Neurobiology of Ageing showed that coconut oil improved memory and recall abilities. You can eat a spoonful a day, but honestly, it's best just to cook with the stuff.
Breakfast for one
Sadly, real bacon didn’t make the list, but hell this is a blog post, so don’t stop eating back bacon on my account. We just wanted to let you know the best ways to set yourself up for a day filled with creativity and focused writing. And if you need some ideas, maybe some of these might be a good way to start the writing day right:
Salmon, Cream Cheese, and Avocado Oat flour Bagel/Muffin
Porridge with Blueberries and Walnuts
Fruit Salad with Nuts and Yoghurt
Turkey Bacon and Eggs, either as a Oat bread Sandwich, or with...
Grated Potato fried in Coconut Oil
Fibrous Cereal with Milk
While these don’t encompass the entire list we went over, or showcase much in the way of staggering creativity, they might just inspire you for a beneficial bite if you’re suring yourself up for a day of creative writing.
Let us know if you have any recipes you think others would benefit from, and we’ll be sure to post them. We’ll be doing the same, and publishing our results along with the meals we’ve eaten - which should be fun. We’ll keep you posted!
PS. I checked, and coffee is fine. Thank god.
Until next time,