by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
Did you know that certain foods will help you to focus? You’ve probably heard about the foods that are bad for you — like chocolate or greasy potato chips. Obviously, these types of snacks will hamper productivity. But did you know certain foods actually boost your brain power? If you spend time at a desk, chances are you’ll get hungry at some point during the workday. Here’s a list of 10 brain foods that just might help to improve your focus.
Blueberries are rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. They contain a powerful antioxidant called anthocyanin, which helps improve memory and learning skills. Blueberries are also known to boost concentration and brain function. Research shows that blueberries could help improve memory and certain cognitive processes in children and older adults, which is why you should include them as one of your brain foods.
2. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These are essential fatty acids that the body cannot produce itself and must obtain from food sources. They help to reduce inflammation, improve brain function, and support mood. Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, and herring are excellent sources of omega-3s, making them perfect brain foods. These essential fats help to reduce the risk of brain disorders such as depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
According to some research, people who eat fish regularly tend to have more gray matter in their brains than those who don’t. And the gray matter is associated with cognitive function — so it makes sense that eating fish could help improve your concentration and attention span.
Avocados, one of the most popular fruits, are also one of the best sources of healthy fats and brain foods. In addition to the beneficial fats, avocados contain a variety of nutrients that support brain health, including vitamins C and E, folate, magnesium, and potassium.
In addition to being a good source of essential nutrients for cognitive function, avocados also contain monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which can help protect against cognitive decline as we age. A study published in Nutrients found that increasing MUFA intake is associated with better performance on memory tests in older adults.
Coffee has been the go-to drink for many due to its ability to help improve stimulation, energy, and focus. It contains caffeine, a stimulant that helps to increase your energy levels and attention span, which lands it on our list of brain foods you should consider consuming (even though it’s technically a beverage but is made from coffee beans).
Coffee is also high in antioxidants called chlorogenic acids (CGAs), which are believed to have health benefits such as protecting against cancer and diabetes. The best way to take advantage of the benefits of coffee is by drinking it in moderation (2-3 cups per day) and choosing organic coffee whenever possible.
Turmeric is a spice that has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda medicine. It’s known as a powerful anti-inflammatory, and it can help reduce pain and swelling. It also contains curcuminoids, which are antioxidants that may protect your brain from age-related damage.
6. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and flavonoids that help boost brain function. It can improve blood circulation, increasing oxygen and nutrient supply to the brain. Dark chocolate also contains magnesium, which is a mineral that helps regulate blood pressure and promotes relaxation.
Dark chocolate also contains caffeine, stimulating the central nervous system and increasing alertness. Caffeine also helps you stay focused by increasing concentration and attention span, which many will thank us for having this on the list of brain foods.
7. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds contain healthy fats that provide energy for your brain cells. They also contain key nutrients such as vitamin E, which protects your brain from oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Free radicals are molecules produced by normal cellular processes that cause damage to cells if not controlled properly by antioxidants like vitamins C and E.
8. Leafy Green Veggies
While many people are not a fan of eating their greens, consuming leafy green vegetables contains a variety of B vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium and iron, that promote brain health. Magnesium helps regulate neurotransmitters, which carry chemical messages between neurons (nerve cells). Iron is an important part of hemoglobin, which helps deliver oxygen to all parts of the body, including the brain.
9. Green Tea
Brewing your own cup of green tea is a great way to get a boost of caffeine without the added sugar. A cup of green tea has around half the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, but it contains more antioxidants than any other hot beverage (yes, this is a beverage and not exact brain foods, but the benefits are vast when consuming this delicious beverage). Antioxidants can help reduce stress levels and improve focus.
Cinnamon contains compounds called polyphenols that have been shown to enhance blood flow throughout the body. The circulatory benefits of cinnamon can help increase brain function, which may lead to better focus and lands it on our list of brain foods. Try adding a dash of cinnamon to your green tea, coffee, or oatmeal for an added boost.