You are what you eat, so when it comes time for your interview, what can you eat that will make you alert, calm, focused, and quick-thinking? We’ve spoken to experts and done our share of research to compile a list of foods that are essential to interview success.
Remember—be sure to eat your meal at least an hour or an hour and a half before the actual interview to ensure that it’s at least partially digested so that its effects on your brain are en route. The perfect meal might look like a wild salmon–and–spinach egg-white omelet, a side of yogurt and nuts, and a cup of coffee. How do these foods help your brain? Find out!
Though a bagel or blueberry muffin might be the easiest snacks to grab before your interview, avoid carbohydrates if you possibly can. In an MIT study with two groups who ate either a high-protein or a high-carbohydrate breakfast, researchers found that two hours after consumption, the carb group had tryptophan levels that were four times higher than the protein group’s.
So unless you want to doze off during your interview, stick to lean proteins, like fish, white meat, or eggs. Consuming protein helps your body manufacture two chemicals made from tyrosine—norepinephrine and dopamine. These two chemicals enable the synthesis of neurotransmitters and ramp up your mental alertness.
Your brain needs a healthy supply of essential fatty acids, or omega-3 fatty acids, to function optimally. These fats are the primary building block for brain tissue and help you stay focused, supply oxygen to the brain, protect brain cell membranes, and decrease your chances of dementia, Alzheimer’s, stroke, and other brain illnesses later in your life.
You can only get these fatty acids from food because your body doesn’t produce them naturally. So stock up on fish (especially wild salmon), nuts (especially walnuts), olive oil, avocados, and seeds (especially flax seed). Flax is also the best source of alpha-linoleic acid, a healthy fat that enhances the performance of the cerebral cortex—where your brain processes sensory information.
Whole Grains and Leafy Green Vegetables
Though recent research has found that ginkgo biloba does not improve memory,  don’t worry—B vitamins, like vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid, are still proven to help your memory, focus, and overall brain health and power. Folic acid, in particular, helps produce red blood cells and improve your sense of well-being and mental clarity.
Whole grains, like brown rice, are a great source of B vitamins, as is broccoli, parsley, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, and Swiss chard pack in high amounts of folic acid and vitamin K, which also help your brain focus and fight off memory disorders like dementia.
We all know it—coffee is the one thing that can get you up and alert first thing in the morning. So unless you’re terribly sensitive to coffee, you should without a doubt have a cup before your interview. Researchers have found that coffee enhances short-term memory performance and helps improve attention capacity and problem-solving skills.
But don’t overdo it! Too much coffee will not only make you a jittery, nervous wreck, but you’ll have to use the bathroom more than a few times, since caffeine is a diuretic. This will only make the interviewer think you’re unprofessional, unprepared, and certainly not the right candidate for the job.
Low-Fat Yogurt and Mixed Nuts
There’s a fine line between being super pumped for your interview and being a twitchy, anxious mess. Coffee may be your liquid energy, but yogurt can be your goopy courage. How so?
In a Slovakian study, scientists gave subjects either a placebo or three grams each of two amino acids—lysine and arginine. The researchers then asked them to deliver a speech; they found that according to blood measurements of stress hormones, the subjects who ingested amino acids were half as anxious during and after the speech than those who had taken the placebo.
Yogurt is considered the best food source of lysine, and nuts are packed with arginine, so stock up! A great combination would be putting nuts in your yogurt—consider almonds or walnuts mixed into vanilla or plain yogurt. Fruity yogurts work too!
Originally published on Excelle