What are the best brain foods and dietary supplements that can help sharpen your powers of concentration - even enhance your memory, attention span and brain function?
There’s increasing evidence to suggest you can maintain a healthy brain by adding ‘smart’ foods and beverages to your diet.
For instance, caffeine is a popular stimulant that energizes your brain and helps you to focus and concentrate. Found in coffee, chocolate, energy drinks, and some medications, caffeine gives you an unmistakable buzz - although its effects only last a short while. Not only that, overdoing caffeine can make you jittery and uncomfortable.
Glucose metabolized from sugars and carbs in your diet is your brain's preferred fuel source - which is why a glass of something sweet can stimulate memory, thought processes and mental ability. But go easy on the sugar so it doesn’t pack on the pounds.
Studies show that eating breakfast regularly instead of skipping it improves short-term memory and attention - especially if it contains high-fiber whole grains, dairy and fruits.
Fish is a great protein source that’s also rich in omega 3 fatty acids, essential for brain function and development. Higher levels of dietary omega 3 fatty acids are linked to lower dementia and stroke risks, a slower rate of mental decline and enhanced memory, especially with age. To boost both brain and heart health, consume two servings of fish weekly.
Nuts and seeds are great sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, believed to slow down age-related cognitive decline. Dark chocolate also has powerful antioxidant properties and contains natural stimulants like caffeine, which boost concentration. Up to an ounce a day of nuts and dark chocolate will easily give you all the mental benefits you need without excess calories, fat or sugar.
A diet high in whole grains and fruits like avocados can reduce the risk of heart disease, lower bad cholesterol and reduce risk of plaque buildup - while also enhancing blood flow to the brain. Whole grains also contribute dietary fiber and vitamin E. Not only that, the fat in avocados is the good monounsaturated fat that contributes to healthy blood flow.
Research in animals shows that blueberries protect the brain from damage caused by free radicals, reducing the risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Diets rich in blueberries significantly improved both learning and muscle function of aging rats, making them mentally equivalent to much younger rats.
Lack of essential nutrients can decrease your ability to concentrate. Similarly, eating too much or too little can also interfere with your ability to focus. To fully benefit your brain, always consume a well-balanced diet full of a wide variety of healthy, wholesome foods.
While initial reports on the brain-boosting power of supplements like vitamins B, C, E, beta-carotene and magnesium are promising, supplements are really only useful to people whose diet is lacking in specific nutrients. In this respect, health experts are cautiously optimistic about ginseng, ginkgo, and vitamin, mineral and herb combinations.
To boost your powers of concentration, start your day with a meal of 100% fruit juice, whole-grain bread or bagel with salmon and a cup of coffee.
Along with eating a well-balanced meal, experts also suggest the following brain-boosting tips:
- Getting a good night's sleep;
- Staying well hydrated;
- Exercising regularly to sharpen thinking processes;
- Meditation for clear thinking and relaxed productivity.