Choose the right foods to eat and you will be able to concentrate, feel alert, and get things done. Eat the wrong things and youíll lack focus, feel sluggish, and want to take a nap. Unfortunately, no one teaches us which foods help or hurt our ability to focus better.
I wish this wasn’t true. I used to find myself feeling tired, sluggish, and unable to get work done after eating what I thought was a healthy meal. This led to me doing a lot of research and experimentation to find foods that give me the energy I need to focus and work hard for 60 hours a week. After a few months of trial and error I came up with 6 foods and 1 drink that really work.
You’ll probably wonder why coffee and tea arenít on the list. While both work due to their caffeine content, I wanted to find foods that also had additional nutritional value (i.e. protein, vitamins and minerals, etc.). I also figured it’d be cool to know additional ways to boost brainpower.
Studies show that eating blueberries can improve your ability to concentrate and perform tasks requiring you to really focus. Scientists still don’t know why they’re beneficial. Some believe that it may be their high antioxidant content which helps vacuum up potentially damaging free radicals. Others suggest it’s their ability to reduce inflammation and increase the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain. Whatever it is, blueberries are a tasty, brain friendly food. I find that my energy stays consistent for several hours after eating them, especially when added to a protein shake or plain yogurt.
How much should you eat? You eat 1 cup a day. Eat them alone or add them to a protein shake for a delicious snack. Avoid eating them with sugar-rich desserts the blood sugar spike youíll get may diminish their brain boosting benefits. Don’t expect to see instant brain-boosting benefits. The benefits are more likely to occur over time.
This will probably be your favorite brain boosting food. Chocolate, especially the dark stuff contains compounds called flavonols that can help improve mental focus. Studies show that drinking flavanol rich cocoa helps increase blood flow to your brain which, in turn, improves your ability to concentrate. A single square of dark chocolate also contains a small amount of caffeine too which also improves mental energy and focus.
Eat 2-3 squares of dark chocolate a day. The darker the chocolate the better.
The simple egg is an awesome food for boosting your ability to focus. That’s why I eat them several times a week. I really notice a difference in my productivity after eating them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Each serving of eggs are rich in protein, B vitamins, and choline. Each plays a key role in keeping your brain healthy. The choline in eggs is especially important since itís a component in the cells of your brain. Itís also used to make acetylcholine, a compound that helps your brain send messages from one cell to another.
Eat eggs 3-4 days a week for the best results. You shouldn’t worry about their cholesterol content either. Studies show that it’s not bad for your heart. Don’t throw away the yolks as this it the part of the egg where the B vitamins, choline, and other brain healthy nutrients are contained.
Once I started eating fatty fish and taking a fish oil supplement daily I noticed that I was my ADD like tendencies diminished and I was able to get more work done in less time. I feel calmer too. The reason for this are the omega 3 fats found in fish like anchovies, mackerel, salmon, and sardines. One of these omega 3’s, DHA is found in large amounts within our brains. The other, EPA is converted to DHA once it’s been consumed.
EPA and DHA help our brains in a few ways. The first is that they increase the ability of the cells in our brain to communicate with one another. This makes it easier for your brain to properly function. Another is that omega 3 fats increase the production of dopamine and serotonin, two chemicals that have important roles with regard to mental focus. Dopamine helps spur you into action and get you to work while also making it possible for you to focus on the task at hand. Serotonin on the other hand helps to keep you feeling calm and better able to deal with stress which also makes it easier for you to concentrate and get things done.
Strive to eat fish at least 2-3 times a week to receive benefit. You may need to eat it more often or take a fish oil supplement to see significant results. Expect it to take a couple of weeks before you notice significant results.
Nuts And Seeds
Eating certain nuts and seeds can help your focus and brain function. They include: walnuts which are shown to boost serotonin levels so you’re better at handling stress, cashews which are rich in magnesium a mineral that can increase blood flow to your brain, and almonds a seed that is rich in phenylalanine an amino acid that helps produce the focus boosting chemical dopamine. I like to buy them raw and roast them myself. This allows me to come up with my own recipes and is much less expensive than buying a bag of roasted nuts.
Eat a handful of these nuts and seeds daily for the best results. You can eat them alone or add them to your favorite recipes. I like them with roasted fish and mixed in with yogurt.
A nice, lean cut of steak is is full of other nutrients that are good for your brain. It’s rich in B vitamins which your brain uses for fuel and proper function. Every serving also contains creatine, which your body uses for fuel. You also get a nice dose of the amino acid l-tyrosine which is used to make dopamine which, like I previously wrote, helps your brain stay alert, energized and able to fully focus. Since steak digests slowly, it will keep you full between meals minimizing energy crashes and brain fog too.
How much do you need? You can eat steak as often as you like. Aim for 2-3 servings a week, especially on days you really need to focus. I like to eat it for breakfast with our without eggs and find doing so makes it much easier to focus all morning long. If you eat steak regularly, eat lean cuts like flank, flat iron, filet mignon, and sirloin.
Sure, it’s not as sexy as chocolate or tasty as steak but drinking good old water throughout the day instead of soda and other sweetened drinks is of paramount importance to keeping your brain in working order. As you know, water is required for your body to stay hydrated. This is important to our brains since being even a little dehydrated compromises our brains ability to function properly. This means instead of being able to focus you will instead feel lethargic and short of mental energy. Become dehydrated enough and you will find yourself feeling depressed and really out of sorts.
Most experts recommend drinking 8 glasses of water a day. Depending on your activity levels, you may require more or less for optimal results.Since I work out daily, I need to drink 12 or more glass every day. When I drink less my mental energy really wanes.
Putting It All Together
Now you know several foods to you can eat any time for better focus and mental energy. Give these suggestions a try for a month and I guarantee that you will find that you’re able to get more done in less time.
Curt is the founder of Stayfitcentral.com, a website which features reviews, guides, and other information to help people buy the right nutritional supplements and fitness products for their specific needs. Curt has published numerous fitness, nutrition, and health related articles online at leading online publications including: eDiets, iVillage, and Askmen.
Photo credit: ‘Nuts‘ by Big Stock