Food has an amazing ability to regulate energy levels and mood. There are certain foods that will interfere with your mental clarity, memory, and focus and others that will improve productivity and brain health. If you are looking for an extra boost of energy and focus for the day, try incorporating more of the following foods into your daily eating pattern.
Food and Drink to Help You Focus
- Chamomile tea and Green tea
- With the decrease in daily natural life that comes with the colder months, comes a disruption of your circadian rhythm. This makes it more difficult to get a restful night of sleep and therefore, will affect your focus and energy levels throughout the day. Sipping on chamomile tea will not only bring better sleep, it will also improve mental clarity during waking hours.
- It has been shown that those who drank green tea had increased cognitive functioning when compared with those who do not. This correlation may be due to the caffeine levels found in green tea as caffeine can help improve focus and alertness.
- Whole eggs
- Research shows that elderly individuals who suffer from vitamin D deficiency present with faster rates of cognitive decline than those with adequate intakes of vitamin D. Eggs are a great source of vitamin D. One serving of eggs (equal to three whole eggs) provides 1/3 of your daily vitamin D intake. Be sure to eat the whole egg as the yolk is the part that contains most of the nutrients important to brain health.
- Leafy green veggies
- Leafy green vegetables are high in antioxidants and vitamin K, a nutrient that is vital for brain health. Eating just one serving of vitamin K-rich foods per day is shown to slow memory and cognitive decline in adults. A general tip is: the greener the leaf, the better the nutrients. For example, spinach will provide more health benefits than iceberg lettuce. Leafy greens are also full of B vitamins and folic acid, known to improve overall memory, focus and mental clarity.
- Fatty fish
- Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna contain DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid than can improve mental performance and recall. People deficient in omega-3 fatty acids may be more likely to have poor memory and experience fatigue. Adding in just one 3-ounce serving of fatty fish per week will make a marked difference. Other great sources of fatty fish include trout, mackerel, and sardines.
- Nuts, especially walnuts, are great for brain health due to the large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E they contain. It has been found that individuals who regularly consume walnuts perform better on cognitive tests and show an increase in brain function than those who do not. Vitamin E, which is associated with improved cognitive function, is found in abundance in most nuts. The best part is that only one ounce per day is needed to achieve this benefit. That is equivalent to about 24 almonds, 14 walnut halves, 18 cashews, or 15 pecan halves.
- As confusing as it may seem, the best way to fight fat is with fat, healthy fat that is. Avocados are packed with healthy fats, fiber, and nutrients that help fill you up and keep you fuller, longer. When the arteries to your heart and brain are clogged, it can be a contributing factor to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Avocados actually help enhance blood flow to the heart and brain, so add this healthy fat to your diet to experience the healthy benefits. Be careful of portion size, though as avocados are calorie-dense. The proper portion size of an avocado is 1/8.
- Blueberries are full of flavonoids, phytonutrient antioxidants that help lessen inflammation. Long-term systemic inflammation can cause problems with brain function and memory. The antioxidants found in blueberries help stimulate the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain. This boost in concentration and memory lasts for up to five hours after consumption.
- Dark chocolate
- Dark chocolate contains small amounts of caffeine, which is shown to improve mental alertness. It also contains magnesium, a mineral that decreases stress through the stimulation and release and endorphins and serotonin. These particular hormones help to heighten feel-good mood.
- Cherry tomatoes
- Cherry tomatoes contain large sources of a nutrient called carotenoids. Carotenoids, found in bright red and orange vegetables, help improve cognition and memory over time. The skin of tomatoes also contains lycopene, a powerful nutrient that protects against inflammation.
- Turmeric, a spice often added to Indian dishes, adds a hearty dose of flavor and brain-boosting power. Research has shown that turmeric may help prevent and alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Broccoli is a great source of vitamin K. This particular vitamin is known to improve a type of short-term memory called verbal episodic memory, or rather your ability to absorb and remember verbal instructions.
- Dehydration can lead to symptoms of fatigue so if you’re looking for a quick way to improve focus, clarity, creativity and overall mental function, increase your water intake. A general hydration guideline is to consume half of your body weight in ounces per day. For example, a 150-pound woman should drink 75 ounces (a little over 9 cups) of water per day.
Written by Sarah Brunner, RDN, CD; Elite Sports Clubs Registered Dietitian
Sarah is certified in food allergies/intolerances and nutritional counseling, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; has a certificate in Dietetics from Mount Mary University; and a BA in Education and Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.