You’ve worked hard all morning and through noon hour, but you’re starting to fade just after you finish eating lunch. Are there any healthy “brain” foods that can help you improve your alertness, memory and concentration? Yes, there are. You can keep your brain sharp all day long, minimizes those mental fogginess and boost productivity by eating brain-boosting foods.
Here are some of the foods and nutrients that science shows have an edge for keeping you sharp all day long.
- Foods high in natural omega-3 fatty acids. Fresh fish, flax seeds, walnuts or avocado are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which helps to improve concentration your brain’s ability to think and process information more efficiently. Omega-3 fatty acids are also anti-inflammatory and reduce tissue swelling and are currently being tested as a treatment for depression and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Instead of eating a bag of salty potato chips, you can snack on a handful of walnuts, add a tablespoon of whole flaxseed to your morning cereal or enrich your salad with fresh slices of avocado.
- Foods naturally high in B vitamins. Folic Acid, Vitamins B6, and B12 have been shown to improve memory and prevent or at the very least, delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and age related dementia. B vitamins are most often found in lean meats, dairy products, and eggs. For vegetarian sources, try wheat germ and whole grain cereals, sunflower seeds, pistachios, green leafy vegetables, and oranges.
- Bananas. Ripe bananas are a rich source of dopamine – a brain chemical well-known to boost motivation and concentration. Bananas are an excellent healthy and filling snack, but be careful not to overdo it as bananas also contain a healthy dose of tryptophan, the same amino acid that puts you to sleep after that Thanksgiving turkey dinner.
- Foods high in antioxidants. Antioxidants from fruits, berries and tomatoes increase blood flow to the brain, and also have anti-inflammatory properties that help your brain function optimally. Antioxidants protect your body and your brain from oxidation while decreasing age-related conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Blueberries, for example, have been shown to improve learning, motor skills and delay memory decline. So, go ahead and add some berries to your smoothie, oatmeal or Greek yogurt to boost your brain power.
Eating a variety of these natural brain foods combined with a healthy dose of exercise, restful sleep, and stress management will improve your alertness, concentration and memory. You should also avoid sugar. While sugar may provide a short burst of energy through that candy bar or soda, it will soon pass and leave you tired and sluggish. The sugar-induced rapid blood sugar spike that caused the temporary burst of energy can also cause a spike in insulin which rapidly lowers your blood sugar causing you to “crash”. Avoid these swings by avoiding sugar.
A final tip – don’t skip breakfast. There is much research that shows skipping breakfast can cause a strain on the brain. For example, studies have shown that children who eat a healthy breakfast score much higher on tests than those who skip breakfast. Eat a healthy breakfast, but keep in mind that you should avoid those high-calorie sugar-coated cereals, donuts and pastries.