The Writer’s Diet

Woman eating

Athletes have healthy diets, and so should writers. Writing well gets easier when our belly is healthy and our brain and body are both well oiled. There’s a growing body of research that suggests we have a “second brain” in our gut, that the bacteria in there contributes a great deal to our physical and mental health, and that if it’s not taken care of, our whole body suffers. As writers, we should take that into account.

For several years, my diet revolved around pasta with processed sauce, processed meatballs, and cheese sandwiches. Eventually my body began to show warning signs, and I started to read more about food and its impact on our body, radically changing my diet in the process. Through this post I want to draw attention to certain foods which are widely regarded as highly beneficial, most of which I have embraced myself. I hope that you may try them if you haven’t already and experience their benefits firsthand. But first, let’s look at those foods which we should avoid.

Whether you write blog posts, articles, short stories, novels, copy, or journalism, there are certain foods which can slow down your brain, destroy your intestinal flora, deplete your body of energy, decrease your power of concentration, complicate your bowel movements, and increase your likelihood of suffering from mood disorders and depression (and probably writer’s block, too). These include sugar, white flour, sodas, processed meat, processed foods in general, and cheap vegetable oils which are used abundantly in ready-made foods.

A diet rich in these is bad for both your health and your writing career. They can raise blood sugar level, encourage the proliferation of bad intestinal bacteria, elevate the level of inflammation in the body, increase body weight, and sustain other negative processes within the body. It may not always be possible to avoid them completely, but it’s always possible to reduce them.

Now let’s consider foods that are great for writers.

  • Nuts of all varieties, including almonds, pistachios, and walnuts have good fats for the brain and are also very nourishing.
  • Flaxseed, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds help maintain a good balance between the different fatty acids in our body.
  • Pulse such as beans or lentils have plenty of proteins,
  • Sugar-free corn flakes are easier on the stomach than muesli, which can cause drowsiness.
  • Kefir has good bacteria for your intestinal flora.
  • Dark chocolate has good fats. The darker the better (>70%).
  • Fresh vegetables such as broccoli and carrots are well known to promote general health.
  • Garlic and onions boost our immune system and help the gut bacteria stay in good shape.
  • Olive oil, staple of the Mediterranean diet, is an excellent source of healthy fat.
  • Coffee – I’m allergic to coffee, but drinking it with moderation seems to be very beneficial.
  • Green tea is probably the healthiest drink in the world. Other types of tea will also do, unsweetened, and preferably loose.
  • Fresh fruits over any other sugary desserts.

These are only some of the foods which, added to your diet, will not only improve your overall health, but also help sustain you as a writer.

What other healthy would you add to this list?

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43 thoughts on “The Writer’s Diet

  1. On some level diet is underrated in writing. Its such a sedentary thing to do. Terrible for blood circulation, for metabolism, so eating healthy nutrient rich food can at least help alleviate some of the unhealthiness.

      1. Any desk workers are stiffed in that respect. Still amazes me how ergonomics hasnt caught on more in terms of desk height etc, especially at fixed positions.
        And the cynic in me thinks, death at 76 instead of 80, not so bad?!

  2. Avocados! When I have been working for hours and hours and my brain feels like it has been fried with vocabulary and sentence structure, I generally hanker for a delicious avocado salad with kidney beans and sweetcorn and anything else I can scavenge from my fridge (vegetables, of course!). You are correct, the food that most (myself included) would reach for are instantly gratifying foods filled with gut-rotting ingredients!

    1. I’ll note that. Around here avocados aren’t easy to procure, but one finds them in the larger supermarkets. They have good oils, don’t they? I remember buying one once and then not being quite sure how to eat it… 🙂

      1. Oh yes, they do. And very delicious to boot! Cutting them in half, removing the stone and slicing the soft green flesh inside is the easiest and least messy method! Squeezing some lemon juice and a sprinkle of pepper on top is a flavourful way to eat it 🙂 They contain 20 different kinds of nutrients!

  3. You can try black tea instead of coffee, you can even add milk to it. It raises and lowers the energy level slower than coffee, which is a little better…I love black tea. Oh, and avocados, I make a mean guacamole with garlic, lemon juice and maybe olive oil (salt & pepper)…on toast…YUM!

    1. Black tea is a bit too strong for my delicate heart, it seems, though I have drank once two cups of strong Russian black tea and felt fine after, though I didn’t catch a wink all night.

  4. loose leaf chai is my favourite drink with hot soy milk. i also use rice milk, made from brown rice. and i eat brown rice. and also rice crackers. salmon. lactose-free yoghurt. and a whey-protein shake for breakfast. a few thoughts to add to the list.

    1. Good suggestions – thanks! I forgot to add brown rice to my list – I eat it regularly. Have you ever tried black rice? Takes a long time to cook, but it’s quite a treat.

      1. i’ve seen black rice at some of the sushi takeaway places. haven’t cooked it myself. i’m a HUGE fan of sushi, by the way. and add ginger, cinnamon and tumeric to that list. i LOVE Indian food too. lots of tasty vegetable dishes if you’re a vego or a vegan.

  5. Good list! The one healthy thing I guess I would add isn’t a food, but it’s rest. I know at lot of writers have at least one other job to make ends meet and for myself sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes, I forget that it’s important to just chill out.

  6. A standing desk or a walking one is my only hope… i eat as well as you minus kefur and green tea *heave* but my waistline has emigrated some months ago and the derrier of a rhino moved in. 😢 sitting is bad , sugar and saturated fats are gone from my regular diet leaving the sitting as the culprit i fear.

  7. hello, I was wondering what people’s thoughts were on smoothies? My mom just came home and told me they were bad because they released too much sugar in the fruit through blending

  8. Great article. I’ve always believed that unhealthy foods make as not as smart as well as we don’t feel as good. Check out my new blog at conflictedhealth.com

  9. Great post! I think most people (myself included!) don’t realize how much inpact eating healthy means to our minds. Personally, I would include fish to your list.

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